Who will watch the Watchmen?

Probably no one. It’s an obscenely long, gory, and bad film.¹

I remember two things about Watchmen. The first is that it was a big deal when it first came out in 2009. The other was that it was long. I forgot how long it really is: 3 hours and 6 minutes long.

I don’t know if I need to give a #spoileralert for a 10-year-old film, but be warned. Spoilers ahead.

The movie is dark. Both in content and lighting. The first half I had trouble seeing the action due to the glare caused by my living room window.² Even when the glare wasn’t a problem it was difficult to see what was going on. I’m not a fan of films that hide in the shadows.

Worse than the lack of lighting was the lack of audio mixing. The actors spoke in quiet mumbles, as if auditioning for NPR or maybe expressing their annoyance with the script.

The muddled dialogue takes a backseat to the 80’s rock songs scattered throughout the film. There’s several of them and most of them play in their entirety. Bob Dylan blares from the sound system at commercial level volume, in stark contrast to the films protagonists.

Protagonists. Protagonists is such a strong word. It implies good people, who make good choices, who can be looked up to. These are not heroes. Antiheroes, maybe, but mostly just characters with too much backstory and not enough… er… character for me to care about them.

Watchmen has a lot of dialogue. When you can hear it, it’s often characters talking about the past, providing indirect exposition. Maybe the goal was to make it sound more natural, or maybe the goal was to avoid exposition, but ultimately it fails because the audience has to read between the lines to understand what’s going on.

45 minutes into the film and I’m still not sure what the plot is. There’s been a lot of flashbacks telling me about various people, but I don’t know who I’m supposed to care about or why.

Example: We see Dr. Manhattan killing people by making them explode. We see the Comedian kill a pregnant woman and try to rape his… friend? Coworker? Later we see Rorschach kill a man with a butcher’s knife to the head. He then continues attacking the dead man in a fit of rage.

I don’t like any of these people.

*Swipe Left*

1 hour and 23 minutes into the film and I’m still not sure what the plot is. I thought maybe the goal was to prevent nuclear war… but President “bad-impersonator” Nixon is now ordering a preemptive attack on Russia?³

Fun fact: a giant purple elephant balloon/blimp advertising the Gunga Diner is flying outside Adrian Veidt’s office window the scene before Dan and Laurie are seen eating at the Gunga Diner.

This film is all over the place. An alley street fight is edited against a TV interview with Dr. Manhattan. It’s a very jarring juxtaposition. I’m not convinced it helps with the story. Except maybe neither scene was able to stand on its own.

At 1 hour and 55 minutes there’s a very bizarre dream(?) sequence where Dan and Laurie are… kissing on Mars in the nude, but also in costume? Before a giant nuke goes off and tears their flesh away from their bones?

Philip’s Journal. Nearly 2/3rds into this film and I’ve lost all sense of reality. I no longer know what is supposed to be happening. I’ve begun cheering for the street gangs. The dribbling sludge of plotline has been replaced by mucus firing out of the director’s nose at nuclear speed.

Despite having an incomprehensible plotline, this movie is relatively predictable. Super rich guy turns out to be the evil villian? Really? How novel.

“Can’t you tell me how this all ends?” – Laurie Jupiter (2h27m)


The mostly CG Mars scene ends with two startling revelations. The first is that Laurie’s father is… er, was, the Comedian. The second is that Dr. No Pants Manhattan was wrong about miracles. This is very startling and important to both of them. I’m not sure why. Or why it matters because super villian just nuked NYC and framed Dr. Manhattan.

2 hours and 35 minutes in. The bluray disk has also given up and the film skips a minute or two forwards.

“I’m not a comic book villain.” – Ozymandias (2h41m)

He says… as he monologues, comic-book-villain-style.⁴ Oh, plot twist. He monologues AFTER he presses the “nuke everything” button.

2 hours and 50 minutes into the film and I still don’t know what the plot is. It sounds like a bad reading of Greek philosophy. Or a parody of John 11. Better that New York City be nuked than the whole world be nuked.

We can only be friends if we all hate the same person! Diplomacy by creating a common enemy. Not a great option, but if you’re filthy rich and have no imagination then maybe this is the best you can do.⁵

The film ends with Dr. Manhattan-pants accepting his fate as the villain everyone needs, but not the one they deserve, and he helpfully splatters Rorschach into an inkblot on the surface of Antarctica.

I’m not satisfied with this film. I don’t like the characters. I don’t like the outcome. I don’t like that I wasted an entire evening viewing it. I don’t like the story. I don’t like that they have to tie up a bunch of not really lose ends.

Two thumbs down. Would not watch again. 😞

¹ If you disagree you’re welcome to join our writing staff.
² Yes, I’m blaming the movie and not my living room. Maybe if it didn’t take 8% of a day to watch I could watch it later at night when there was less glare.
³ This movie would be 13% better if Nixon was played by a head in a jar.
⁴ I guess this is funny because he actually is a comic book villain… this was a comic book, right?
⁵ This criticism can be applied to either Zach Snyder or Adrian Veidt. 🙂

Review by Phil Wels

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