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Posts Tagged 'watchmen'

A reasonable question about Watchmen

An e-mail from a reader which asks an entirely fair question, and one which I wondered if I wouldn’t get from somebody:

Are you sure you want to recommend (and so enthusiastically!) … Watchmen?  It’s one thing to set such evil images before your own eyes, but must you also encourage others to do the same?  (See Psalm 101:3).  Do you really want to reward the makers of this film with your money?

I respect this question, and I do not take its points lightly. What I can say is that if I thought the film was intended to be, or best understood as, a cheap piece of trashy violence, I would neither see it nor recommend it. I don’t waste a second of my time with junk like the Saw films or Friday the 13th or Hostel or things like this. Nor does a sheen of “art” excuse everything; The English Patient is a beautifully done piece of garbage, in my opinion, which ultimately says that committing adultery is worth dying for, if it means you’re following your heart.

I’ll note, again, that I spent some time tonight listening to my priest discuss enthusiastically the Orthodox Christian merits of The Matrix, a movie which contains much violence and disturbing imagery. The Passion of the Christ is, of course, notorious for its level of gore, which I would argue exceeds that of Watchmen. The Mission, one of the most profoundly Christian movies I’ve ever seen, contains extensive nudity and quite a bit of violence interspersed with religious imagery, particularly at the end. (Don’t tell me that the nudity, being non-sexual, makes it okay; that didn’t keep parents from having their kids excused from watching it when my English teacher showed it in class my senior year of high school.)

Let’s not even talk about Shakespeare and Hamlet’s “country matters.” Or most opera.

This begs the question — what is the merit of Watchmen? I would argue that it is, at its core, a movie which suggests that whether or not God exists, we’re best off assuming He does and that He’s watching rather than deciding He doesn’t and putting ourselves in His place. This is as yet, shall we say, under-theorized, but this is part of why I say, go see it, and then we’ll talk.

At one point, a Jewish character in the movie, who has invented a superhero identity for himself, asks another superhero whose identity has heavily American patriotic overtones and who is breaking up a riot too violently for the other’s taste, “Whatever happened to the American dream?” and the patriotic hero replies, “It came true. You’re looking at him.” Now, when you realize that the way a couple of Jewish kids from Cleveland tried to actualize the American dream for themselves by inventing the first widely-known superhero who himself had American patriotic overtones (I am referring to neither a bird nor a plane), you understand what this scene is actually about. If Superman were to actually exist in real life, and be American (something explicitly said in the film), it would be monstrous; it would be an establishment of other gods in the place of the True God; it would be chiliasm. It would lead to the destruction of everything we claim to hold dear as Americans and as Christians.

All of this aside, however, one must follow their own conscience, and I don’t encourage anybody to seek out things which would make them stumble or to go against their better judgment. Do not go see it if that would be the case.

I’ll also point out that the movie is rated R, it is rated R for good reason, and that needs to be respected — in other words, it is not a movie to which I advise anybody to bring their kids. As with the source material, the violence and sexual material is used to explore, and comment upon, both the themes of the story as well as the medium through which the story is being told. I will qualify here that I don’t have a lot of perspective on how old somebody would need to be to be able to deal with this; as I said earlier, my first encounter with the source material was at age 13 or thereabouts. Then again, my first book was Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which I read at the age of 4.

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Varii (go see Watchmen) and (go see Watchmen) sundries (go see Watchmen)

A “Byzantine” monastery from the late 5th/early 6th century has been found about five miles west of Jerusalem, reports CNN:

During the first few weeks, the team exposed the church’s narthex, the broad entrance at the front of the church, whose floor is covered with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns, he said.

“Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the excavation this mosaic was defaced and almost completely destroyed by unknown vandals,” Mor [the leader of the excavation] said.

Ouch. On the other hand, I smile at this detail (particularly since I just finished my first-ever attempt at homebrewing):

The excavators also partly exposed a complex wine press, said Mor. Grapes grow well in the region, and it’s likely the monks sold the wine.

And it’s in my period and region, too. Hmmmmmmmmm.

The screenwriter of Watchmen urges people who liked it to see it again, preferably this Friday or Saturday (a tip of the hat to WatchmenComicMovie.com):

This is a movie made by fans, for fans. Hundreds of people put in years of their lives to make this movie happen, and every one of them was insanely committed to retaining the integrity of this amazing, epic tale. This is a rare success story, bordering on the impossible, and every studio in town is watching to see if it will work. Hell, most of them own a piece of the movie.

So look, this is a note to the fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life.

If the film made you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse.

Please go see the movie again next weekend.

You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or balls, (and this film’s got both, literally), or true adaptations — And if you’re thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it’ll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we’d like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again.

Fine by me — er, seeing it again, that is, not the other proposition. Who wants to see it with me on Saturday sometime?

I saw Watchmen in IMAX last Friday. It is worthy of its own post, and that might happen after I see it a second time, but I will say for the moment that it is a challenging, adult, in-your-face, no-holds-barred piece of art which is worth seeing and to which it is worth reacting. Yes, it is violent and the violence makes you giggle in a way which makes you very uncomfortable with yourself after the fact. Yes, there is a bizarre use of Leonard Cohen’s original recording of “Hallelujah” (which, I must say, is very jarring listening to begin with when you’re used to the — dare I say it? — superior Jeff Buckley version). Yes, I read the book — I read it for the first time probably twenty years ago and have read it any number of times since then, including reading it aloud to my wife. I’ve read much of what’s been published about Watchmen the book and have been following its development as a film since way back in the day when Comics Scene had a half-page interview with Sam Hamm about his screenplay and about how Terry Gilliam would direct it. Hamm, as I recall, speculated about perhaps Michael York as Adrian Veidt and Robert DeNiro as Edward Blake. Might have been interesting.

Anyway, go see it. I’ll go see it with you. Blade Runner shouldn’t have taken as long as it did to be recognized, and I’d hate to see a similar fate befall Watchmen. It’s a big-budget Hollywood art movie, much like The Dark Knight was, but unlike TDK this doesn’t have much in the way of presold factors that allow people to be fooled into thinking it’s just an action movie. It’s not perfect, but that’s okay. Just go see it, and then we’ll talk.

After the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts tonight, Fr. Peter was talking about how Orthodox Christianity permeates the first film of The Matrix trilogy. “It’s all about the Fathers,” he said. “It’s an Orthodox movie through and through.”

“If that’s the case,” I replied, “it must be advocating specifically the Western Rite.”

“Why is that?” Fr. Peter asked, tilting his head at me with a quizzical expression (which is not uncommon).

Without missing a beat I looked him right in the eyes and said, “There is no spoon.”

I will be going to Confession this weekend, I imagine. I don’t look forward to the penance.


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