March 10, 2009 [Watchmen]

Watchmen looked quite a lot like Kung Fu Hustle, but in the end the latter movie seemed to decide it loved Kung Fu movies, and all its extravagant ribbing slid effortlessly into homage and reinvention.

Watchmen, though, seems to hate superheroes so deeply that its own exuberance (as with the tour-de-force opening sequence) and outlandish, literally dick-swinging heights bear down in bitter disgust, all the way back to Action Comics—and Whiz Comics—both Captains, America and Marvel, and every League of Extraordinary justice-punchers, American-Way-ers, and heeders of the Call—and scoop them all up and methodically, even gleefully, beat them to death.

Down here with the Watchmen it's nothing but recriminations, rape, and regrets—with seething psychosis at the helm—jeez, the ones who figure out this world most closely are Rorschach and The Comedian, mad cynics whose passions always involve dismemberment of one kind or another. I kept finding myself at once drawn in and repelled—and began to wonder if this hatred of the superhero was justified after all. Nothing we can do—vice or virtue—could match them; they seemed capable of anything, and more than willing to do it—even Doctor Manhattan, whose quantum brain gets so dreamy that his Everything is Nothing.

Yes, the sins of the American Century deserve their punishment: for the cynical appropriation of "common decency" as an excuse for every lynching and pork-belly favor, for the ad-campaign wars of the last half-century—and for Mutually Assured Destruction, and Nixon, and Milton Friedman in love with his own tall tale of profit-as-right. And by the end the only thing that matters is letting everyone know who's lying—and it looks like just about all of us. OK; but what then? What kind of people will live in this world? Who would want to once they took a good long hard look at it through the haze of the Comedian's cigar smoke and the shifting inkblots of Rorshach's mask?


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