What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Zack Snyder’s Watchmen? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Stars: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Zack Snyder
Production Co: Legendary Pictures, DC Comics, Lawrence Gordon Production
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Watchmen’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Watchmen, based on the popular graphic novel by Demi Moore and directed by Zack “The Snide Man” Snyderman.
The film follows a group of Earthling superheroes who fight crime using their mighty powers of… punching… and kicking… and um, somersaulting… and ok finally, some real powers! However, costumed vigilantism is outlawed for being too effective, forcing all the Watchmen to either retire or keep working as government stooges or continue doing whatever they want.
Soon the Watchmen start getting watched too hard, prompting the emo one to start a LiveJournal. Papa Smurf throws a tantrum on live TV, then puts himself on a Martian timeout and puts his pubic hair on timeout as well. His absence allows the Soviet Union to step up their war efforts in a safe space.
Rorschach is cornered by the police and goes to jail, where he cheats on his diet by indulging in a little fried food. Papa Smurf’s girlfriend Hot Pants puts in a transfer to become Owl Boy’s girlfriend instead, and they help the Rorschmeister escape. Papa Smurf tries to win Hot Pants back by showing her his arts and crafts project, but she tells him this part is pointless and let’s just get to third act already.
Rory and Owl Boy find out that their friend Weird Headband is the master chef behind the whole enchilada. They confront him at the Wall from Game of Thrones, where he lives with his pet fever dream. A bunch of cities go kablooey, but Headband explains that the only thing cooler than a million deaths is a billion non-deaths, so they let him off with a stern warning. Papa Smurf heads off to another galaxy for a really boring spinoff, and they print Rory’s LiveJournal, which turns out to be the screenplay for the hit movie Watchmen.
Watchmen deconstructs traditional comic book tropes through its depiction of superheroes as flawed individuals, aka individuals who like to fuck. Rather than shining examples of patriotic virtue, these characters range from nihilistic to disturbed and violent to having a dadbod.
Whereas classic comic book heroes are customarily identifiable as good guy vs. bad guy, Watchmen blurs the lines between the two better than Robin Thicke did when he plagiarized Marvin Gaye. Weird Headband appears to be a Lex Luthor-style megalomaniac who goes around giving cancer to people willy nilly and wiping out entire cities, also willy nilly. However, his actions successfully avert nuclear war and establish peace. Nothing willy or nilly about that.
Similarly, Rorschach’s relentless pursuit of justice could be construed as noble, but his methods are more likely to terrify than to comfort because he’s a dirty ginger. He breaks into crime scenes, tortures criminals for information, and brutally murders those he deems guilty. He also seems like the kind of friend who never remembers your birthday but always expects you to remember his.
In order to better understand Headband and Rorschach, one must begin with their names. Headband, or “Ozymandias” in Egyptian, refers to Rameses II, a powerful pharaoh who built a massive empire of cultural, architectural, and religious achievements. Headband considers himself to be a modern-day pharaoh — only without the whole pulling your brains out through your nose thing — so he acts as he believes a legendary ruler would.
Rorschach’s name and mask are derived from the “Rorschach Test,” which famously always shows a picture of my mother giving me a firm spanking. Rorschach believes right and wrong are distinct; black and white, with no gray area, not even where the black and white parts overlap. Once he determines a wrong has been committed, he must punish it with all of his knife.
These two philosophies clash when Rorschach learns of Headband’s genocidal shenanigans. In the parlance of ethical theory, Headband is a consequentialist. He justifies his actions by evaluating their ultimate consequences, which makes total sense. In contrast, Rorschach is a deontologist. He believes that one must be judged by the actions they take, and not the results of those actions. Damn, that makes sense too! How am I ever gonna pick just one?!
Rorschach delivers his journal to Breitbart Simpson, and while the film remains flirtatiously coy about whether its contents are published, the viewer is forced to confront the question: is revealing the truth more important than preserving the peace? Or perhaps Papa Smurf was right all along, and none of it matters because everything is predetermined. Which is how I know this episode is gonna end riiiight… now.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. And remember: I’m not trapped in here with you. You’re trapped in here with me.