Watching Watchmen

On Saturday afternoon I caught the Watchmen with a bunch of guys from church. Having not read the Graphic Novel I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having caught the movie I now want to catch the graphic novel.

The movie was violent. Graphically violent. And had a fair bit of sex – so it’s hard to “recommend” to Christians if that’s likely to cause you to stumble.

But it was eye-poppingly rendered. A beautiful, dark, film noiry feel – complete with a fedora wearing trench coated detective like protaganist narrating entries into his diary.

It also asked questions of the human condition and asked questions about the nature of an omniscient almost omnipresent, omnipotent “god” in the form of a blue supercharged superhero. It certainly generated conversation amongst our group – and most of us enjoyed it, despite some of us not being entirely keen for a thought provoking cinematic experience.

The film has divided Christian movie critics. Movieguide is a pretty terrible “family centred” (think Focus on the Family) film review centre – and this movie is not “family centred” in content or intention. Here’s their list of reasons not to see the movie (I love how they open with “anti-capitalist” as though that’s unChristian:

“Strong anti-capitalist content with a strong environmentalist conclusion and homosexual references; 44 obscenities and 27 profanities; hyper-extreme, gory, bloody violence includes lots of gore with fingers cut off, arms cut off by a rotary buzz-saw, man’s head graphically cleaved with a meat cleaver, pointblank shootings, boy bites into boy’s cheek and takes out hunk of another boy’s cheek, woman beaten savagely, people electrocuted, people dissolved, people shredded, pregnant woman shot pointblank, people cut with broken bottles, women raped, people poisoned, martial arts fighting, man’s body transforms in gory ways, etc.; very strong sexual content includes several sex scenes, lesbian kiss, prostitute exposes her breasts, rape, character fornicates with his girlfriend by dividing into two characters, heroes fornicate, little boy’s mother is a prostitute, overt suggestions of sadomasochism, and discussions of sex; extreme nudity and strong sexual nudity includes major male character walks around nude showing his private parts throughout the movie, upper female nudity and upper male nudity; strong alcohol use; illegal drug use by one of the criminals; and, vigilante beliefs are carried out, revenge, idolatry, Egyptian pharaoh worship, false gods, blackmail, etc.”

Upper male nudity? Oh no. Head for the hills. I wonder how they’d mark the Old Testament. Anyway. I can’t say I noticed the lower male nudity of Dr Manhattan as much as many reviewers critical of it did.

There’s a shining review of the Watchmen from the “Gospel and Culture” blog that balances out Movieguide’s response:

“Inviting a Christian audience to consume either version of Watchmen may seem irresponsible, especially to pop culture-weary brothers and sisters in Christ. While the story does contain more than its share of sexuality and violence, it simultaneously wrestles with important and weighty theological and philosophical issues. Countless sermons could and should be preached on Watchmen’s nuanced and allegorical treatment of predestination, miracles, the existence of God, human depravity, justice, and salvation. Few mainstream artistic texts so inventively grapple with these many important questions.”

They make the same criticism of Christian criticism that I just have too:

“And how exactly did the depiction of sex and violence become the third rail of Christian criticism? While not for everyone, certainly not for children, Watchmen goes places familiar to the grittier passages of scripture. Nothing in Snyder’s film, for example, equals the bleak sexual violence depicted in “The Rape of the Concubine”(Judges 19). This is not to suggest that the film is blameless. Snyder crosses the border into gratuitous territory by making the love scene between Silk Spectre II and Night Owl more sexually explicit than in the discrete, shadowy panels of the graphic novel. The same could be said of the frequent, if admittedly, humorous reappearance of Dr. Manhattan’s glowing blue genitals. Unnecessary. But, like the horrific passages from Judges in which a young woman is raped and dismembered, Watchmen deserves to be considered within its larger narrative context.”

Amen. A worthwhile movie – if not a wholesome one. It certainly raises more questions than it answers and is a conversational launchpad. Kudos to to Flickr minifig creator Sir Nadroj for his lego rendering of the Watchmen characters.