Imagine, if you will, a world so lost that all of humanity teeters on the brink of nuclear devastation–a world where costumed heroes have been ousted from their positions due to harsh political measures, and the one entity who could prevent total annihilation has become disinterested in the world. What would this do to those who once pledged to support society?
The movie “Watchmen” answers this question in all of its horrifying glory. Its unwavering gaze at the potential and realized savagery of the human race, its recognition of the unspeakable crimes that individuals commit against each other, and its chilling solution all unfold over a three hour period. The film sets up specific philosophical archetypes, each espoused by a specific character:
Rorschach: Thinks in moral absolutes; punishes without fear; rages over the evil in the world–does not think it is worth saving–yet he tries to do right in a wrong world.
The Comedian: He has looked upon the savage face of humanity and “becomes a parody of it.” He therefore espouses all of its worst characteristics: He acts like a buffoon, rapes and murders. He seems to think he is beyond it, and yet is horrified by it, and some part of him is broken by it.
Adrian Veidt–He is driven insane and thinks that he can “fix” humanity through his own actions. He has an overblow sense of world responsibility and believes he must “save humanity” by way of genocide.
Dr. Manhattan–He becomes the “distant watchmaker” of Deism, as it were–he carries immense nuclear power, yet little by little loses his connection with the world. In the film, he is hands off where it would be most appropriate to intervene.
I loved this movie for its unremitting honesty and devotion to the source material. It’s a completely disturbing, often heartless look at humanity (counterbalanced by the romance between Laurie and Dan), and its sense of logic could be considered cold-blooded at times. But isn’t it fair to ask us to take a hard look at our own lives and behavior, thereby inspiring us to become better rather than far worse? Is it not the world’s best cautionary tale?