I saw Watchmen on saturday night, the much anticipated adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel (at one point Terry Gilliam was rumoured to be attached to it). After Zack Snyder’s last execrable effort, 300, a neo-fascist movie based on Frank Miller’s eponymous graphic novel, I was hesitant (and besides, I loved the graphic novel). I was pleasantly surprised. Though it’s impossible to compress a novel like Watchmen into a film, the scriptwriters do a good job, and the whole thing is pretty damn interesting – we should remember that Time magazine, I believe, at one point listed Watchmen as one of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th Century.
There is much else to say about Watchmen – and I’m commissioned to write a piece on it shortly so I won’t mention much here – but what struck me most, besides its fairly faithful adaptation of the novel, is its politics. Essentially (spoiler alert!) it argues that the end does justify the means. That the destruction of vast areas of civilization for a greater purpose is justified. It is, in short, a particularly radical vision. This should not surprise us, as Moore’s other great graphic novel V for Vendetta is equally interested in violent action for social change (though in the context of a fascist England). Equally, both of them see this change as brought about by minority action, appropriate, I suppose, to some versions of anarchist politics. Watchmen, then (again spoiler alert), is almost a reversal of the usual liberal politics of films approaching this issue. It’s as if the bad guy in a James Bond movie, who plans to destroy a great city, is actually a good guy with a vision. He simply wants things to be better – and can see no other way of achieving this. Interesting.