Watchmen – Review

I did not get to watch and discuss ‘Watchmen’ with the rest of my course, however I have already watched it and thought I’d share my thoughts on the film.

Watchmen is a film based in an alternate 1985, in which costumed superheroes are apart of everyday life. The murder of a colleague sends vigilante Rorschach into an investigation. Not long after, stumbling across a plot to kill all past and present superheroes. Resulting in Rorschach attempting to reconnect with his former colleagues in order to save themselves, superheroes alike and the rest of humanity.

The film poses many political and philosophical questions. One ongoing question asked throughout the entirety of the film is “Who watches The Watchmen?”. This is a common theme in many superhero films. The morality of superheroes is questioned and they themselves are seen as the judge that decides who deserves to be punished. However, this question asks us who keeps them in check, in order to stop them becoming part of the problem that they seek to resolve. Most importantly, what makes these ‘superheroes’ more fitting to decide right and wrong from the common-folk?

Each character has a certain philosophy. Rorschach, who can be seen as the main character and narrator of the film, goes by the philosophy known as ‘Deontology’ which is described as ‘Means through unconditional standards’. Rorschach follows a certain set of rules in which he follows no matter the circumstances. This often leads to a contradiction in his beliefs. He believes to get rid of evil, he must eliminate those directly responsible for said evil. However, he does this in a very brutal manner which poses the question of whether Rorschach himself is evil. Rorschach tends to only seek to punish the evil that he sees before him and generally has no intent on thinking of the bigger picture as a whole.

Deontology focuses on the means, rather than the ends, which is opposite for the form of moral philosophy known as Utilitarianism. This way of thinking can be described as ‘The end always justifies the means’ and is the main philosophical thinking of a character called Ozymandias, the character responsible for the plot to destroy all superheroes. In a way, Rorschach and Ozymandias are polar opposites. Both are willing to murder people in order to rid the world of what they consider evil. The difference is that Rorschach only punishes people directly responsible for evil, whereas Ozymandias is willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent people to create a single enemy that the world can unite together and destroy, to prevent the face of an imminent nuclear war.

There are other characters that have their own philosophical manners, for example: The Comedian is a Nihilist, he believes that in the end, nothing really matters. We all die, so what’s the use in worrying. We see him occasionally involving himself in questionable actions, such as sexual harassment and the belittlement of the common-folk around him. This ties down to his belief that nothing really matters, not even his own negative actions.

All these characters are very adamant on sticking to their own beliefs and in the end that is their major flaw. I believe this film is trying to convey the downfalls of holding on too tightly to any system of beliefs. If these characters were diplomatic towards each other’s beliefs, maybe they could have come to a solution together as ‘The Watchmen’.

All in all, I really enjoyed the movie. Not only for its great visuals, character development and costume designs, but for its darker take on the reality of what a world with superheroes or people redeeming themselves as superheroes, would look like. As well as the in depth detail into each characters philosophy and the political metaphors hidden throughout the film.

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