Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

Watchmen (-)

Once again I did what I promised not to do: see a movie based on comic superheroes. A big mistake.

The film, directed by Zack Snyder, is based on a book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The year is 1985. Richard Nixon is president, there is no talk of impeachment, and we have won the Vietnam War. Running around are a half-dozen superheroes; one of whom gained his special powers during a nuclear accident.

One of the heroes, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), talks rationally, conveys maturity of thought, and runs around stark naked. I was not familiar with any other characters from my earlier days of reading the comics. The lives of these superheroes include a little sex and a lot of boring chatter about saving the world.

The New York Times film reviewer, A.O. Scott, dignified the film with a lengthy review indicating that there was something substantive in this collection of cartoon figures. He wrote: “Indeed, the ideal viewer — or reviewer, as the case may be — of the ‘Watchmen’ movie would probably be a mid-80s college sophomore with a smattering of Nietzsche, an extensive record collection and a comic-book nerd for a roommate. The film’s carefully preserved themes of apocalypse and decay might have proved powerfully unsettling to that anxious undergraduate sitting in his dorm room, listening to ‘99 Luftballons’ and waiting for the world to end or the Berlin Wall to come down.

“He would also no doubt have been stirred by the costumes of the female superheroes — Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman, both gamely giving solid performances — who sensibly accessorize their shoulder-padded spandex leotards with garter belts and high-heeled boots. And the dense involution of the narrative might have seemed exhilarating rather than exhausting.”

Scott also wrote, “I’m not sure that this hypothetical young man — not to be confused with the middle-aged, 21st-century moviegoer he most likely grew into, whose old copy of ‘Watchmen’ lies in a box somewhere alongside a dog-earned Penguin Classics edition of ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ — would necessarily say that Mr. Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’ is a good movie. I wouldn’t.”

I have no idea why so much print was accorded this ridiculous movie, why people sat through it, and why so many apparently enjoyed it. Believe me, it is pure junk. Of course, those associated with the movie and its rewards are laughing all the way to the bank.