Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Comedian

"Watchmen" is a well crafted film that spares neither expense nor time (2 hours 45 minutes) to develop every detail of the story. The most critical element of any story is its characters. Though he does not receive the most camera time, the super hero known as "The Comedian" is arguably the most important character in the film.

The movie begins with this "hero" suffering a brutal beating from the hands of a mysterious murderer. Though it is evident that he knows how to fight, he is aged and ultimately is bested and thrown through a plate glass window thirty or forty stories up. As he hits the ground, a smiley face pin he was wearing falls next to him. In addition to having a single droplet of blood trail diagonally from the eye, the pins is engulfed in a puddle of the same liquid within moments. Blood is one of the key motifs in the film, it is symbolic and characteristic of the movie's mood of gross cynicism. The Comedian, ironically, embodies this better than any character. If the death of the Comedian, or Eddie Blake, is less than family appropriate, than his life is arguably sinful enough to put the devil to shame: Burning Vietcong alive with a flamethrower, pushing away all the heroes he fought alongside, raping women (and producing illegitimate offspring), shooting pregnant women, shooting the President (hint: grassy knoll), and other moralistic acts. Such behavior might be deemed madness without method, but Blake is sick of society. He watches it destroy itself as the years progress. He, like everyone else, is force fed the despicable stories of murder, fraud, perversion, and the likes, that the media has adopted to sell more papers, magazines, commercial time, etc. The degradation of society inspires him to, as an equally cynical character Rorschach puts it, be the ultimate parody of it. With all his actions, he has a philosophy behind it: the country is falling apart because the American dream came true, and violence is the only way to protect America from itself. The week before he meets his untimely death, Blake breaks into his archenemy's (Malik) home and breaks down in tears. He scalds himself for his deplorable actions and admits that Malik is the closest thing to a friend he has, embodying the crowded isolation of modern society by doing so. In the flashbacks to the 1940s, when the Comedian is a young member of the watchmen, he wears a colorful costume, yellow, purple, green, and so on. However, he never goes through a stage of innocence that turns to pesimism, he is always the conscious lacking troublemaker we see through the whole film. Suggesting that you can dress up sin any way you'd like, but there is no hiding it. Perhaps he realizes this as the film chronologically progresses when he adopts a suit of black comando style armor. The attitude remains constant, but the costume change is seen first when he is fighting in Vietnam, hinting to the shell shock so many veterans suffered. His assasination of Kennedy symbolizes what little hope there is for a beam of light to shine upon the world (though some political scientists might disagree). In a scene where he murders a vietnamese woman, he accuses a fellow hero of being every bit as bad as he is for standing by and watching as he commits the act.

The Comedian is not just the reason for the plot dynamics, he is also a warning. It is the director's tool to help audiences realize what is happening to society as a whole. Excluding saints, the Comedian represents all of us in some way or another. The smiley face he wears is a skin deep aesthetic, a collectively unatainable desire, just another one of his jokes. This caricature is meant to awaken us from our naivete that everything is not alright, far from it.


  1. To be fair to the Comedian, Dom, we never see him successfully raping a woman.Just attempting it. Not that there's much of a difference, I'm just anal when it comes to Watchmen and the Comedian in general. What an incredibly written character.(Also, it's spelled Moloch, not Malik. Again, doesn't matter, but I just have OCD with this stuff)

    I didn't expect to like your review as much as I did, considering I love Watchmen and you've long been the bane of my existence.
    But you really got the Comedian, and I would really recommended reading the graphic novel. It's even more complex than the movie, and every bit as dark and cynical.

  2. I'm gonna toss you an Armadillo on this one, old friend. I haven't decided whether I'm going to see this film yet, so I hesitate to read your post, which appears to have spoilers in it. Thanks for the posting, however, and I'll read it when I either see the film or decide against it.

  3. Mr. Bennett, much as I loved Watchmen (and i LOVED it) I'm not sure if you would enjoy it, since you disliked the Dark Knight (blasphemy!). The two movies are very similar but, in some key ways, very different.

  4. One goes through some major changes during the 30 odd years between us. We hope as much. So, let's recognize that there's going to be some areas where we simply don't see eye to eye. On the other hand, there's plenty of common ground. Experience has shown that, with only one or two exceptions, the films I show in the class rest firmly on that common ground.

  5. Oh I do hope you didn't view my last comment as hostile. I just didn't want to recommend a movie I doubt you would enjoy. (Although, the more I think about, the more I think you WOULD enjoy Watchmen, if only at least slightly more than the Dark Knight. Moral Ambiguity is a HUGE theme in this movie)