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Truth, Justice and the American Way? Not according to today's superhero movies
Submitted by Amy Peikoff on Sat, 2009-03-07 04:00
*SPOILER ALERT* for The Dark Night and Watchmen
Today I saw "Watchmen." Too much violence and blood for my taste (I looked away from the screen several times), and the violence used by the superheroes (even the real ones) was, at times, excessive, but overall I thought the film was well done. In addition, from what I heard about the plot of the graphic novel from Bosch, the movie version actually has a better integrated, and therefore more dramatic plot line. The acting was not on the level of The Dark Knight (no Heath Ledger in this movie), but it was a well made movie that would probably please fans of the graphic novel, to say the least. From overhearing the conversations of people in line with us, we could tell that a few of them had seen the movie last night and decided to come back a second time today -- probably a good sign for those who want this movie to succeed.
I am not a professional movie reviewer, though, so let me get on to the main reason I'm writing a post about movies. Both "The Dark Knight" and "Watchmen" dramatized a disturbing theme: that civilized society cannot survive (or at least will be much worse off) if people know who was really responsible for horrible things that took place in the movies.
At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman and Commissioner Gordon agree to tell the public that Batman killed people who were actually killed by Harvey Dent (Two Face). They decided that allowing Gothamites to believe that Dent remained a hero, even in the face of great adversity, was more important than was their knowing truth. Moreover, both Batman and Gordon were willing to destroy Batman's reputation and put him at risk of physical harm and prosecution, in order to maintain this illusion.
Similarly, in Watchmen, one of the retired watchmen, Ozymandias, is the mastermind behind a WMD attack on NYC (and other big cities worldwide). His plan: to kill millions of people, ascribe the attacks to Dr. Manhattan (whom had, up until that point, been perceived as a hero by the American public), and thereby give all the countries in the world (particularly the US and the USSR who, in the movie, were about to nuke each other) a common enemy and create world peace. When three of the watchmen and Manhattan learn the truth, they are urged not to reveal it to the world, because then peace would be jeopardized. Dr. Manhattan and two of the others agree to keep quiet, even though this is deceptive and results in unjustly blaming Dr. Manhattan for something he didn't do. Again, the people of the civilized world cannot handle the truth. They need a well-crafted lie to keep them on their best behavior.
On a positive note, in both movies there were characters who protested. In The Dark Knight, Gordon's son spoke out against the injustice that was being done to Batman. He was just a kid, though, and therefore unable to do anything to stop the injustice from occurring. In "Watchmen," Rorschach, whom I hear from Bosch is based on Steve Ditko's character, "The Question" (Ditko is a Rand fan), was a principled opponent of lies and deception, even in the face of "Armageddon". The other two watchmen who were privy to the truth also protested at first, but ultimately agreed to keep quiet. In both movies, unfortunately, deception and injustice for the sake of the "greater good" ultimately ruled the day.
Now that this theme has been dramatized in two superhero movies in as many years, I am wondering whether this is some sort of trend. It would be nice to see sequels to these movies in which the record is set straight and humanity manages to survive, even when people know the truth. But perhaps that's too much to ask of Hollywood?
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