It has long been seen as being unfilmable; director Terry Gilliam said it couldn’t be done in 1989. It was one of the first comic book mini-series (later collected as a graphic novel) that elevated comics from kid-lit to pop culture narratives. The book is Watchmen, and 24 years after it’s publication, it has been adapted into a movie by 300 director Zach Snyder.
The movie is set in an alternative 1985, with Nixon as a popular five-term president and the Soviet Union strong as poised to start World War III. Superheroes are real, but they have been outlawed for over 8 years. They either work for the government, the the Comedian and Dr Manhattan, revealed their identity and used their fame to become successful like Ozymandias, retired to obscurity like Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre or have become outlaws like Rorschach. It is Rorschach’s who discovers that a murdered man was the Comedian and he suspects a plot to murder superheroes and warns his former team-mates. They at first dismiss his paranoid ramblings, but as the film progresses, Dr Manhattan is forced off-planet, Ozymandias is attacked and Rorschach is framed for a murder he did not commit. Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre, thinking Rorschach was on to sometime, spring him and try uncover the plot and its connection to the worlds march to nuclear Armageddon. The true plot, however, is beyond anything they expect.
The movie comes in at about two hours and totally cuts out the sub story of “The Tales of the Black Freighter,” a comic within the comic that a background character reads. This story, however, has been lengthened and turned into a animated movie to be released later in March. With this is an adaptation or Hollis Mason’s (the first Nite Owl as mentioned in the story) autobiography, Behind the Mask, which excerpts from were included in the graphic novel. Other scenes were filmed for the movie but cut, with Snyder promising a Director’s cut on DVD/BluRay or at least deleted scenes. Besides this, and a change to the ending (yet the overall result is the same), the movie is as faithful to the original book as they could be.
That, however could be considered this film biggest flaws. The adherence to the book could turn off those who have not read the Watchmen book. The movie assumes (much like the book, mind you) we will accept these characters as they are, without getting into the origin other than that this world allows costume heroes. The exception to this is Dr Manhattan, the only hero that is really super, with actual superpowers (all the other heroes are skilled athletes, some with gadgets and fancy costumes.). The film is faithful to the books Doctor Manhattan, with actor Billy Crudup voicing him almost emotionless. He even spends most of the movie naked, with the film not shying away for glimpses of his “lower Manhattan.” Yes, there is digital, CGI, glowing blue wang. It’s not front and centre, but it is there.
Is it good? I say yes. It not the greatest of superhero movies. I never thought it was the greatest of superhero stories to begin with. The movie left me with the same feeling of indifference as the book did. The change in the ending did not bother me (since I am not a rabid fan, I wasn’t against this, unlike the changes made to Catwoman in that movie) and I though made more sense than the…let’s call it the space squid ending. I always thought that Alan Moore’s (the author of Watchmen) writing was a bit pretentious, especially his later stuff. This isn’t so bad, but some may not like this movie
Watchmen is rated 18A in British Columbia, Canada (the equivalent to the U.S. R rating). It has strong violence (in the book), nudity (again, it’s in the book), language (book), and sex scenes, also in the book, but more…expanded in the film. Malin Akerman’s body (or that of her body double,) was the perfect antidote to doses of Dreiberg’s butt and Manhattan’s member.
3.5 out of 5