Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino
Synopsis: The year is 1985, but nowhere near how you remember it. For years, costumed vigilantes have been fighting crime, and there is even a genuinely powered super being, who turned the tide of Vietnam. However, such masked crime fighting has now been outlawed, but a team known as the Watchmen come out of retirement after one of their own is murdered.
A review by Film Nerd.
The graphic novel on which this film is based is perhaps the most influential ever published. Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and published by DC comics, it was released in 12 parts, but broke the mold on how graphic novels were presented. At the end of each issue, there were distributed documents that cover the history of this alternate reality, in the process giving it great depth and background information on the lead characters. In addition, there was a running story of a comic within the comic, being read by a child at the news stand. This comic reflected events and themes presented within the story itself. All this on top of what is in many respects the film noir version of a super hero story. Basically, a whole lot more was there than “biff”, “whack” and “pow”!
So how do you bring a story like this to screen?? The great difficulty lies in the fact that on-screen, it is difficult to present all this extra information without detracting from the narrative. The comic within the comic was excised, though it was filmed as an animation separately and released in addition to the film on DVD and Blu Ray. What was clever though was presenting this history in one of the most creative and entertaining title sequences I have seen in a film in a very long time.
Does the film work? Yes it does, and fans of the source material can watch this as a worthy representation of the story they love. It can be a harder pill to swallow though for the uninitiated. It is not a clear-cut story, there are hidden agendas, personal motives, and a resolution that may upset those familiar with your regular comic book film. It is a film that makes you think, and if you are willing to re-watch it and think it over, you may get a whole lot more out of it. With a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes, though, if this sounds like too much work perhaps it is best not to start. I hope Urban Fantasist will add her support to this review though, as someone who did walk out of the cinema disappointed (especially after I had built it up before she saw it), but whom has admitted she kept thinking about it afterwards and had a different appreciation of it after considering the various themes.
And it does make you think. It is a film that the most noble characters make questionable decisions, and those with the outwardly despicable are perhaps more worthy of respect, given they have their own moral codes and they stick to them. In fact, it is perhaps these characters, exemplified by Morgan’s “The Comedian” and Haley’s “Rorschach”, that carry the weight of the film, and perhaps have a better idea of the true face of society than any of the other characters. To go into these external characters could take a lot of time, but each does have their own agenda, and their own purpose for crime fighting. Quite realistically, seeing justice is not always the primary motive. Other reasons for becoming a masked vigilante are explored, and many have their own psychoses, whether that been seeking pride from a parent, the fetishistic element of dressing up, seeking fame, or seeking a sense of power. Even Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan gives a different spin on the super human, who can manipulate matter after a science experiment gone wrong, but as he becomes more powerful, he becomes increasingly distanced from his own humanity.
I could keep discussing themes and ideas for this film given enough space and a willing audience, but I will save that for another time. If any interest were to be expressed, I would happily write essays on impressions and interpretations I have had of this film. To avoid this review becoming perhaps a tad dry though, I will start to wrap up. This is a violent film with adult themes, Bride of Film Nerd had some obvious distaste towards a number of scenes. It has disappointed people who went to the cinema expecting a more traditional superhero narrative. But it is a great film for those willing to investigate it and explore its ideas. That said, Hollywood please hear my plea and not bastardise this brilliant tale with a sequel!!
4.5 stars (out of a possible 5)
Watchmen on IMDB
Watchmen on Rotten Tomatoes