This comic book adaptation has been a long time coming. Alan Moore (the un-credited co-creator of Watchmen…at his own request) was once asked how he would make a Watchmen movie & he is reputed to have said ‘I wouldn’t’.
The original comic book is a rich and dense story with many strands and sub-plots, which would make it difficult for any film-maker to abridge it into a manageable run time. Director Zack Snyder (previous credits include 300 & the ‘re-imagining’ of Dawn Of The Dead) has managed to fit his vision of the story into a 162 minute movie.
The plot, which is set in 1985, revolves around the premise of ‘what would happen if Super-heroes really existed?’. The general public don’t seem too happy with the idea of caped crusaders usurping the police and meting out their own justice. And in the case of The Comedian they’re probably right to be wary. The movie (like the comic book) opens with The Comedian being murdered by an unknown assailant. With the American senate agreeing a bill to outlaw masked heroes and the seemingly inevitable march toward a nuclear war between the United States and the USSR this is at times a very bleak film.
Rorschach (played by Jackie Earle Haley) continues to work as a masked vigilante, and is convinced that there is a serial killer trying to take out the now retired superheroes (or is he just showing signs of paranoid psychosis?). Add all the political ramifications (Dr Manhattan single-handedly winning the Vietnam war for the U.S.A.) and the fragile love triangle between Dr Manhattan, Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II and you get a superhero movie like no other.
There are some fans of the original comic who will be unhappy with this take on the story. I think Zack Snyder was always going to be up against it, he has managed to show the majority of the major plot points (including Tales Of The Black Freighter, a comic book within a comic book which is available as a separate DVD), while making an accessible movie that anyone unaware of the comic book can watch. As a director he clearly cares deeply about the comic, and the amount of work that has gone into making the sets and costumes and some of the camera angles is incredible, and make illustrator Dave Gibbons’ vision come to life.
I went to see the film with friends who hadn’t read the book, and the consensus seemed to be that the guys enjoyed it more than the girls did. Perhaps we’ve been used to the likes of Spiderman with his witty quips and one-liners, this film has a darker edge to it and while there are some humorous moments there aren’t that many. The violence from the comic has been translated onto the big screen with no punches being pulled, Blood spattering, bones breaking and some pretty nasty scenes involving very graphic mutilation.
The casting in my opinion was very good especially Jeffrey Dean Morgan who absolutley nails the persona of The Comedian. The visual effects are of a very high standard and overall I came away from the cinema feeling that it had lived up to my expectations.
Overall I would give Watchmen 4 out of 5 stars.