It's the 1980's and it's a different world. Superheroes have been outlawed, the only ones still in operation under direct control of the United States government. Suddenly, those heroes both still in action and retired find themselves targets by an unseen enemy, who wants to kill them one by one
Directed by: Zack Snyder
. Starring: Malin Akerman
, Billy Crudup
, Matthew Goode
, Jackie Earle Haley
, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
, Patrick Wilson
, Carla Gugino
, Matt Frewer
, Stephen McHattie
, Laura Mennell
, Rob LaBelle
, Gary Houston
, James M. Connor
. Music by: Tyler Bates
Watchmen" is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the "Doomsday Clock" - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity... but who is watching the Watchmen? I am a big fan of the original graphic novel by Alan Moore which I first read when I was 11 and as a real movie geek and not someone who has been impressed with the recent 'super hero' adaptations, I thought I was going to end up disappointed or compromising my views over this movie as graphic novel adaptations normally lose a lot in translation to the big screen...not in the slightest! Gone is the teen angst of Spiderman, gone is the care free jauntiness of Fantastic 4, gone are spandex tights of Superman and gone is the self indulgence of X-Men. Watchmen is a grown up, complex and exhilarating fantasy film which stays very true to the graphic novel, however there are parts which have been shortened and adapted to the screen purely I suspect to stop the running time of the movie getting to the point where you'd have to take time off work to go and see it. A lot of the back story arcs, parallel stories and supplements from the graphic novel have been replaced by clever montages, references and flashbacks; enough to add to maintain the story without becoming confusing or overwhelming and certainly enough to keep the purists happy.
All in all the direction is slick and tight and you can tell that Director Zach Snyder who as well as having a well developed eye for visuals is obviously a fan of the graphic novel as he has decided to follow the story very faithfully and instead of changing it dramatically to suit a mainstream audience, has tweaked the story enough to keep the film flowing consistently and able to hold the attention of the audience throughout. Again purists will notice that the ending has been adapted slightly, but to be honest I'm of the opinion that it is the ending that should have appeared in the original graphic novel as I was never really taken with it myself (sorry Mr. Moore!). I have to take my hat off to the writers of the screenplay David Hayter and Alex Tse who have brought to life an inspired vision of an alternate world that echoes our own and made an exciting and intelligent adventure movie.
The characterisations are awesome, especially The Comedian and Rorschach where special nods must go to Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earl Haley respectively for their portrayal of these troubled and fatally flawed anti heroes and Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre II is the stuff that boyhood fantasies are made of! Indeed the whole cast give great performances, attacking their roles with relish and really being able to get their teeth into what is an abundance of material to develop and play with, all of which really translates superbly to the screen.
Visually, Watchmen is an amazing movie just to look at as the scenery, customs and overall feel of the whole thing are just spectacular. The other thing that I applaud is that the movie doesn't pull any punches. There is a lot of graphic violence and overall the feeling of the film is pretty bleak and dark which again is true to the graphic novel. At times it's not always easy viewing and there are a few moments that will genuinely cause some to squirm in their seats, however this is part of the brilliance of Watchmen as It would have been so easy to play safe with some watered down PG friendly rating and lose the essence of the whole thing.
The end result is superbly balanced and an absolute masterstroke by Director Zach Snyder who has treated Watchmen with reverence and respect, choosing to concentrate on the story and characters first and to use the obvious strong aesthetic elements to cement the whole thing in place.
Admittedly for anyone who hasn't read the book, I'm not so sure how much of this is going to appeal to a mainstream audience as Watchmen is a deep and complex movie that should invite discussion and analysis; something that mainstream cinema so seldom seems to do these days. Also at nearly 3 hours long, this will be a big ask of some people.
I have waited 22 years to see Watchmen come to the big screen and I am so very pleased with the end result.
Review by Paul Corio from the Internet Movie Database.