It’s 1984 and America is on the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union and the only ones who can prevent it are a group of troubled superheroes, the “Watchmen,” whose vigilante style wouldn’t make anyone feel safe.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the film takes place in New York City, where enemies of the Watchmen have hit the streets with signs, spray paint and violent intentions. Even President Nixon , who in this alternate universe is still president, vilifies the heroes, outlawing their profession.
“The Watchmen” presents a gritty, brutal look at another reality, one where masked heroes and villains are injected into the pages of history. It’s a gripping “who-dunnit” mystery of masterful proportions that at times is bloody and viscous.
The movie begins with the mysterious death of the Comedian (Jefferey Morgan, “Grey’s Anatomy”), a superhero who in his life has made many enemies and wore a smiley face pin. Rorschach (Jackie Haley, “Semi-Pro,” 2008), named for his inkblot mask that changes constantly due to shifts in mood, is investigating the death of the Comedian and what may be a conspiracy to kill off others in the Watchmen.
The storytelling in the movie is extremely effective, as the life of the Comedian is seen through the memories of other characters, adding layers of meaning to the story as in the comic book.
Who’s watching the Watchmen? Fans of the comics and those who haven’t read the comic are, that’s who. For fans there will be a lot of details to discuss. For example the portrayal of Dr. Manhattan, (Billy Crudup, “The Good Shepherd,” 2006) who is for the most part a big blue nude guy, as he’s drifting away from his humanity and becoming super-human.
Fans will also find much to discuss about the chemistry between Dr. Manhattan and the Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman, “27 Dresses,” 2008).
There is a noticeable lack of obvious product placement – no cans of soda or brands of any kind in the movie. In the graphic novel, product placement is based on the invented products that tie in with the created world – a bottle of perfume, for example, manufactured by a company owned by Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode, “The Lookout,” 2007) also known as Ozymandias, a former superhero turned successful businessman is seen throughout the comics.
The “Watchmen” has sexual content, violence and crude language and is not recommended for children as it is an R-rated movie. The sex scenes in the movie are in vivid graphic detail while in the world of the comic book they are understated.
Fans of the comic book will enjoy the straight- from-the-comic book feel and those who aren’t fans or comic book readers can still feel smart as they follow the sub-plots and relationships in this movie.
This is a movie to see again for the complexity of all the layers of meaning and clues that this movie provides in bucket-loads.
Director Zack Snider (“300,” 2006) proves that he knows the comic book well through the inside jokes and choice of music throughout the movie. And although the movie and graphic novel differ plot-wise, “Watchmen” is one of the greatest comic book-turned movie to date, giving a running commentary on the darker side of human nature.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.