JACKIE EARLE HALEY
JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN
BASED ON THE GRAPHIC NOVEL CREATED BY
Watchmen is one of those rare films which manages to intertwine several genres, without becoming a cluttered mess; an action thriller – cum – sci-fi noir mystery, played out with superheros in a brutally sadistic world, where the line between good and evil is as murky as the streets of the metropolis in which it is set.
The film is based on a popular limited edition comic book series, created by the influential Alan Moore (of V for Vendetta fame) and Dave Gibbons. It is set in an alternate world, 1985, where costumed heroes are a stain upon the fabric of society. Richard Nixon is still president; America won the Vietnam War, thanks to the help of its superhero inhabitants; and the increasing threat of nuclear war between the USA and USSR has brought the world to the brink of destruction.
Complementing its unique environment are a group of wonderfully fleshed out characters, outlawed heroes forced into retirement by a public that did not want their protection any longer.
Watchmen begins with one of these heroes, The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), slain by a mysterious enemy. Investigating his murder is the dogged and disturbed Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), who uncovers a plot to discredit, and/or murder, his crime fighter friends.
Among them is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an immortal, superhuman master of matter, who has grown void of human emotion; Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), the world’s smartest man, who with Manhattan’s help, has created an alternate energy poised to eliminate Earths need for fossil fuels; and, second generation heroes Silk Spectre (Malik Akerman) and Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), who through all of the madness, fall in love with each other.
Watchmen was not your average comic book: murder, rape, war, sex, nudity, all were constantly present, and faithfully adapted to the screen by visionary filmmaker Zack Snyder, who wowed audiences with 300 (another comic adaptation), and the spirited remake of Dawn of the Dead.
To his discredit, there are times when Snyder skirts the line between high class, adult entertainment, and comic pornography. The violence in particular is immensely gratuitous, almost distractingly so.
However, this is also a film which exudes a visual brilliance at every pore. Of particular mention is its astonishing opening credits sequence, which features the evolution of the Watchmen, amidst superb re-enactments of historical moments, set to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-Changing”. It also sets the pace for the excellent special, visual, and make up effects, and set design, which are a key part of, but not a distraction from, the soul of Watchmen: its commentary on the nature of mankind, with all of its ugliness and wonderment, and the roles which politics and religion play.
Watchmen is a ballsy film. Its source material has been deemed un-filmable, due to its scope and depth. Yet Snyder has pulled it off, and triumphantly so.