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Watchmen (2009)

Who watches the Watchmen?

Directed by:

Zack Snyder

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 162 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

Country: United States

I wanted to read Alan Moore’s graphic novel before seeing the screen adaptation of Watchmen, I really did. I started, and it’s pretty amazing—but it’s dense stuff, characters and back-stories at every twist and turn, and I went in to the film with trepidation. Moore himself has cut all ties to the movie, declaring it unfilmable, and before seeing it, I had to agree—even from the small amount I read, and even knowing Watchmen has a super-sized runtime of two hours and forty-three minutes, it seemed a daunting task to begin to scrape the surface.

To sum up the virtually unsummarizable—it’s a crazy world out there, baby. In fact, it’s 1985, but a strange alternate 1985—think more Richard Nixon, less Madonna. The Cold War is still going on, Tricky Dick is our fifth-term president, and the superhero universe has been shut down. But then, one of the former costumed crusaders is tossed out a window, and a few of the remaining “vigilantes” take it upon themselves to save themselves and their brethren before whoever’s bent on taking them out succeeds, discovering that there’s even more to the plot than they may be ready for.

That doesn’t begin to cover it, of course, but it tells you enough to get you where you’re going. After directing 300, which was itself based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, Zack Snyder seemed to be one of the best choices to helm an even more ambitious comic adaptation. What he brings to the picture is a love for the material, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on where you start from. Some will appreciate his obvious affection for the source—I actually recognized some shots as virtual replicas of scenes I saw in Moore’s original—while others will lament that there’s nothing new here for fans and that Snyder sticks too closely to the inked pages to allow for this to be anything more than a great looking museum piece. For me, it’s somewhere in between—sure, Snyder’s obviously in awe of the sprawling tale he has to wrangle into something under three hours, but it’s a valiant attempt, and it’s an effects marvel that still manages to engage despite the thick landscape of stories it has to cram in. Performances are strong all around, but Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach stands out like a P.I. detective narrator, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian manages to somehow not be a repulsive character even with all his horrific actions. Overall, it’s sometimes uneven, it’s a time commitment, and you better go in with lots of room in your head to fit lots of story—but with that said, this slanted take on the superhero genre should satisfy fans of Moore’s classic while recruiting curious new readers to the Watchmen universe.

It's Got: An obvious reverence for its source material, Dazzling effects, A big, glowing naked guy.

It Needs: Possibly a little more creative license, Viewers to know a little bit about the story.

Alternatives:

300, Batman Begins, Sin City

Summary

The director of 300 has once again taken a classic graphic novel and brought it to the big screen with obvious affection, and while that sometimes makes this a little too literal of an adaptation, it’s still full of truly special effects and “super” performances.

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