world will look up and shout "Save us!"... And I'll whisper "No."
1985 and the hostilities between
the US and the USSR are escalating, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear
war. With President Richard Nixon outlawing masked superheroes but using superhuman
Dr. Manhattan (Crudup) as the West's nuclear deterrent, it seems up to the
governments of the world to save it from destruction. When retired hero The
Comedian (Morgan) is murdered, vigilante detective Rorschach (Haley) decides
to investigate but what he uncovers will not only affect the other retired
superheroes but the whole world.
Comic book adaptations
were raised to a new level when 'The Dark Knight' was released in 2008 but
with the bar raised so high can any other movie compete, 'Watchmen' really
Nolan took over the 'Batman' franchise a new standard was set when it came
to comic book movies. No longer was the masked superhero movie just for geeks
and kids, as these movies now had character development, well written plots
and newfound respectability with audiences and critics alike. Now adaptations
of comic books or graphic novels can be taken seriously and audiences might
be welcoming of one of the most celebrated graphic novels in comic book history,
Written by British
comic book legend Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, 'Watchmen' is
a genre defining work but was classed as unfilmable as soon it was released.
With directors Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass all trying
and failing to bring the graphic novel to the silver screen and Alan Moore
distancing himself from any film adaptation of his work after what he considered
the disastrous movie versions of 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen',
'From Hell' and 'V for Vendetta', the production wasn't without its problems.
Finally, after the critical and commercial success of his adaptation of Frank
Miller's '300', Warner Bros turned to up and coming director Zack Snyder to
attempt to film the unfilmable.
The problem with 'Watchmen'
was that the graphic novel is not just about one character, but a collection
of characters living in an alternate version of the world, were costumed vigilante
superheroes exist and have shaped the world around them. With the original
'Minutemen' of The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Hooded Justice, Mothman, Captain
Metropolis and Silhouette setting the standard in 1940 but with death, murder,
insanity, retirement and conspiracy following their careers, it was the 'Watchmen'
who followed that really changed history and ended up getting masked vigilantes
outlawed. This is a history were America embraced the superhero, were they
won the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon was never connected to the Watergate scandal
and was elected for an unprecedented third term in office and in 1985 the
tensions between the US and the USSR was pushing the world towards nuclear
annihilation. While Russia stockpiled nuclear weapons, the US relied on superhuman
Dr. Manhattan as their deterrent and former superhero turned industrialist
Adrian Veidt to provide an answer to their energy problems. As the Doomsday
clock ticks towards Armageddon, one of the original superheroes, The Comedian
is murdered, Rorschach, a masked detective decides to investigate but he discovers
a threat that not only affects the remaining, retired 'Watchmen' but could
change the world.
What Alan Moore and
illustrator Dave Gibbons did with 'Watchmen' however was to create characters
that were versions of some of the 'classics' created by DC and Marvel and
it is these characters that Zack Snyder and his creative team have concentrated
on and have gone for character actors, instead of superstar names to create
them. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is The Comedian, a heartless assassin who has no
problem killing in Vietnam, the streets of the US or shooting from a grassy
knoll in Dallas. Patrick Wilson is The Night Owl II, a costumed crime fighter
who used technology to aid but it having trouble living life outside of the
costume. Matthew Goode is Ozymandias, the man who revealed his true identity
and declared himself the most intelligent man on the planet. Malin Akerman
is Silk Spectre II, the PVC clad sexy vigilante and the daughter of the original
female Minuteman, played by Carla Gugino. Billy Crudup is the completely astonishing
computer generated creation Dr Manhattan, the only one of the Watchmen with
actual superpowers, who is struggling to connect with a human race he doesn't
want to save. Finally we have Rorschach, played by Jackie Earle Haley, the
masked detective whose sense on honour has been washed away by the horrors
he has witnessed on the streets of New York. Each of these characters are
exceptionally played but not all of them have the same amount of screen time
and development, with Rorschach becoming the main emphasis as narrator and
the man we mainly follow in this journey. With the theatrical version running
at two and three quarter hours but with a much longer director's cut promised,
this version does feel like it should be a much longer film.
With the graphic novel
as complex as it is and the sheer amount of characters, something had to give
and of course, there are some changes from the source material which will
be greeted by mixed reactions from the fans. Director Zack Snyder and his
creative team have succeeded in filming the unfilmable however and even with
the changes and some characters suffering from not as much development or
screen time in this version, 'Watchman' is comic book movie that is not afraid
to be violent, sexual and filled with bad language as this is an adult movie,
with adult material. Visually stunning, extremely well played and an adaptation
that will be talked about for a very long time. Who is watching the 'Watchmen'?
You should be.
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