I’ve mentioned before that I was not a fan of the Watchmen graphic novel, but I highly anticipated the film version as the trailers looked visually stunning. I believe the reverence of the novel depletes its narrative storytelling, but the concepts are still the high points as they are clearly fantastic deconstructions of the superhero genre.
And after years in development hell, Watchmen is finally adapted into the big screen. How is it? Pretty good. The film centers on an alternate history set in 1985 where the existence of superheroes change the landscape of the world; and not for the better: Nixon is re-elected more than three times, a nuclear war is present between the U.S. and Russia, America wins the Vietnam War, and superheroes are registered. All these events are depicted in the best credits ever created with Bob Dylan’s “The Times Are A-Changin” playing in the background. It’s a grittier, scarier, and darker world, and the movie starts with the death of a superhero, The Comedian, which reveals a larger malevolent scheme of destruction (which the villain is diabolically crazy as he/she thinks they‘re correct with the ends justifying the means- I‘m sorry, no more spoilers).
The most exciting parts is the full realizations of the superhero genre. Its themes are explored and are taken into account with tragedy, moral ambiguity, and full human pathos as the relations with the heroes and their world is explored. One of my favorite scenes was the tragic backstory of Dr. Manhattan, a character that becomes almost god-like after a science experiment. His relationships with humans fade, and start becoming mechanic. Two other fantastic characters are the Comedian and Rorschach, two morally ambiguous characters that see the dark sides of humanity. Rorschach is a hardcore vigilante that takes the law on his side while the Comedian is a registered sadist as his amoral actions lead him to rape, kill innocents, and take his own form of justice. Other characters like Adrian Veight, Nightowl, and Miss Jupiter have their time to shine, which I won’t spoil.
Now are there any cons to this movie? There are a few. The movie is 161 minutes long, so any viewer’s attention span might be limited. It may also be jarring for anyone who hasn’t read the graphic novel. The hype of the movie might be overrated since fans give almost godly reverence to the graphic novel. The graphic novel is very layered, so many scenes were unmistakably and understandably cut such as civilian reaction to the Cold War and the supplementary story of the Black Freighter. Many fans will love that the movie is 90 percent faithful to the novel. My only complaint was the unnecessary soft-core porn scene as it was too graphic. I would even argue that Dr. Manhattan’s penis (there are a few shots I might add) was more appropriate on the screen then the sex scene. Still, this is a movie worth seeing for it’s surreal visuals, themes of metaphysical superhero, an amazing soundtrack that stems all forms of Americana.
My Rating: A-