Watchmen is the screen adaptation of the uber-cool cult graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Published by DC Comics in 1986, Watchmen is the first graphic novel to be listed in Time Magazine's top 100 novels list. In fact, the comic book series received a plethora of accolades. This intelligent, dark story is clearly targeted to adults and has been quoted as “the moment comic books grew up”.
The story is set in an alternate universe, drawing actual elements from our real-life history. We start of in 1985, Richard Nixon is still in power. Undoubtedly assisted by his use of the superhero team the Watchmen to win the Vietnam War. Something that his predecessor JFK would not do. But, the use of the Watchmen certainly has done him no harm. Especially, God-like ‘Dr. Manhattan' who is now used as a deterrent in the endless cold war against communist Russia.
However, Nixon has outlawed the Superheroes and ceased to use them officially. The world is on the brink of an all-out nuclear war, Russia has amassed a ginormous arsenal of nuclear weapons in fear of Dr. Manhattan. With the doomsday clock edging ever closer to midnight, the end of humanity looks certain.
But, what about the Watchmen? Well, they have their own troubles. One of their original team members, ‘The Comedian', has been murdered. But something is not right about his death. So, another member of the team ‘Rorschach' seeks the rest of the Watchmen to find the truth. ‘Nightowl' and ‘Ozymandias' seem skeptical about ‘Rorschach's' theories. ‘Silk Spectre II' and ‘Dr. Manhattan' are too pre-occupied to listen to ‘Rorschach'. However, as the evidence mounts, the Watchmen have no choice to come out of the shadows to stop their mystery murderer.
It's fair to say, that Director Zack Snyder is a huge fan of the Watchmen graphic novels. In fact, after a long list of other directors dropped out of the project, the choice of Snyder turned out to be a masterstroke in the end. Snyder's obsession with detail really shows here. He closely created the storyboards for the Watchmen to match the original graphic novel. And he brought in Dave Gibbons as chief adviser to the film.
Right from the opening frames, you know that you are in for an amazing cinematic experience. For me, Watchmen has completely set the standard for all comic book films since. It certainly placed him as the go-to director for the DC Universe movies that followed, casting his magic on fantastic films like Man of Steel and Wonder Woman.
On top of this, the music score is just amazing. Perfectly woven into the chaos are some of the most iconic songs of all time. I mean, I would even buy the soundtrack to Watchmen, on its own. There's Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Nat King Cole, Janis Joplin Leonard Cohen, KC and The Sunshine Band, and Mozart amongst the list. Each and every one of them is superbly placed to add to the epic experience.
Heading up the cast is, Malin Åkerman (Silk Spectre), Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach). There is not one weak point in the lead cast. They all do a fantastic job with their roles. But for me, the standouts come from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the stunning Malin Åkerman, and Jackie Earle Haley.
I am a big fan of Watchmen but there a catch. It's an epic in every sense of the word and that includes its epic length at not far off three hours. But, that does not mean there is any shortage of content or low points in the film. In fact, quite the opposite, there's so much going on that all of your attention is needed right up to the final credits. Yes, it requires a hefty investment of time, but it sure is worth it.
All in all, Watchmen is for me a true masterpiece, of the flawed superhero genre. If the graphic novel is cited as “the point where comics came of age”, then, it could easily apply to Zack Snyder's movie. The whole cinematic landscape certainly seems to be dominated with Superhero movies since it was released in 2009. If you can go the distance and you like a good Superhero story then Watchmen should be top of your list.