Based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, Watchmen (2009, dir. Zack Snyder) is a very different type of superhero film. Its synopsis is as follows:
In an alternate 1985 where former superheroes exist, the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own sprawling investigation, uncovering something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.
I must firstly disclose that I really, really love the original graphic novel and my perception of the film is always going to be entirely coloured by that adoration. I’ve heard some people who haven’t read the original source material describe Watchmen the film as too long, kind of boring in parts, with a dissatisfying ending. But to me, the film is a successful adaptation because it captures about 90% of the spirit of the original comic, brings certain moments to life really faithfully and improves upon others, plus it has some amazing cinematography and visuals (might do a separate post on that at some point). Some scenes are incredibly faithful to what we see in the graphic novel, and as a fan I really appreciated that attention to detail. Its story conveys the central themes and message of the graphic novel in a coherent and understandable way, and Snyder’s direction is thoroughly excellent. Not to mention, the ensemble cast of superheroes all match each other in terms of their performances. Usually there’s at least one weak link in an ensemble as large as this, but there isn’t one here.
Watchmen is quite a long film, yet it’s packed to the gills with content and backstory and an exploration of this alternate 1985, so the length doesn’t seem unnecessary. There isn’t a dull moment that you could even think about cutting because everything is in counterbalance. However, even with all of the action and interesting characters, some may argue that it’s too long to be a completely effective and thrilling superhero movie, and that the fact that it is filled with interesting characters and events means that it must be somehow overstuffed. My only real criticism of this film is that it doesn’t quite have the same impact as the graphic novel at the end, and it’s difficult for me to ascertain exactly why that is so. Maybe the graphic novel just had a big impact on me when I first read it and I expected my mind and expectations to be blown away similarly for the film, which isn’t really possible.
If you have an afternoon to spare or feel like throwing on a film whilst you vacuum your house, this is a good one to watch. Watchmen delves a bit deeper than your regular superhero film, exploring personal ethics and the concept of a moral compass, what it means to be a caped crusader and whether they really are better than the common man, and themes such as political and social awareness. Not to mention a healthy dose of existentialism and fast-paced fight scenes. I was so impressed and happy with this when I first saw it in the cinema, and it still holds up years later. Great film.
Watch the trailer here.
Watch this film at Amazon!