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Its been in development since the 1980s. It has been called one of the most difficult adaptations to create. The author of the graphic novel has not given his blessing to the film, nor will he ever see it. Its beaten directors Paul Greengrass and Terry Gilliam, unable to untangle its plot. It’s the film comic book fans have craved for and when several of the cast turned to their geeky friends for advice on whether or not to take the roles offered to them, were answered with an unequivocal “yes”!
We’re in an America run by Richard Nixon in his third term, the world on the brink of a nuclear war. The streets are filled with scum and superheroes have been outlawed. Those that aren’t already dead have revealed their identity to the world, all but one. Rorschach, whose mask will change depending on his mood. After former hero ‘The Comedian’ is beaten in his own home and thrown out the window, Rorschach believes a war on masked heroes is coming.
Essentially we follow a whodunit path with Rorschach heading up investigations but we also weave the stories of the other former Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan, a mass of blue nakedness after an accident with a nuclear reactor, is working on bringing peace to the world by creating an unlimited energy source that people don’t need to fight over. Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre struggle with their pasts, the Spectre her upbringing and the Owl’s lack of sexual confidence outside his suit.
There is a lot going on here and essentially this is made for the fans of the graphic novel. Going into the movie blank, having not referenced the novel you may well struggle to keep up with the goings on and jumping from character to character, arc to arc. Some people went so far as to call the movie “disjointed”, having struggled to keep up with the flashbacks and doomsday clock.
I am sad to say I never read the graphic novel, something I am making up for as I write this. However I found the movie compelling, I was gripped to it like Rorschach to his mask. Yes, the run time is pushing it a little at just shy of three hours. Yes, it does jump about a lot but not as much as to confuse. Superheroes are charged with saving the world, that’s all the Watchmen are doing, trying to save the world from itself.
Calling them superheroes is wrong, with the exception of Dr. Manhattan the Watchmen are nothing more than the next step in evolution. They don’t fly about, they are immoral and the community fears them. There are so many layers to this film it is understandable people may get lost. The graphic novel has been used as a storyboard and you can see that clearly depicted on screen. The fight sequences go into slow-motion to add to that frame by frame feel and the violence is beautiful.
Hardcore fans of the graphic novel should be pleased by the work Zack Synder has accomplished with Alan Moore’s original masterpiece. Those unaware of the book may well find themselves lost. This is not your typical popcorn movie however should not be avoided because you’re not a geek.