Directed By: Zack Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson
Certificate: 18 (UK)
Reviewed By: Luke Walkley
Set in an alternate 1985, where superheroes exist, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigates the murder of a former colleague. Closed down by the government, the heroes have tried to lead normal lives- but the investigation draws them together once more as they uncover a hidden conspiracy that could change the Earth forever. Directed by Zach Snyder, Watchmen is a gritty yet super stylish take on a tired genre. Following masked vigilante Rorschach as he seeks the help of old friend and fellow superhero-Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) to investigate the murder of The Comedian. Meanwhile Dr Manhattan, another superhero, welcomed for his genius and abilities has been used by the government to avert a nuclear war.
Through a series of flashbacks we are witness to the trouble caused by the Watchmen’s actions street riots and protests pose the question Who Watches the Watchmen? Almost instantly we can see Snyder’s focus on visuals in full flow. Staying true to previous graphic novel adaptations it mixes colourful costumes with the dark backdrop of the city beautifully. The films dark tones match the scenery and it creates a unique feel that other movies have failed to create.
The opening scene to the movie is in my opinion one of the best of any movie I have seen. A flashback at the lives of the original heroes- The ‘Minutemen’ of the thirties on whom the Watchmen base themselves. Set to Bob Dylan’s infamous tune ‘The Times They Are A-changing’ we see the good times and the bad times that they faced as they attempted to help a broken society.
The characters created in the novel are spectacularly bought to life by some fantastic acting- Jackie Earle Haley is flawless as the determined and deadly Rorschach while Billy Crudup and Malin Akerman offer fantastic support as Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre respectively. While Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) is a great inclusion, his character is cleverly inspired by the poem of the same name-with numerous quotes forming the basis of his dialogue and interaction. He might not be the ‘villain’ as such but the character itself is a great inclusion to an already strong group.
There are strong ethics hidden behind Watchmen’s arty exterior- it asks a question of its viewers about ultimate sacrifice. It creates strong moral conflicts and they are represented through its characters personalities unlike any movie that preceded it.
I have already mentioned the music in the scintillating opening scene and the soundtrack throughout does not falter- everything from Nena’s ’99 Luftballoons’ to Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ feature and create numerous memorable and beautifully edited scenes. An intuitive ear for music that can be seen in Snyder’s recent release Sucker Punch (recent at the time of writing this review anyway)
Snyder has managed to bridge the void between fans of comic book/graphic novels superhero enjoying it and the general movie goer. There aren’t any specialist references to the novels that the minority will enjoy will the majority sit forced to piece together a storyline of their own. There’s a balanced mix of action and story and it continues for the whole duration-which at nearly three hours long never drags.
I may be slightly biased, Rorschach is certainly one of my favourite characters of any movie and the character, in my opinion is every bit as strong as Heath Ledger’s Joker (both spellbinding). Rorschach would make a fantastic friend and foe alike but its the moral conflict that we see that gives his character such depth. Watchmen as a film is near perfect, not falling into the stereotypical Superman/Spiderman style of comic/graphic novel adaptations- it’s darker than The Dark Knight, yet it retains some of its ideals- that not every superhero is the perfect do-gooder and sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.
While some may ask ‘Who Watches the Watchmen? I can gladly say I do! and that I will continue doing so, over and over again…
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