Back in 2009, my husband was very excited for the opening of Watchmen. In the past year, he had read the graphic novel (written by Alan Moore, art by Dave Gibbons) and we went to a late showing, though we’re usually matinee people. I went into the film bind, only knowing it was a superhero movie with some good looking effects. I never expected something so big, a characters so compelling, a plot so dense and an intelligently altered look at post WWII history. Since seeing the film, I’ve read the graphic novel and only became more intrigued and found more respect for the film.
Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985. Costumed vigilantes have helped win WWII. An experiment gone wrong has resulted in a super powerful, nearly god-like being, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) who helps the United States win Vietnam. After costumed vigilantes have been outlawed, the government and the people live in fear of nuclear disaster, as the Doomsday Clock sits at 5 minutes to midnight, and moves closer.
The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has just been murdered. This sends rogue vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) out to figure out who and why. He fears that someone is out wanting to murder other costumed heroes, so he warns his comrades: Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) and Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), who owns one of the biggest companies in the world. As Rorschach searches deeper, he discovers something bigger than a simple murder.
When Oscar season rolled around, Watchmen was completely snubbed. Now, I wouldn’t give any of the acting major kudos, but visually, this was one of the best films of the year. Sure, 2009 also boasted Avatar and District 9, but I believe Watchmen is at the same level of excellence.
So much that is beautiful in the graphic novel, is fleshed out unbelievably in the film. Shots are set up straight out of individual panels. Even senses of timing and anticipation are translated for the film’s advantage. Some of the more fantastic scenes become as realistic on film as possible. Dr. Manhattan’s transformation is a beautiful shocker that translates so well into film, as does his amazing construction on Mars.
Watchmen is perhaps the best graphic novel ever made. To turn such a great work into film is a big task, but I think Zack Snyder did an excellent job here. This film does the graphic novel justice, perfectly preserving the story, not shying away from the violence or adult themes, while honoring some of the most rich visual aspects of the original work. While others may find Watchmen just another long, drawn out superhero movie, I believe it is a vastly underrated masterpiece.
“What happened to the American Dream? It came true! You’re lookin’ at it.”