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8 out of 10
In an alternate USA circa 1985 Richard Nixon is President, nuclear war is imminent and a once superhero has just been murdered. Concerned that this may be more than an isolated incident, the Watchmen reunite to investigate their friend's demise.
Years before the next highly anticipated comic book adaptation hits our screens, the legions of devotees can be found airing their opinions on the proposed cast or director on the internet's innumerable chat rooms. Staying 'faithful' to the source material is top of every fan's agenda, with even the slightest change to back-story or costume coming under scrutiny. While Alan Moore's Watchmen may not be as famous as it's wall-crawling, bullet-catching counterparts it is no less revered. With previous Moore works; V for Vendetta and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen failing to capture the imagination, it has fallen to 300's Zack Snyder to become the man watching over the Watchmen.
In a Gotham-esqe New York city U.S. mercenary and one time Watchman, The Comedian is murdered following a confrontation in his apartment. With the police unaware of his alter ego their investigation appears to be over before it has begun. However fellow Watchman Rorschach; imagine a maniacal masked Columbo, believes his demise may be as a result of his crime fighting past. Conscious that The Comedian's death is a vendetta against masked heroes, Rorschach's notion is met with some scepticism by his disbanded kin. However it would seem that Rorschach's claims are not unfounded as the events that follow the Comedian's death; the accusations levelled at Dr. Manhattan resulting in his disappearance and the attempt on Ozymandias' life would suggest that someone is determined to eliminate the Watchmen.
With each new threat the action intensifies. Rorschach appears to be mild mannered; his gravelled tones dictating his findings to the audience. But new information becomes increasingly difficult for Rorschach to obtain and so his methods of extracting it become increasingly more brutal. It is only following his arrest do we come to understand where Walter Kovacs ceased to be and Rorschach assumed control. The origins of the other heroes are revealed as the film develops but it is Rorschach's story that is the most compelling.
The difficulty Snyder has is combining all the elements of an origins film with those of a more fleshed out sequel. Unlike the more established Batman or Spider-man; both of whom already have a legacy, Snyder has to introduce six unknown (at least not to Joe Public) characters, an obstacle even Sam Raimi struggled with on the last Spider-man sequel. But it is Snyder's faithfulness to the graphic novel that is both his success and his downfall.
By sticking to Moore's masterpiece Snyder has created a noir-ish New York that is both Gotham City and Blade Runner. Rorschach is the epitome of the city he inhabits; grimy, worn but tough. He is its Big Issue Batman. Snyder's realisation of Dr. Manhattan and his time on Mars are also a success but this is where Snyder should have cut the cord and injected some of his own ideas. A number of the scenes are lifted word for word from the book and they only serve to disrupt the flow of the film, turning it into a collection of scenes rather than a constructed story.
Watchmen will no doubt divide the opinions of the fanboys and the general public. While those affiliated with the novel will dissect every element, those approaching it with an unbiased view will find it an intriguing spin on the comic book genre. Snyder can take heart in the fact that he has created a more compelling film than V for Vendetta or LXG, but many will exclaim that the film should have remained as many a studio described it. Unfilmable.
Movie Website: www.watchmenmovie.co.uk/intl/uk/
Malin Akerman: Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre
Billy Crudup: Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan
Matthew Goode : Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias
Jackie Earl Haley: Walter Kovacs/Rorschach
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Edward Blake/The Comedian
Patrick Wilson: Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl