Warner Brothers, 2009
By Amelia Blevins
As Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'” begins to play, director Zack Snyder sets the stage for the alternate 1985 that is Watchmen. The audience witnesses shots of familiar history that have been altered to include the unfamiliar presence of the Watchmen–masked vigilantes who, since the 1940s, have helped keep American streets clean of crime. However, after the U.S. government passed an act to ban masked heroes, the world was left exposed to all matter of dangerous criminals and threats of nuclear war against Russia.
Though the movie is a whopping 163 minutes, Snyder tells the story (written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons) with precision and great attention to the novel’s details. Fans of the graphic novel will find that, though Watchmen has been dubbed unfilmable, through Snyder’s acute attention to the detailed story, the comic’s panels come to life with accuracy and vitality. I found myself hearing some near perfect dialogue lifted directly out of the pages, particularly through the effective use of Rorschach’s journal entries. And with camera shots that mirror the novel’s panels, I resisted the urge to hold my copy of the book up and compare.
Beyond perfect replication of dialogue and panels, newspaper headlines, photographs and solid use of flashbacks portray the story of the Watchmen‘s troubled past and present, giving the audience an understanding of each character as the film’s events unfold. In particular, the masked character Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) is brought to life with a ferocity difficult to capture in the pages of the novel.
Where the most hardcore of fans will protest the film’s concluding diversion from the comic, I myself feel that such an omission as the giant genetically mutated squid was a wise choice by Snyder, particularly because in this day and age, alien squid monsters just don’t cut it.
For comic and movie fans alike, Watchmen is a popcorn flick with enough action, detail, dark plot and character to satisfy all who see it. Who watches the Watchmen? According to the $24.5 million made on the film’s opening night: We do.