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Watchmen

Flawed Yet Faithful

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Of all the comic book movies, the super hero film or the graphic novel adaptations, Watchmen is in a singular position. Perhaps not the most anticipated -- that crown goes to The Dark Knight -- but it is an adaptation of a complete graphic novel, unlike many of the others. On top of that, it’s been hailed as unfilmable for years since it debuted in 1985. To this day, its writer Alan Moore believes that and refused to have his name attached to the film. However, that shouldn’t deter even the most ardent of fans because Zak Snyder is able to bring it to the screen beautifully and faithfully. Its only real flaw is that it’s too faithful, leaving little surprise for anyone who has read the graphic novel. But is that really such a bad thing?

The film definitely looks good. Between this and 300, Snyder definitely proves that he has a way with pictures. He truly brings the story to life and it’s just how many would imagine these characters. His colors are sharp and the picture is even sharper, making it feel just as surreal as Dave Gibbon’s art. Snyder knows how to draw the story on screen and does so with command. And he brings a great story with him.

Watchmen, if you don’t know, takes place in 1985 amongst a band of outlawed “super” heroes, but really just a bunch of vigilantes wearing disguises. There’s The Nite Owl, Rorschach and Doctor Manhattan (who is the only character with actual superpowers) amongst others. After The Comedian is killed and the Nixon-led U.S. inches closer to nuclear destruction with Russia, the remaining Watchmen must figure out who is behind the murder.

It’s an introspective story that shows an alternative U.S. where Nixon is president well into the 80s and the Cold War is still strong. Amidst this it tells us how superheroes would really be taken in a real society. All of the characters are distinct and complex and the story is even more imaginative and definitive. That definitive quality is what makes it so tough to bring it to the big screen. It’s unfurls in a certain way that can’t be done so on film, but Snyder does his best and, while not as satisfying as Moore’s original, he pulls it off as best as anyone can who’s not a cinematic visual mastermind the likes of Terry Gilliam.

The one thing the film doesn’t lend itself towards is a great cast. While they’re far from terrible, not many will leave thinking how great Patrick Wilson was as The Nite Owl. Wilson, along with Billy Crudup as Doctor Manhattan, Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt, Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian and Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter make up the bulk of the cast and Watchmen. Out of all of these, Akerman is the only poor casting choice.

In Moore’s graphic novel, Laurie is a tough, yet fragile woman who is going through many changes and challenges. Akerman fails to really embody the intense ride Laurie is on and plays her as whiny and almost devoid of real emotions. On the other hand, Morgan and Haley are perfect as their respective characters.
Ultimately, Watchmen is one of the best comic book or superhero movies to come out in the last decade. It’s not the best, but the story is rich and complex with great characters and Zak Snyder is able to use his visual style to accurately portray this on screen.