Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ epic tale Watchmen has long been ballyhooed as the unfilmable graphic novel. Many loyal fans, and even Moore himself, have professed it shouldn’t be done.
In many ways, Moore and his avid followers are right. Watchmen is a sprawling superhero epic – a grandiose and maddeningly intricate superhero story of politics, corruption, world war and nuclear holocaust. And no other piece of art could be more prophetic than Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen.
In an alternate 1985 America, Richard Nixon is still president, the country is on the brink of nuclear war, the world is overly dependent on oil and energy, the country it seems, like a house of cards, is one strong breeze away from collapse and those who attempt to break through the stronghold of the conservative hand are outlawed.
Twentieth Century Fox acquired the rights to Watchmen in 1986. But then, over the years, the project floated around several different studios and directors including: Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass. Eventually, the project landed in the hands of’ Warner Bros. and auteur Zack Snyder (300).
In Watchmen, a broken band of superheroes reunite to unlock the truth behind the murder of one of their own-unknowing of the larger conspiracy that lies underneath.
After Watchmen member’ The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is killed, masked detective and fellow member Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) begins his investigation and eventually convinces Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) to come out of retirement and unmask the mystery.
There’s also Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the only superhero who has actual superpowers, and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) – deemed the smartest man in the world.
The film explores its characters with flashback sequences that, by themselves, work as beautifully told short films.
It’s impossible, and in many ways not right, to see any other director handling this film. What Snyder has done with Watchmen, is truly extraordinary.
Watchmen is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. What was once deemed impossible to see in any medium other than the colored pages and frames of a comic are brought to a very stunning and visceral reality.
The pictures in the graphic novel leap to the screen – providing an adaptation that’s as loyal as any can be. Even though the imagery is well known, Snyder is still able to make the visuals look and feel fresh and unique.
Each scene pops with aggressive command – seducing you into a world that is fully realized. Its flawlessly put together – from the set design right down to its oldie but goodie riddled soundtrack.
Despite the stark contrasts in tone – from light to dark and in between, the film elegantly jumps from character to character with seamless transition. With ease, it takes us from the shadowy world of Rorschach and his sociopathic tendencies to an intimate, gloriously over-the-top love scene between Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II.
Watchmen is so broad and intricate that it wouldn’t be plausible to assume the film could incorporate all of its source material’s elements (two characters are missing from the film version). But Snyder is as accurate as he can be. More importantly, he captures the spirit and voice of Moore and Gibbons’ work.
Snyder has honed his craft and made it into a style of filmmaking that is truly his own. He constructs action scenes the same way he did in his previous effort, 300 – providing a crisp and clear action sequence by speeding up the pace of the overall scene then slowing down the individual moments of violence.
While the style mirrors that of his previous work, Snyder, like any great filmmaker can do, makes the look and feel of Watchmen something all its own – something that doesn’t get its story from a graphic novel or reflect a style of a film that came before it – even if it’s his own.
Snyder has introduced a new age of filmmaking, one that he brought us to the cusp of with 300 and is now unveiling to us in full with Watchmen. He’s at the forefront of a new and exciting landmark in film history – taking the crown from previous trendsetter and game-changer Quentin Tarantino and making Watchmen the Pulp Fiction of its generation. Grade: A
Watchmen opens nationwide’ in theaters March 6.