Watchmen

Alan Moore won't be happy. What's new? Zack Synder delivers again

Superhero movies - after James Cameron's botch job on the original Batman series, it seemed that they had had their day. Over recent years, however, things have changed and comic book adaptations are all the rage: the toast of the studios, prayers answered for diehard fans. 

If Spiderman pumped new blood into the superhero movie genre, then Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins set the bar for all others to aspire to. So when Zack Snyder, visionary director of the mind-bogglingly good 300 (adapted from the graphic novel by Frank Miller) decided to take on another adaptation, expectations were high. 

Add to this the fact that Snyder's latest project would be the infamous Watchmen, the most celebrated graphic novel of all time and the bane of innumnerable screenwriters lives for the past 30 years, and you get an idea of how important this latest superhero outing is, in the grand scheme of things. 

But would Synder succeed where others, like the ex-Monty Python director Terry Gilliam had so spectacularly failed in the past?

Right from the off, you're aware that this is no ordinary superhero movie. 

The film opens in gritty, grimmy 1985 America, where the cold war shows no sign of cooling. Synder informs us of America's alternate history, when masked vigilante heroes enjoyed a golden age of popularity. The love affair with the public and the authorities did not last, however, and it quickly becomes clear that someone is watching the watchmen, hunting them down and not many have the will to stop it.

As reader's of the graphic novel will be aware, Watchmen has many complicated characters, like the Mac wearing sociopath, Rorschach and the psychopathic Comedian, who has a tendency for rape. The movie ventures from one character’s sub-plot to the next. But while the main plot is enjoyable, the real depth is in the back stories.

No doubt many a viewer will be put off by such digressions. Yet each story, each character is captivating enough to hold the attention. Credit for this must go to screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse, who manage to give each character their dues whilst keeping the plot racing along.   

But what about the diehards, the cult fans who, like the New York Times enjoyed the graphic novel enough to credit it as one of the 100 best novels of all time? Will they see it as an accurate portrayal of the story?

Just like his work in 300 Snyder appears very aware of the substance of the original artwork. Throughout the audience are treated to unusual camera angles and priceless freeze frame moments that hark back to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's graphic novel. Of course, like any adaptation, there are omissions that will erk some. But Watchmen is as authentic an adaptation as you're going to get. Like it or lump it.

The cast list is far from star-studded, with many an unknown actor involved. Fortunately Snyder knew his roles and knew who would fit them. Malin Akerman is as stunning as she is convincing in the role of Laurie Jupiter. Not many women can say they have the wonder woman look, but this young actress certainly sells it. Equally impressive is Billy Crudup as Dr Manhatten, the only genuine ‘super-being’ in the film, and a challenging role for any actor. 

By the end of this three hour, 18 rated saga there will be exhilaration, there will be confusion. Just as Alan Moore subverted the superhero genre in comic books, so Synder has challenged conventions with cinema. It is the inability to class this film, however, that makes it so unique. A superhero movie for adults, the end result speaks for itself. Diehards will love it. Moore will hate it. End of.

Michael Leggett  


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