Zach Snyder’s Watchmen is not the worst film adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel (that would be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) nor does it get close to the best (V for Vendetta), instead it’s somewhere in the boggy middle, perhaps nudging up against the wet sheep that was From Hell.
Set in an alternate 1985 during President Nixon’s fifth term the story concerns a group of costumed heroes and the attempt by one of them – Rorschach - to discover who’s been bumping them off. The wider context of Rorschach’s quest is an imminent nuclear war between the
At a little under three hours Snyder is quite faithful to
The central performances are mostly convincing and a far cry from the campy, shouty excesses of Snyder’s previous film 300. Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl stands out, giving us a character who is vulnerable, nervous, emotionally backward and yet who grows in stature throughout the film to become its emotional centre. Malin Ackerman as Silk Spectre is also good and you can’t help but root for these two kids to get together even as the apocalypse occurs about them.
Less satisfying is Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach who seems to think that Christian Bale’s Batman wasn’t quite gravelly enough and Matt Goode as the fey Ozymandias who doesn’t convince us at all that he is “the smartest man in the world.”
Much of the complexity of Dr Manhattan is erased in the film but Jeffrey Morgan’s brief, charismatic performance as The Comedian practically steals the picture.
Watchmen was never flawless even in its comic book form (the final two issues and Moore’s understanding of female psychology are, at best, dodgy) but reading it in high school back in 1986 – 1987 was still one of the most exciting experiences of my cultural life. No film could ever hope to live up to that, but I think I can say with reasonable objectivity, that if they really had to make Watchmen The Movie, it could have been much better.
(Many thanks to NI crime fiction genius, Adrian McKinty, for this review -- gb.)