In The 1980’s, Alan Moore wrote graphic novels for DC Comics including “V For Vendetta,” “Batman: The Killing Joke” & last but not least, his Magnum Opus known as “Watchmen.” His latter work is a different take on the superhero genre exploring a high concept (what if scenario) about superheroes existing in our reality change the course of history. The story is basically about a group of superheroes who learn that their comrade, Edward Blake/The Comedian was murdered by a mysterious killer. Rorschach, a vigilante wearing a mask with ink blots operating outside the law, investigates who killed his former colleague. Members of titular team such as Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl II, (successor to Hollis T. mason) a Batman-esque figure armed with owl-themed gadgets, Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, a highly intelligent businessman, Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre II, (successor to her mother Sally Jupiter) an agile skilled hand-to-hand combatant & Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan, a former nuclear physicist who survived a freak accident acquired god-like abilities described as Superman times 10. Each character attempts to uncover the mystery of The Comedian’s death linked to a possible nuclear war.
Watchmen was a critical commercial success selected as Time Magazine’s “List Of 100 Best Novels.” It became an influential phenomenon pioneering mature graphic novels most notably, “The Dark Knight Returns,” “The Crow,” “Sin City,” “Spawn” among many other works. Thus it marked a movement known as “The Bronze Age Of Comics.” Before we embark on the good and bad stuff my review for Watchmen, let’s go back to how Watchmen was in “Development Hell” since the comics were published.
It all started in The Summer Of 1986 when 20 Century Fox (pre-Disney purchase) acquired the film rights with Joel Silver hired to produce the a film adaptation. Alan Moore himself declined to write the screenplay, Fox hired Sam Hamm (Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns) to write the script. Due to various complications over a complex narrative, the project was cancelled and Sam later found success writing Tim Burton’s Batman. Alan himself, actually liked Sam’s script.
Joel Silver transferred the film rights to Warner Bros. (WB for short) in the hopes of adapting the project. Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Brazil, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas) was set to direct the movie. WB contacted Robin Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gary Busey & Charles Dance to portray Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre II, The Comedian & Ozymandias. Unfortunately, they all dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. As a result of various circumstances based on actors dropping out, budgetary concerns & a complex storyline. The script was shelved. If you’re curious about Sam Hamm’s script, you can look it up online to read how crazy it could’ve been to see Terry Gilliam’s vision of the film.
In The Early 2000’s, Universal Pictures hired actor/screenwriter David Hayter, (voice of Solid Snake, wrote the scripts for X-Men & X2: X-Men United) crafted a treatment (blueprint in screenwriting slang) and expanded it as a fully detailed screenplay staying true to Alan Moore’s source material. David left Universal over a creative dispute with producers. Paramount Pictures acquired the rights. They wanted Darren Aronofksy (Requiem For A Dream, Black Swan) to direct the film. He dropped out as he was planning to reboot Batman with Joaquin Phoenix, until Warner Bros. selected Darren’s rival, Christopher Nolan to direct “Batman Begins.” Darren moved on to direct “The Fountain.” Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Identity series, United 93, Captain Phillips) was a potential candidate to direct Watchmen. Paul however, left the project in favor of working on “United 93.”
After many cancellations, Warner Bros. got of their butts, eventually acquired the rights to produce the film. They recruited Zack Snyder due to his success directing “Dawn Of The Dead” & “300.” Zack requested two conditions ,the right to produce David Hayter’s script and maintaining accuracy to the source material. WB accepted his requests. Zack recruited Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, Malin Åkerman, Matthew Goode & Jeffery Dean Morgan as the six main characters. After three years of filming, editing, designing costumes, adding visual effects to bring many complex details to life, Watchmen was finally distributed.
Watchmen was released in 2009. (same year Avatar came out) The long-awaited film received divisive reviews from critics and movie goers alike. Despite mixed results, the film managed to make enough money at the box office.
HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series is set after the events of the graphic novel and film. To prepare for the show airing this September, I’d like to share my real thoughts on the strong and weak elements of my number one guilty pleasure.
The following review does not contain any very important SPOILERS listed in this non-spoiler article.
Strong & Weak Elements
Strong: The Main Cast such as Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Billy Crudup, Malin Åkerman, Matthew Goode & Jeffery Dean Morgan all did a magnificent job for their respective performances.
Other Cast Members such as Carla Gugino, Danny Woodburn (Kramer’s buddy Mickey from Seinfeld) & Gerald Butler all did a solid job for their respective performances.
Zack Snyder did an excellent job adapting the source material translating every scene as accurate as possible. He took full responsibility as a filmmaker just like Robert Rodriguez perfectly executed Frank Miller’s “Sin City” on the silver screen.
David Hayter wrote the screenplay retaining Alan’s dialogue from the graphic novel.
Action Sequences are brutal and gorier. The first fight scene, indicates all heck will break lose. Not shy to pull off punches.
Cinematography never suffered from a terrible case of Shaky Cam.
Costumes were created by costume designers to match a certain character’s outfit.
The film is primarily set in 1985. The story often goes back in time to other decades ranging from The 1940’s-1970’s.
The Plot retains the graphic novel’s twelve-part issues interconnected to the narrative. I never got bored.
If you’re a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent or guardian. Be prepared, don’t watch this with your kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces or godkids. There’s gonna be large amounts of crimson blood spilling like Kool-Aid, nudie shots of Dr. Manhattan not wearing his speedo and naked women as a sign of “Double Standard.”
Tyler Bates composed music for the film.
Songs from different time periods are played during pivotal moments. I thought many of them were used perfectly.
Computer Animation looked absolutely gorgeous. Rorschach’s “facial expressions” coming from his mask were digitally added in post-production. Billy Crudup wore a motion-capture outfit and motion capture markers to portray Dr. Manhattan. The Effects Team all deserves Bonus Points for making everything single detail realistic. Why can’t the effects crew from “Justice League” know how to properly remove Henry Cavill’s mustache?
Slow Motion (Bullet Time) sequences are present in signature scenes. Zack has a knack for Bullet Time sequences. The Wachowski Brothers/Sister’s inspired him to use Bullet Time.
The Ultimate Edition is three and a half hours long worth of never before seen footage. I never got bored. I’m used to reading comics telling a story arc. Gerald Butler voices a pirate in an animated story-within-story called, “Tales Of The Black Freighter.” Like the comics, The Black Freighter was also a story-within-a-story. I didn’t mind an extra story. It felt like earning a free toy inside a Happy Meal.
Opening Credits establishes the mythology of superheroes existing in our reality resulting in heavy consequences changing the world.
Rorschach & The Comedian are my favorite characters, due to their complex backgrounds and moral dilemmas.
The Comedian’s behavior predates Jeffery Dean Morgan’s future character Negan from “The Walking Dead.”
The Keene Act serves as an important plot point about superhero registration to the government. If they don’t comply, they’ll be hunted by authorities.
Rorschach narrates the film via journal.
Pay attention to the man holding a sign. He’s an extremely important person.
Real life figures including Richard Nixon appear in the film/graphic novel.
Several twists and turns are told. I cannot tell you the juicy details. If you’re read comics or seen the film, you already know why.
Someone is wearing a purple suit. Perhaps a reference to The Joker?
Each character has a fascinating backstory. My favorite flashback scenes are Dr. Manhattan’s origin story, Rorschach’s early years & The Riots scene. Both Rorschach & Dr. Manhattan’s origin stories deserve an Extra Point, because it gave me chills to witness their unhumble beginnings.
The Number 12, a clock, a pocket watch & a smiley face all serve as recurring motifs. Watchmen’s use of The Number 12 inspired me to create my “Top 12 List” as opposed to a standard Top 10 List.
Primary Themes for the film are, Power, Corruption, Apocalypse, Realism, Paranoia, Immortality, Humanity & Morality. Every single theme is handled maturely.
In one scene, Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” is played in one pivotal scene. The song was also used in “Land Of The Lost.” Both Watchmen & Land Of The Lost both came out in 2009.
Weak: To be honest with you fellas. I couldn’t find nothing wrong with this particular movie. I’m giving The Cast & Crew an Extra Point for making a film as flawless as they can.
The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!
In my opinion, Watchmen is an instant classic using a high concept (what if scenario) about superheroes existing in our world changing history resulting in heavy consequences. Zack Snyder did a tremendous job translating Alan Moore’s masterpiece into an epic superhero movie told in a variety of genres. David Hayter also deserves a Christmas Bonus for all the hard work he had to endure to bring many core aspects of the graphic novel. Performances from The Main Cast all did a magnificent job portraying focal characters.
Watchmen is my number one guilty pleasure and listed as one of my favorite movies. To this day, I’m still baffled around the fact many critics and movie goers are divisive over a different take of the superhero genre. Personally, I believe the film is misunderstood for some individuals who don’t read comics so much or not familiar with the concept of alternate history. If you’re pumped up to see HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series, I strongly recommend The Ultimate Cut or the graphic novel that started it all.