Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Billy Crudup (Jon Osterman/Dr Manhattan), Jackie Earle Haley (Walter Kovacs/Rorschach), Malin Akerman (Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II), Patrick Wilson (Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II)
Long filed under “unfilmable”, Moore and Gibbons’s pulp masterwork defied Hollywood’s claws for over two decades. All too layered and too complex; its loving, knowing deconstruction of masked supermen outstared A-list talents as diverse as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass. Snyder, who also directed 300, bags kudos for finally wrestling it to the screen, but while Frank Miller’s muscular Spartan epic was a warm-up act with precious few expectations, Watchmen stands as the Mount Rushmore of graphic novels: huge and forbidding.
And Snyder is clearly – and rightly – in awe of it. He’s so in awe that what he produces feels less like an adaptation and more like an act of worship. Rarely before had any film ever managed to reproduce so much of its source material so meticulously. For some fans, this was exactly what they wanted (until the film went and changed the ending… oh and what did happen to all that pirate stuff?*). Other people wondered what the point was. Why not just read the graphic novel?
The point was, it looked glorious, it was impeccably cast and it brought an extraordinary story to the attention of a lot of people who would never have heard of Watchmen otherwise. It gave us a stunning title sequence – a witty, Dylan-soundtracked parade of historical tableaux, with cameos from JFK and the Village People – and Jackie Earle Haley’s brilliant Rorschach, all deadly jet-knife charisma, snarling his poisoned Travis Bickle monologues and looking like the bastard child of Dirty Harry and Johnny Rotten. It gave us visuals that were like nohing we’d ever seen before. It gave us a blue giant with a winkie (though maybe that was taking a little too far…).
Okay, the movie may be a little too much like cinematic xerox for some, but the power of the original graphic novel (even though toned down) is strong enough to make this one of the superior superhero movies.
(*It ended up on the DVD, of course.)