novel by Alan Moore
artwork by Dave Gibbons
a kate west review

The long awaited newest superhero movie "Watchmen" finally arrives to Los Angeles after several false starts. Not only is there a controversial change in the ending, but also creator Alan Moore remains bitter about his work being Hollywoodized. The original 1980's D.C. comic series debuted to some skepticism itself, due to its dark nature and deeply flawed heroes. But it ultimately achieved cult status, becoming one of the most famous modern graphic novels.

Purists will of course take issue with the change of ending (you've been warned), and pure thrill-seekers will be baffled by the despairing bleakness of the film. Director Zack Snyder (actually a fan of Moore, in spite of the creator's animosity), creates a faithful adaptation, up until the finale and the casting is spot on. Those familiar with the series will appreciate the small character moments and personalities that make up the detailed universe of "Watchmen". It may help you to read the novel before seeing the film, although it is not vital to understanding the plot. The movie is quite thorough.

A group of 1940's superheroes (shown in flashbacks) help rid the world of crime while trying to tend to their own lives. Some of them make it, some don't. They are the Minutemen. A new generation comes along in the 80's, only to be forced into early retirement by a society hell bent against vigilantism. They are the Watchmen. One of the originals is murdered, however, prompting the new crew to get back into the fight.

Nite Owl, The Comedian, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre and Rorschach are some of the vibrantly different heroes and villains of the story. Aside from plenty of action, the movie is chock full of betrayal, sordid pasts, madness and fear. In this version of history, Richard Nixon takes on a third term and every man, woman and child hopes the Russians won't send nuclear warheads raining down on America. The Watchmen are rejected, yet the world still ends up needing them to save the planet. Isn't that always the way? No respect for hardworking masked saviors.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is fantastic as the devilish Comedian and Jackie Earle Haley conveys the tortured Rorschach to perfection. So many of the scenes are exact storyboards lifted right out of the comic pages. Rorschach's expressions and violence match the novel panel for panel, as do Nite Owl's (Stephen McHattie) awkwardness at developing into a true hero. Billy Crudup is not outshone by the flawless special effects look of his character, but rather makes it his own, turning from mortal into god. And Matthew Goode's arrogant Ozymandias works quite well. To say more would deprive one of the gradual unfolding of each revelation. Suffice it to say, it is a well-executed rendition of a cult classic, despite Moore's petulance. One main complaint however - the soundtrack. Some of the songs choices are tired and often random. Sometimes they are too obvious a choice and sometimes don't fit the era. In a perfect world, the DVD would be released with a brand new musical score. Here's hoping.

Granted, 'tis a black world indeed, and one that asks for insight into our modern world and our own penchant for harming each other. The uncompromising Rorschach is even driven mad by it. So don't expect Superman or even Batman fare - this story is quite somber and kudos to Snyder for his meticulous adaptation. That was a brave undertaking.

Directed by:

Graphic Novel:

Blu Ray:
Watchmen [Blu-ray]

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