Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2009. Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Legendary Entertainment, Lawrence Gordon Productions, DC Comics. Screenplay by David Hayter, Alex Tse, based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Cinematography by Larry Fong. Produced by Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Deborah Snyder. Music by Tyler Bates. Production Design by Alex McDowell. Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson. Film Editing by William Hoy.
Who can resist three hours of superheroes debating whether or not they should get involved in the prevention of nuclear disaster while under the influence of Prozac? Watchmen are an elite police force who, following their creation in a historically altered 1930s, have disintegrated after President Nixon (a success following victory in Vietnam) has disbanded them. When one of their members, an aging ruffian known as The Comedian, is murdered, it inspires an investigation that, quite frankly, never holds itself together plotwise and never reveals anything particularly interesting. In this version of 1985, America and the Soviet Union are on the brink of a nuclear holocaust that can only be prevented by the Watchmen, but how can this be possible when they have no contact with each other and are under threat of annihilation from an unseen killer? This adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel leaves much to be desired by those who haven’t read the book: the movie starts out like it’s halfway begun and no one has gotten you up to speed on its setting or situation, then proceeds for an overlong 162 minutes to detail, faithfully (or so I’m told) the events as depicted in the original book. Plots that work on paper aren’t the ones that necessarily do the job on screen, however, and the film would have been served better by a little less fidelity and a little more adaptation (i.e. editing). That said, it’s never boring; there are still aspects of the story to recommend itself and while none of the characters are particularly interesting, the actors who perform them do a terrific job, particularly Jackie Earle Haley as Rorscach, Matthew Goode as the deliciously weird Ozymandias and Carla Gugino as Silk Spectre. Newcomer Malin Akerman is colourless as Silk Spectre II, but it’s no easy feat to invest charisma into a cheap stripper costume and tacky Billy Ray Cyrus wig. The visual effects are in top shape, particularly those involving the work of Dr. Manhattan (played oh so pretentiously by Billy Crudup), a once-human, now nuclear-powered blue giant who single-handedly won the war in Southeast Asia (take that, Stallone) and now spends all his time naked while being emotionally unavailable (take away the magic powers, and he’s pretty much your average New York City bachelor).