This is a review of the comicbook movie Watchmen that we originally penned in 2009 when the film came out. Given how comicbook movies are more popular now than they were even five years ago (and that our review never appeared on Examiner.com — and is no longer available online — we felt it was important to re-present it now; as we are currently gearing up for a new summer of blockbuster comicbook films (including Captain AMerica: Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man #2, among others).
Watchmen: Rated “R” (163 Minutes)
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Whether you were one of the folks who waited for the release of the Watchmen film in 2009, or its subsequent release to DVD & Blu-Ray, for the 25+ years since the DC Comicbook was initially in print, or you are going to watch the film with no understanding of who these characters are, where they came from, or even what the fuss was all about you are in for a treat. This is a very slick rendition of a funnybook series produced in a medium long thought of as kiddie fare.
To be sure, odds are that even if you have some understanding what this film is about, because you have read the comic sometime over the past 25 years that unless you actually read it when it first came out you can’t possibly fully appreciate why the production of it as a comicbook was back in the mid 80’s was such a watershed event unless you actually read it back in 1986.
Watchmen is the very human story of a group of thoroughly dysfunctional group of people who acquired powers far beyond those of mortal men, put on spandex, but had no moral credo, no “with great power…” mantra by which to live. These folks are heroes in name only, they are morally bankrupt, emotionally immature, and (in the case of Rorschach) mentally unbalanced.
These are so not your father’s superheroes, there is no noble good in (most of) them, yes they fight people who are ostensibly criminals, but they themselves have no real moral center. They are vain, petty, squabbling, opportunists who are mostly in this for their own glorification. Even the best of them are half a step off from being thugs and fascists themselves. They are brutal, vicious, and irresponsible. These are not heroes, but Vic Mackie’s Strike Team wrapped in spandex, and cloaked in the authority of the U.S. Government.
Sure, sure we look to them and see Batman and Captain America and their brethren gone terribly, terribly wrong, but that is only the surface, the psychosis that is Watchmen goes much, much deeper than that. Yes, we’ve seen bright and gaudy superheroes on screen, bright and shiny in their full metal jackets, and we’ve seen dark and brooding ones as well, but these are the guys and gals that allowed us to be able to get past our “all in color for a dime” roots.
The Watchmen are the illegitimate godparents of Heroes, Push, and yes, even the Dark Knight himself. If it wasn’t for the publication of this comic 25 years ago, so much of what we see in comicbooks (and comicbook movies) today would simply not have been possible. Still, as for the film itself. It mirrors precisely our own recollection of the comic itself. Yea, they left some stuff out (even tipping in at close to three hours), but all of the high points were hit, and this film is as close to what appeared in the comicbook that you are ever likely to get. (For the record, we totally love the ending of the film and feel that it works so much better than the original comicbook ending, which we always thought was stupid and so out of left field that it simply didn’t make any sense.)
In spite of what others (fans and critics) said at the time of its release (and in the years since) we truly enjoyed the film and urge anyone who has read the comic to check it out. Oh hell, you should make a point to watch the film even if you didn’t read the comic. Then you should go out and buy the comic, and read it anyway.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.