I’m honestly not sure why I’ve taken so long to sit down and watch “Watchmen” subsequent its lackluster theatrical release. I enjoyed the comic books for what they were as well as their fantastic literary class epilogues, I loved the characters (including Nite Owl and Rorschach), I enjoy Alan Moore as the eccentric mad genius that he is, and yet… I still never quite saw “Watchmen,” even with the “Director’s Cut” sitting on my pile. The Alan Moore groundbreaking graphic novel has been deemed completely unfilmable for decades after its release. But that didn’t stop Warner bros. from trying their damndest by bringing aboard acclaimed visualist director Zack Snyder to unfold the world of Rorschach and Night shade for the fan boys in full color and motion.
The original “Watchmen” graphic novel was an epic by Alan Moore that lambasted and dissected the comic book culture breaking through its sugary wholesome image and focusing on the darker side of the superhero culture where our saviors could all be cold often cruel individuals with perversions, murderous urges, and mental illness. Snyder’s “Watchmen” sets down in an alternate reality where superheroes are apart of the public consciousness and have an effect on society, especially theirs where the eighties has ushered in a new culture without a need for them, and the imminent threat of nuclear war. Snyder is about as faithful to Alan Moore’s original story as humanly possible basing an entire neo-noir murder mystery and human drama around the plight of superheroes as he ventures in to the darker realms of the Minute Men superhero team, the famed protectors of their world all of whom have their own demons that involve rape, murder, and torture.
When the team’s loose cannon The Comedian is viciously murdered by a masked assailant at his home, Minute Men rogue Rorschach is immediately on the case presuming someone from the team killed him since the Comedian was such a titan it could have taken only a superhuman to bring him to his knees. Told through flashbacks and stark imagery, Snyder pieces together this complex story which chronicles the rise of the team, the blossoming of their legacy, their descent in to darkness, and their inevitable corruption that turned them from protectors in to dictators. Snyder collects a marvelous assortment of seasoned character actors to portray these rich often flawed characters, all of whom work in tones of grey when their images purport to work for good.
Relying on Moore’s demented sense of humor, Snyder sticks true to the spirit of the graphic novel invoking unusual scenes from the book including Comedian’s teary confessional to his arch nemesis, and Dr. Manhattan’s slaughter of Vietnamese soldiers, all the while envisioning this world that is so like ours but absolutely unrecognizable. Taking on the weight of the film’s central premise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is fantastic as the maniacal Comedian, an optimistic crusader who rotted in to a perverse, violent, and disgusting hot head whose own amorality inevitably destroyed everyone around him and through his flashbacks and the team’s recollections of his horrific acts against humanity, Rorschach ventures against dangerous conspirators, assassination attempts, and thugs to find out who among his friends killed the Comedian and what they were hoping to accomplish by doing so.
Furthermore, Rorschach’s discovery of the Comedian’s own grisly lonely death acts as a disturbing reminder that his days are numbered and his years fighting crime may have all been for nothing. Jackie Earle Haley is perfect for the role stealing the film with his portrayal of Rorschach a menacing and insane anti-hero whose own investigation is less noble than many would perceive, while folks like Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson, and Malin Ackerman are superb as the ex-teammates of the Watchmen facing misery and apathy in a world where their acts have gone unappreciated and forgotten and their consequences have been absolutely disastrous. The ultimate journey in to the underbelly of this murder mystery becomes a journey in to madness and horror as Rorschach mulls over his experience with pure evil in the form of humanity and ponders on the possibility that the Comedian was right all along to hate man as much as he did.
Snyder’s imagining of this world from the pages of Moore’s book is stark and bold with a strong sense of surrealism that creates this world in full motion and does justice to the original series. “Watchmen” is a mostly misunderstood and vastly underrated murder mystery and exploration in to our dark sides, and I’m glad I could finally see what Snyder dealt for the skeptics and hardcore Moore fans. Director Snyder admirably dares to defy expectations and tries to present us with his vision of Alan Moore’s masterpiece graphic novel with a facsimile of his work that is stark, disturbing and absolutely mesmerizing. Doomed to be an underrated and controversial adaptation forever, “Watchmen” is a magnificent attempt at Alan Moore’s saga and a moving working of art standing strong as a unique superhero film tailored for adults and lovers of cinema.