Directed by Zack Snyder, Released 2009, adapted from Graphic Novel written by Alan Moore. Rated R, for good reason.
The Watchmen was originally a limited-serial comic book that got compiled and published as a full-length graphic novel in 1986-87. Following the teaser for the Watchmen movie released with the Dark Knight, I read the graphic novel.
It was a fascinating use of comic book narrative. It was very complex, very gritty, occasionally disturbing, both to traditional values, and comic book standards; but how can I forget your stomach, too? If there was one reason to read the book before you watched the film, its to get an idea for what sort of violence you are going to see. It's purpose was to have you question your personal philosophies, beliefs, and points of view. It did so by making everything very realistic. The superheroes don't have super powers, many are as neurotic as they would be in real life, and they sure don't have the public vote. Violence is very real and painful in this one.
The movie adaptation was remarkably accurate, and, even more remarkably, still enjoyable! Several shots were perfect renditions of frames from the comic, and if you've read anything about the movie you've heard that before. Some of the dialogue doesn't come off as smoothly on the screen as it does on paper, but it was never enough to distract for long. In fact, I never felt bored for a moment because the story kept pressing on in interesting ways. There were times I was so impressed with the integrity of the original narrative that I wondered how they would fit it all inside of the usual two hours, and when I did check my watch outside of the theater I was surprised that it had been a full three hours.
Did I mention the gratuitous violence? While the violence rarely lasts long, and has extended dry spells, it doesn't skimp anything when you see it. When someone is getting their arms sawn off, you see the blood, the stumps, the gaping wounds, the bone, even the sawing as it happens. Gorey is the word. Usually the violence is not senseless, it has some socially based motivation tied to it. Sadly, this movie seemed almost more slasher than psychological, as I like to think of it.
Besides the graphic violence, the other graphics were fantastic. The Blue Man, Dr. Manhattan for those who know, was always fun. He was CG for a lot of it, or skinned at least, and I kept watching his mouth to see if I could tell, but they did a pretty good job. A lot of the visual-fun was colors. Things were always easily interpreted to your eyes, not always the case with comic book movies. It made it easy to focus on the other parts of the movie, like it's storyline.
Now, I said I like to think of the Watchmen as psychological. In the graphic novel the story is broken up into twelve chapters, for each issue released when it was a serial. Each chapter deals with different themes, so you get a lot of time to think about the issues raised. I can't go into much depth without ruining serious plot points, but keep your ears open to key words like forgiveness, justice, reality, and resposibility. The Comedian is a genius of a character that grips every person who listens to him because he speaks openly and honestly about the worst and most natural in everyone. I can say I relate to him in disturbing ways and I'd think you were a little bit of liar if you say you don't. It's was the author's intention to make you a liar if you didn't understand him. Its part of the message. You'd have to deliberately misunderstand him.
One sad note, they cut out a lot of the heart and soul from chapter 6, which undermines a lot of the thematic elements that counter-balance the violence.
However, the music was fantastic. They used a lot of classics from the eras discussed, but not always in the appropriate decades. Interestingly, they used a subtle irony in some scenes with the music choice to help you feel comfortable in the scene you were watching. It's very graphic, did I mention it?
This a terrible movie to show to kids. There once was a time when things were rated R because they dealt with things worth dealing with that young audiences didn't have the capacity to understand. This isn't Schindler's List, but it should be considered the same way. Too much is mimicable and glorified by being on the big screen. Oh yeah, and Dr. Manhattan is naked for a lot of the time, if male nudity matters to you.
Why it's R--Graphic Violence, One -assumedly- prolonged sex scene (I had my eyes shut for a while, I can only assume I had reason to), and thematic elements.
I liked it a lot. It didn't open my eyes the same way the graphic novel had, but maybe that's because I had already heard what it had to say. The music was fun, the nonviolent parts were very interesting to watch, and the story and characters are superb. The super natural elements are viewed in many different lights so that it's three dimensional. Fantastic,
but not in my top three movie list.