After his success with Dawn Of The Dead and 300, Warner Bros. decided to choose director Zack Snyder to helm their next dip in the graphic novel pool. One that was deemed by many in the comic book world as one of the greatest stories in the genre. A dark take on the superhero genre that was also a satire and critique on society and foreign policy.
That story is none other than Watchmen.
Watchmen takes place in an alternate history 1985 USA, where the country was victorious in Vietnam, Richard Nixon is serving his third term as president and the situation between the Soviets and the US is inching closer to Armageddon. Once revered by the public, masked heroes are now banned and forced to give up their caped crusades. However, when one of their own is murdered, some of his former vigilante teammates suit up and investigate the events surrounding his death. It is then that they realize that his death is only part of a grander, terrifying plot.
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While the comic’s creator Alan Moore wanted no part of the film adaptation of his work, the graphic novel’s illustrator Dave Gibbons gave his blessing and lent his support on the film. David Hayter (X-Men, X2: X-Men United) and Alex Tse (SuperFly) penned a screenplay that strived to remain true to the graphic novel. To his credit, Snyder remained faithful to the comic by recreating exact panels from the comic on the big screen.
The film features the eclectic talents of Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as they portray their literary characters beautifully. Watchmen succeeds in not only delivering a character-driven story that focuses on the moral diversity of its superhero characters, but also in critiquing the American political machine and the darkness that can linger in the human soul. It explores the role of the superhero in modern literature and examines the corners our society paints itself in with its own ignorance, leading to social collapse.
Make no mistake about it: Watchmen is not a cookie-cutter, play it safe comic book movie. It is a deep, dark and tragic look at flawed characters in a corrupt society. It is a critique not only of what it means to be a hero, but also of what it means to be human… and the ugliness that we as a society can display. In the words of the film’s narrator Rorschach, in reference to his old friend The Comedian:
“Blake saw society’s true face and chose to be a parody of it. A joke.”
Watchmen is now streaming on Netflix. If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend watching this epic film.