In an alternate 1985 America, costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the Doomsday Clock - which charts the USA's tension with the Soviet Union - is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. As he reconnects with his former crime-fighting legion - a ragtag group of retired superheroes, only one of whom has true powers - Rorschach glimpses a wide-ranging and disturbing conspiracy with links to their shared past and catastrophic consequences for the future. Their mission is to watch over humanity... but who is watching the Watchmen?
Review by Louise Keller:
It looks fabulous, this striking comic book fantasy with themes as massive as its extravagant special effects. Set on a backdrop of impending nuclear war in the 80s, the characters are an intriguing collection of troubled superheroes whose back stories we learn in the course of the film's 160 minute running time. Strokes of brilliance are coupled with often garbled storytelling and in the same vein, our interest for the various characters rises and falls like a massive wave about to crash upon the shore.
Graphic violence with buckets of blood is contrasted by sensual sex scenes and the emotional pathos of unexpected relationships. The music (both Tyler Bates's original score and the selection of covers such as Nat King Cole's Unforgettable and Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence) is exceptional as is the use of opera in the dramatic lead up to the finale. Billy Crudup's Dr Manhattan is a constant source of fascination, an awesome visual effect of a blue-tinged naked macho super-man with bright white eyes and an hydrogen symbol on his forehead. He knows how everything in the world fits together - except people. Hence his troubled relationship with Carla Gugino's Sally / Silk Spectre is the film's most compelling factor. (Foreplay has never been as kinky!) The story is told by Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach in the form of journal entries and it is in the narration that some great lines are delivered, like 'A burial in the rain; only your enemies leave roses' and 'The night reeks of fornication and bad consciences.'
The film begins with a murder, when walls are smashed, furniture is broken, knives are flung, glass is shattered and a body is tossed. David Hayter and Alex Tse's screenplay struggles to condense the graphic novel into coherent storytelling - much of it is garbled. Matthew Goode is imposing as the world's smartest man, Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers plenty of pathos as The Comedian and Patrick Wilson is almost unrecognisable as Dan, who harbours feelings for the black latex wearing Silk Spectre. Albeit too long, the film is a wham bam of a cinematic visual effects experience, and storytelling hiccups are partly forgiven in exchange for the mind-blowing visual experience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Not my cup of digital tea, but a remarkable film nonetheless, for sheer energy, effort and intensity, as the graphic novel becomes a graphic, violent, bloody, sexy, effects-laden film. Desperate to retain the philosophical and socio-political grunt of its origins (graphic novels tend to seek gravitas in philosophy), Watchmen inserts editorially-ignited slabs of dialogue between scenes of mayhem and carnage as a reminder that there is a point to it all. But that point, in the filmmakers' view, is a dark and derisory view of humanity. We are stupid, violent and chaotic. True. But, and the film does coddle this 'but', we are also capable of great nobility and courage, generosity, etc.
For most of the target market (young males), Watchmen will leave a lasting impression as the most excessive of recent films in just about every way. Bone smashing, blood spurting fights, exploding worlds, shattering buildings, sexual activity and visual excitement of every cinematic kind. An effects playroom for boys with e-toys....
The main story arc is festooned with a romantic subplot and a family secret, but nothing stands in the way of the inexorable march toward Armageddon. Never mind the sometimes laboured screenplay, just sit back (or lean forward, more likely) and enjoy the blue creature called Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup) who was once a scientist but for a terrible accident ... he is larger than life, as is his blue penis. And if it weren't for that, it would be a 50s sci-fi movie with a nuclear budget.
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CAST: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Laura Mennell, Rob LaBelle, Gary Houston, James M. Connor, Mary Ann Burger, John Shaw, Robert Wisden, Frank Novak,
PRODUCER: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, Deborah Snyder
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
SCRIPT: David Hyter, Alex Tse
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Fong
EDITOR: William Hoy
MUSIC: Tyler Bates
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alex McDowell
RUNNING TIME: 163 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 5, 2009