Film Review: Watchmen by Director Zack Snyder – 10 Years Later

Graphic Novel Gets Excellent Big-Screen Adaptation

People called it the first adult comic book movie – but sidestepping that and all the other chit-chat, Watchmen is a sprawling, sophisticated and gripping film.

The mysterious murder of the Comedian (Morgan), a masked vigilante and member of the Watchmen (a group of superheroes) leads the aggressive and paranoid Rorschach (Haley) to begin investigating whether his murder was random or an attack on “masks”.His actions and investigation bring in the other Watchmen, among them Nite Owl (Wilson), Silk Spectre II (Akerman) Ozymandias (Goode) and the god-like Dr. Manhattan (Crudup), and their lives intertwine following the murder of one of their own to devastating and revelatory effect, foregrounded against the specter of nuclear annihilation between the U.S. and the Soviets.

Wilson and Haley Lead the Way

Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg, alongside Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, provide the lead male roles here, and both men are able to disappear into their roles. Wilson is great here, mixing a sense of nostalgia with resignation, Dreiberg a man hoping never to go back to the past whilst pining for it. Haley is the best actor in the film though – acting through a full face mask for most of the film, he convinces entirely as the murderous vigilante, even managing to remain sinister in the moments where his mask is removed.

Billy Crudup is the distanced Dr. Manhattan, a superbeing who lacks empathy despite his limitless powers, and Crudup infuses him with a sense of complete detachment. Matthew Goode, as Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt, is the intelligent, rich member of the troupe, and Goode is, well, just good in the role. He doesn’t seem to get enough time though, and his role is pretty integral to the plot. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, playing the Comedian/Eddie Blake, gives a great performance and gives that sense of imbalance and danger that the character demands.

Malin Ackerman plays Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II – the effective female star of the film. Ackerman is more than a match for the guys and manages to carry off the ridiculously exploitative costume of her character without distracting too much.

Zack Snyder Presents A Visual Feast With Thought

The film is expertly directed by Snyder, whose command of effects, actors, and visuals are becoming unparalleled in Hollywood. His handle on the actors isn’t as great, but then in choosing a more unknown cast he shows his faith in those who aren’t expensive but have more talent. Lots of the dialogue is taken straight from the novel, so much of the film’s outstanding interchanges or comments are in fact from that. However, the film obviously doesn’t adhere completely, and in making the necessary changes, whilst retaining the dialogue that works so well, the scriptwriters and Snyder present a movie that flows despite its detail and expositionary scenes.

Snyder bests even the exploits of 300 here visually; New York, Antarctica, Mars, and Vietnam are all created realistically and depicted with a grim, realistic tone that harks back to the Cold War days. On top of this, the action loses some of the slow-mo that haunted 300 and increases the harshness – some of the fights are very brutal.

Nostalgic Soundtrack Sets Film In Time

The soundtrack is perhaps the best part of the film other than the visuals; music from the 60s to the 80s infuses the film with a sense of time and place, foregrounding the audience in the past, alternate America of the film. Hendrix, Dylan, Nena (99 Luftballons), and various others crop up in surprising places whilst still working perfectly in the narrative.

A truly excellent movie, and one that must definitely be seen by anyone who has ever seen one superhero film. It is a comic book film, but it’s also so much more. Hopefully, it will receive the attention and plaudits it deserves.

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