An eye-popping, jaw-dropping & breath-stopping blend of filmmaking art & big-budget entertainment that’s accomplished on both technical & narrative scale, Watchmen is one of the greatest adaptations of a graphic novel on the silver screen as it not only manages to translate the feel, texture, tone & essence of its source material on the film canvas in their absolute form but also happens to be the most thematically rich of all the films that have surfaced in the superhero genre of cinema so far.
Set around the mid-1980s in an alternate reality in which superheroes came into existence, America won the Vietnam War, and the nuclear tension between United States & Soviet Union is at an all-time high, the story of Watchmen concerns a group of mostly retired American superheroes who, while investigating the recent murder of one of their colleagues, uncover a far more sinister plan which they attempt to stop before it can be implemented.
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Man of Steel & Batman v Superman), Watchmen remains his most accomplished work to date, for he’s able to bring on screen what was considered unfilmable by many. And unlike the spartan epic he directed before, he succeeds in doing so without relying heavily on the green screen unless there was a need for it. Using the existing comic books as storyboards, Snyder is able to retain the texture & tone of the novel which when blended with his very own trademarks turns Watchmen into something that feels truly unique to its genre.
Screenplay is deftly written, characters have well-defined arcs, and the various themes & pop-culture references it deals with are expertly handled & addressed. Production design team provides a rich, layered & otherworldly aura to the film with intricately designed set pieces. Cinematography makes perfect use of colour palettes & lighting, plus the lush, lavish & excessive use of slow-mo technique not only enhances the film’s visual aesthetic but also fits the narrative. Editing masterly paces the plot for the entirety of its 186 minutes runtime. And the way the incorporated songs provide a contrasting effect to accompanying scenes is sheer genius.
Coming to the acting department, Watchmen packs a very unconventional cast for a superhero film, for there are no established A-list celebrities in the ensemble. It consists of Patrick Wilson, Malin Åkerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup & Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and all of them deliver excellent performances, with Haley stealing the show as the masked vigilante Rorschach as every scene involving him is a delight to watch. However, my favourite moment is the particular segment illustrating the origin of Dr. Manhattan, for the way it is arranged, scored, executed & presented is nothing short of perfection.
On an overall scale, Watchmen is an immensely rich, unflinchingly bold & undoubtedly unique take on superheroes and is a groundbreaking achievement of its genre in more ways than one. With a lack of any star power in its ensemble, a complex & allegorical plot that unravels more on multiple viewings, and its extremely grim & dark tone, the film is destined to polarise its viewers and garner a devoted cult following but just like any great work that was quite ahead of its time, this neo-noir masterpiece will one day have the respect it truly deserves. Strongly recommended.