Fanboys rejoice! Director Zack Snyder, of "300" fame, has faithfully adapted Alan Moore's acclaimed graphic novel "Watchmen" with intensity, style and passion. The film has a few minor flaws in its narrative, as it crams an epic story into 2 hours and 43 minutes, however the end result will entertain casual moviegoers looking for an action movie with a brain.
"Watchmen" revolves around the lives of estranged heroes who have devoted their lives to protecting a world that has lashed back against them. Set in 1985 in New York City, the U.S. is on the brink of a nuclear war against the Soviet Union.
The film begins with a furious fight between the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a jaded hero with jet-black humor, and an assassin. Snyder's trademark slow-motion flourishes are used just enough to clearly capture the action without upsetting the pace of a good brawl. The sequence is set to Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" and the juxtaposition of the sweet ballad and the harsh violence adds a touch of playfulness to the story's nihilistic tone.
Another hero Rorshach (a fierce Jackie Earle Haley) sets his sights on discovering Comedian's killer before more former heroes of the crime-fighting unit The Watchmen are threatened. Vigilantism has been outlawed and most of The Watchmen are retired, regular civilians like the gawky Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and the sexy Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman). Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), considered the world's smartest man, is now a wealthy businessman with his own vision of how the world can be saved.
Thrown into the mix is the only member with actual superpowers, the godlike Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a man who radiates blue energy after a science experiment gone wrong. Allied to the U.S., the government uses him as a deterrent so the communists would not dare strike first, but the plot to kill The Watchmen threatens Dr. Manhattan's affection for humanity.
The acting is uniformly strong, with particular credit to Morgan and Haley, although Akerman falters, lacking the skill to realistically deliver Moore's snappy dialogue adapted to the screen by David Hayter, the screenwriter of the first and second "X-Men" films. Another complaint is the love story between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre drags a bit and their characters lack sufficient back-story.
Nonetheless, "Watchmen" is more than satisfying; it's stylized, thought-provoking entertainment that proves comic books movies can richly explore the psyche of superheroes.
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