By Clint Morris
If, after “The Dark Knight”, youâ€™ve still got a taste for the â€˜darkâ€™ comic-book movie, Iâ€™ve a whole flask of something super-sou and biffo bitter.
â€œWatchmenâ€, based on the DC comics by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is a superhero film like youâ€™ve never seen before. Itâ€™s like ”The Fantastic Four” meets ”Rules of Attraction” â€“ a disturbing portrait of an all-too-possible America, where heroes are as tainted as the villains theyâ€™re chasing, and â€˜pity fucksâ€™ are the order of their day.
If seeing Superman gutted by knifed scum in ”Superman Returns” left you rattled, seeing The Punisherâ€™s family obliterated by the mob kept you awake at night, or you were open-jawed following the death of Batmanâ€™s girlfriend in ”The Dark Knight”, best book yourself in early to a councilor. This one is guaranteed to disturb.
Violent (thereâ€™s rape scenes, pregnant women being shot, numerous amputations), overtly sexual (heck, one of the superheros walks around with his wally hanging out for the whole movie!), and rife with political messages (itâ€™s a big reminder of how close weâ€™ve come to Nuclear War in the past), itâ€™s safe to say this isnâ€™t for the kids. And it might even be a hard sell for some adults.
Have I mentioned yet that itâ€™s brilliant?
It is. Zack Snyderâ€™s visually orgasmic (well, of course, this is the guy that gave us the stunning â€œ300â€) film might just be the best-written, best-performed and most meaningful superhero movie ever made. Unlike a lot of caped-crusader movies, it actually has a point to make. And though some might rather see a green-suited Jim Carrey dance around with a noxious Drew Barrymore, most audiences will appreciate that this oneâ€™s got brains.
Set in alternate 1985, where Nixon is still president, Vietnam was won by the South, and tensions between the U.S and the Soviet Union are at an all-time high (so much so that the Doomsday Clock is at set at 5-to-12), Watchmen fixes on a group of former government-Okâ€™ed superheroes that are seemingly been killed off one-by-one.
The movie opens with the murder of former hero, The Comedian/Eddie Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), thrown from a window by an unseen assailant. Old colleague Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), a masked vigilante whoâ€™ll kill before questioning, is investigating the murder. He uncovers a far-ranging conspiracy involving his colleagueâ€™s past which could completely change the course of history. Meanwhile, two of Rorschachâ€™s former partners, Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) and Night Owl II (Patrick Wilson), are struggling in their â€˜new livesâ€™ as tightless humans, and are inching closer and closer to getting the show back on the road. Unlikely to be part of the reformed team though is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who, in his new state as something other than human, disavows any interest in human affairs and rejects the validity of any notion of morality.
The visuals and storyline are obviously the real star here, but letâ€™s not discount the amazing castâ€¦. Of unknowns!
Jackie Earle Haley (Oscar Nominated for his role in â€œLittle Childrenâ€ a couple of years back) is a standout as the sociopath of the hero troupe, Walter Kovacs / Rorschach:. Wearing a mask of ink blots (ya know, like the ink blots shrinks show criminals just before they throw away the key on them?), heâ€™s a deadly (he mightnâ€™t look like he can do much damage â€“ but he can!) detective thatâ€™s determined to find out who killed his former partner. The character is almost an anti-hero â€“ he does so many evil things that itâ€™s hard to know whether youâ€™re supposed to root for him or pray someone throws him down an elevator shaft. But maybe thatâ€™s the fun of this character.
Patrick Wilson (also from â€œLittle Childrenâ€) is the squeaky-clown Dan/Night Owl II, and heâ€™s good too, Malik Akerman (Ben Stillerâ€™s crazy bride from â€œThe Heartbreak Kidâ€) makes for a rather stunning looking heroine, playing a second-generation (Carla Gugino plays her mother, the original) Silk Spectre, Billy Crudup (â€œAlmost Famousâ€), and a mass of visual effects, combine to successfully play the â€˜Silver Surferâ€™-esque Dr. Manhattan, and last but not least, Matthew Goode (probably best known for his role in Woody Allenâ€™s â€œMatch Pointâ€) plays the token â€˜celebrityâ€™ of the troupe, hero turned billionaire, Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias. Goode does seem to weave in and out of an American accent, sometimes returning to his native British, but heâ€™s so good in the role that most will be unlikely to notice. And though heâ€™s barely on screen (half-a-dozen short scenes), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (best known for his role as Denny on TVs â€œGreyâ€™s Anatomyâ€) provides a memorable performance as the cigar-chomping, take-before-asking gun-toter, The Comedian. Just a pity we donâ€™t see more of him â€“ itâ€™s a great character.
Part detective story, Part Superhero adventure, and Part Portrait of the Imperfect Human, â€˜â€™Watchmenâ€™â€™ is a must-see movie. It rarely trips up, and though a little long (thereâ€™s a lot of content to bring over from the comic books though; one fellow journalist said a lot wasnâ€™t in the movie that was in the books â€“ an impossible task to bring everything over though), running at about two-and-a-half-hours, itâ€™ll keep you entertained until the brilliant, didnâ€™t-see-that-coming conclusion.