Review by Paul Stathakis | May 11, 2009

Remember that time, when we were heroes?

”Watchmen” is the greatest science-fiction adventure since “The Matrix” (1999). Refreshing, original, and it takes the concept of the superhero to new heights. The characters are each unique in their own way but share a common attribute: they are humans with no real superhero powers or abilities (with the exception of John who accidentally acquired powers). These characters are strong in appearance. They seem apt at taking care of New York’s criminals/delinquents but deep down inside, they are just as afraid as the rest of the world as America is about to enter into a nuclear battle with the Soviets.”

”Watchmen” is fascinating because it takes place within a modern context. It’s 1986 and Richard Nixon is the President of the United States. Signs and television announcements reveal that he has been successfully re-elected for a third term – just one of the film’s original twists. The film opens on a very subtle note, with Edward “The Comedian” Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), one of the Watchmen’s most robust, is brutally beaten in his apartment and then tossed right out of a window.  Watchmen devotees have nothing to fear. They will be bemused with the work that was put into the adaptation because this is, before anything, an eerily accurate adaptation. The Comedian’s death scene is merely an example of one.

The film makes great use of music. It’s impossible to not appreciate the soundtrack which includes several classic songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. When was the last time a Jimmy Hendrix song was used so effectively  in a science-fiction film? Another scene includes Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and involves the Comedian, perhaps because the character, imperfections-aside, is as unforgettable as the rest of the Watchmen group.  Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” plays during a burial. The right songs play at the right moments.
The plot is centered primarily on the murder of the Comedian. The death of the Comedian reunites the Watchmen, who are scattered around New York City, retired, living regular lives, except for one of them: Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley).

Rorschach is still active. He refuses to hang his mask (a nice psychological association with ink blots). He says, in a mysterious narrative voice, “This city is afraid of me. I’ve seen its true colors.” He visits the apartment of the Comedian to investigate. He vows to find the person responsible for the murder of his friend. But can avenge the death alone? Of course not. Enters Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson). He used to be Rorschach’s partner until he decided to quit. Can Rorschach convince him to suit up once more? How about the gorgeous Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman)?

As America is on the eve of a nuclear war with Russia, Nixon (who is serving a third term in office), along with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, are poised to win the battle. They enter DEFCON 2 and begin to prepare for DEFCON 1. They look everywhere for answers and study several scenarios. They turn to Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) for advice. He can normally see into the future but this time his readings are distorted. He believes a nuclear war is on the horizon but he cannot predict the outcome. Why is he not able to read the future? Could something or someone be interfering with his abilities?

“Watchmen” is a violent picture and it contains some nudity as well. Parents will want to see it but should keep their children away from it.  It’s a modern masterpiece, visceral, visual, original, touching, but nonetheless violent.  The film plays to particular audience members. You’ll either connect with it or walk out of the theatre halfway through it. This is not a conventional superhero movie. It takes the concept to new heights. For once heroes are regular people with regular lives and that’s just the beginning of it. For those who like their science-fiction with art and wit, get ready because you’re in for a treat.

 

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