WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Set in 1985 in an alternate universe, the U.S. is in bad shape. Nixon is running for his third term (!), war is about to break out with the Russians and superheroes have become outcasts in a world so complicated even THEY can't get enthusiastic about saving it. When one of them, a former member of the Watchmen named The Comedian, is sent hurtling to his death by an unknown intruder in his apartment, it brings his former associates, forced into retirement, back together (sort of) to help solve this geek-laden whodunit. Among them are Rorschach, a sociopath whose face is concealed by a mask that changes patterns with his moods (hence the name); Dan, a gadget nerd who used to soar as Nite Owl but now is rendered impotent in every way imaginable; Adrian who lives off merchandising his glory days as "genius" Oxymandias; Laurie, aka Silk Spectre II, still living in the shadow of her faded superhero mom, the aging Sally, aka the original Silk Spectre; and above all else, Jon Osterman who, as the result of a government accident, has morphed into the physically imposing, almost always naked and very blue demigod named Dr. Manhattan. He eventually leads a life in exile on Mars.
WHO'S IN IT?
Although the busy visual landscape and CGI nature of this sprawling comic book epic doesn't usually lend itself to memorable acting turns, this well-chosen cast acquits themselves nicely, particularly Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children), who manages to embody Rorschach with a Bogart-like noirish flavor. Haley's Little Children co-star Patrick Wilson gives a quirky turn as Dan Dreiberg, who longs to relive his Nite Owl days but seems stuck in a life cycle that has him spiraling downward into mediocrity. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey's Anatomy) also does a convincingly chilling job as The Comedian, a man with very little morals and even less patience. Matthew Goode (Match Point), as the ego-driven Adrian, doesn't make much of an impression. Neither does Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) as Laurie, who is pretty to look at but has some of the worst dialogue. As her mother, however, Carla Gugino succinctly portrays a woman who has seen better days. Billy Crudup has a few touching moments as Osterman but is mostly upstaged by his alter-ego Dr. Manhattan, whose ripped physique and superhero powers steal the show. A lot of guys will want to sign up for this kind of CGI makeover.
Director Zack Snyder has taken Alan Moore's revered "un-filmable" graphic novel and given it a movie life that crackles onscreen. Snyder is the real star of this show, who first proved with 300 and now here that he is a cinematic visionary in a class by himself. Watchmen's effects work is top of the line dazzling.
Snyder is almost too reverential to his source material. The movie is so loaded with plot and individual storylines that at 160 minutes it tends to put your senses on overload. A little less would have gone a long way but still Watchmen is like no comic book movie you have ever seen and that's a very good thing.
It has to be the opening sequence in which a fairly powerful intruder beats the whaley out of The Comedian and sends him flying through his high-rise apartment's plate glass window to his untimely demise on the New York pavement below. Gets the blood pumping right away.
After Rorschach has been arrested and thrown in jail, he is confronted by all the villains he has put behind bars, who all want a piece of him. But he tells them, ''You think I'm locked up with you, but it's YOU who are locked up with ME!'' Oh, if they only knew.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.