After legal battles, creative differences and talk about being "un-filmable” the much anticipated Watchmen hits the screen like the nuke missiles or even a swinging fist both so prevalent in the film. Weighing in a hefty 163 minutes one might think that the movie could cover the denseness of the book but it takes a different route. Although the film stays true to the basic story, the film creates its own world – a world more easily digestible to most moviegoers.
Set in an alternate version of 1985, the multi-layered adventure/mystery Watchmen offers up a world where costumed superheroes intermingle with everyday society and a doomsday clock (think of today’s multicolored state department warning levels) that charts the tension between the USA and the USSR sits a five minutes till midnight. When one of the former Watchmen is killed, the determined Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) reconnects with his former crime fighting legion to determine the reason behind the death.
Watchmen comes off more like an opera than a superhero film. Besides the long running time, the films offers grand backdrops filled with exploding colors and large blasts of music. (In this case the soundtrack fills the theater with either songs from the 80s such as Tears for Fears or foot tapping Simon and Garfunkel ditties but alas no Italian arias). Watchmen serves up cascades a dark, brooding flavor on a nuclear flavored platter then offsets the gloom with comically expressive costumes.
Loud and often violent, director Zack Snyder (“300”) refuses to completely emulate the dense, cerebral “Watchmen” novel, which, in the general sense, works. Staying true to the basic story, Snyder and his screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse create a world of panic, gloom and fear. But like an opera for those who don’t speak the language, overall the story works but many of the details get brushed under the shroud of looming Armageddon. The same could be said for characters who seemingly get lost in a maze of flashbacks or important plot points that are seemingly just given a nod.
Some superheroes make larger impacts despite the screen time that seems spread thin amongst the superhero clan. Jackie Earle Haley offers up a feisty Rorschach while Billy Crudup shines (in a blue way) as the analytical Dr. Manhattan. The superhero women Sally Jupiter (Carla Gugino) and Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Akerman) although presented with juicy screen time never seem to find their place or have much to do except follow the lead of their male counterparts.
Some people may say that the film lacks real substance, and only stands on the merits of the production values, but for anyone not a true Watchmen aficionado this film version like a top-flight soprano belts out some choice notes before going down in a blaze of glory.