Superheroes: ‘Watchmen’ looks good, but doesn’t quite gel

2009-03-08 00:00

Watchmen is an ambitious film, one that bites off more than it can chew and delivers an odd viewing experience.

The plot, which is set in an alternate reality (one where power- hungry Richard Nixon is still president of the United States and the world is at war, with the threat of nuclear war constantly looming), spans some 45 years, and concerns the goings on of two generations of Watchmen — a band of (newly outlawed) renegade superheroes that keep the peace.

Things get going when The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is brutally murdered and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) sniffs out a conspiracy to kill off the remaining Watchmen.

As things play out, it’s discovered that the conspiracy goes much deeper than initially presumed and much of the world is in danger, which leads the (now retired) Watchmen to once again don their (rather cheesy) suits and figure things out, for their sakes and ours.

Many sub-plots emerge (the film is close on three hours) and many of the intricacies that have developed between our lead cast are explored. It’s all a bit jarring though and things never quite gel. However, it’s not all bad; interesting characters and some stunning cinematography do enough to keep you watching, most of the time at least.

Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup), a scientist with near god-like abilities (the ability to bend space and time), is the only character with genuine superpowers and much of his withdrawn philosophy makes for compelling viewing.

Zack Snyder, the visionary director of 300, tackles this adapted, (deemed unfilmable) screenplay with startling visual grace and one has to admire the effort, even if the film does fall short of being good.

The problem with Watchmen is that the story needed to be told in its detailed entirety for an audience to fully grasp the concept, much as in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One film trying to compress it all just doesn’t work. At the end of it though, there’s enough good in there to warrant a three-star rating.

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