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Watchmen (2009)

“I did it thirty-five minutes ago” — Josh Reviews Watchmen!

It’s a bit hard to fathom that I live in a world in which there actually exists a film version of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s magnificent epic Watchmen.

Long considered completely unadaptable, Watchmen (originally published as a 12-issue limited-series by DC Comics back in 1985-86, and re-printed countless times in the subsequent two decades in collected “graphic novel” form) is a staggeringly intricate, layered work that is at once a ripping super-hero yarn and, at the same time, a complete deconstruction of the entire idea of the super-hero adventure comic.

What is fascinating is that the film version of Watchmen arrives at a unique time.  Over the past almost-decade (since the release of Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000), we have seen a flood of super-hero movies (a great many of them dreck, and a great many of them of pretty high quality).  This past summer alone saw the release of The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Hellboy II, among others — three very different films, yet all examples of super-hero movies that were quite extraordinarily well executed.  We’re at a point now when the general public has become very familiar with a lot of the tropes of the super-hero movie genre — and so are perfectly primed to see those familiar characters and themes and story structures completely up-ended by the movie of Watchmen, the same way that the comic book audience had all of their familiar super-hero comic ideas up-ended by the original Watchmen comic.  This movie, I think, is being released at just the right time.

And it is magnificent.

It’s hard for me to imagine what someone who has never read Watchmen would think of this film, because I have read the comic so many times that it is impossible to imagine not knowing (and revering) the story beat-by-beat.  But it seems to me that director Zack Snyder has done an extraordinary job of maintaining a great deal of the depth and complexity of the comic, while also making it very accessible to a first-timer.  That is no easy feat.

Those of you who, like me, worship the source material, can rest easy.  Snyder’s film is a breathtakingly faithful adaptation of the comic.  The structure and story-line of the comic is replicated in great detail; almost all of the dialogue and narration has been lifted right out of the comic; and most importantly, the tone and atmosphere of the world that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created has been brought to life in a powerfully real, visceral way.

To begin with, the film is a marvel of casting.  Thinking about Watchmen in the months leading up to the release, there were a lot of elements … [continued]