Surprise, surprise! Alan Moore disowned the long-awaited screen version of his cult comic book Watchmen well before it reached the screen – as has long been his warped wont with adaptations of his work. Yet 300 director Zack Snyder’s movie did get a thumbs up, on the whole, from the graphic novel’s legions of fans – albeit with some dissenting voices. Comic-book sceptics, however, found it hard to see what all the fuss had been about.
Newcomers to Moore’s work will need to know that Watchmen is set in an alternative 1985 America in which costumed superheroes have been part of the landscape for decades. The men in tights, though, have recently become social pariahs and when the story opens, one of them, masked vigilante Rorschach discovers that someone is killing off retired superheroes and tries to warn his former colleagues of the danger. Meanwhile, the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union is threatening to turn into all-out nuclear war…
Confirmed comic-book sceptic that I am, I have to admit that Snyder pulls off Moore’s bleakly cynical counterfactual history with panache. The extended montage sequence that opens the movie, chronicling the Watchmen’s origins, and their rise and fall, is clever and darkly amusing. (The Watchmen had a hand in Kennedy’s assassination, Nixon’s still in the White House and the US won the Vietnam War.)
But as the story goes through its endless convolutions, backtracking and sidestepping along the way, you need to have a pretty considerable emotional investment in Moore’s knotty mythology to stay involved with the characters over a bum-numbing two and a half hours.
Released on 27th July.
Is Watchmen the “Citizen Kane of graphic novels”? Or do only emotionally-arrested saddos read comic books? Read more.
For a thumbs-up from a non-fanboy, read Heidi’s IMAX view of Watchmen.
To activate the sound in the trailer: hold your cursor over the screen to reveal the control panel and click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.