The days of the graphic novel superhero are numbered. Adapting graphic novels and comic books into big screen Hollywood is becoming a monotonous and cliché endeavor, lowering viewer expectations with each upcoming flick. “Watchmen” is no exception.
Directed by Zack Snyder (“300”) and based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, “Watchmen” is the sinister tale of a 1985 America during President Nixon’s third term. This alternate setting is on the brink of nuclear war, yet Nixon decides to outlaw the Watchmen (a group of human superheroes — some with special powers) from using their supernatural skills in society.
The movie begins with the brutal murder of a member of the Watchmen known as The Comedian. Fellow Watchman, Rorschach, is determined to find the culprit for fear that the remaining Watchmen will be targeted next.
Apart from this central plot, the film attempts to transport audiences into the lives of each Watchman character. Naturally, each character has his or her own story to tell. Yet when these stories are mixed with plots involving a potential Watchmen serial killer, a disintegrating nation and an all-out nuclear war, the film becomes a jumbled mess.
Rorschach narrates the film using a tough, scratchy voice that spits masculinity with every syllable. His description and outright disgust of the city and its people is undoubtedly reminiscent of Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver.” Rorschach is sick of the grime, stench, filth and prostitution on display. His view sets the scene for a raunchy tale.
The Watchmen are supposedly complex characters. Unfortunately, none are depicted with much depth. Heroes like Spiderman and Batman have an “everyman” personality to them, which evokes a connection with audiences. It is a stretch to say audiences can relate to the Watchmen. Thus, the overall level of concern for each character is lessened.
One of the more down-to-earth situations occurs between Laurie Jupiter, the main female role, and her mother, a former Watchwoman. The two struggle with issues of youth, fame and envy. What would seemingly be the most realistic relationship of the film evolves into a terrible imitation of a soap opera skit.
Though the themes presented are supposed to be large and philosophical, they are numerous, scattered and barely scratch the surface. It would have been better to focus on one theme with determination than several vague themes.
And of course, as with any epic three hour bad boy flick there’s bound to be endless amounts of violence, sex, female exploitation and the like. Just expect it.
“Watchmen” is too long, too scattered and too predictable. If there is any new material to be found within the graphic novel, superhero genre, audiences must look elsewhere.
The only aspect of this movie I applaud is the warped setting and the soundtrack that includes Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Billie Holiday. I would say the beginning credits, involving artistic snapshots of the old Watchmen members over the century, is the most interesting aspect of the film. It’s all downhill from there.
As are many Hollywood box-office action hits, “Watchmen” is an over-hyped, underdeveloped flop. My suggestion: save your money — skip this film.
Staff writer Marjorie Hamburger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.