Well, this is an offering from Zack Snyder, who also created ‘300’, another comic book adaptation. 300 was a good film, with Snyder still trying to remain true to the graphic novel, and with Watchmen, his latest film, you can see his love for the graphic novels he brings to the big screen. Its worth noting that Alan Moore, the literary creator of Watchmen, has previously disowned all the film adaptations of his works, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and V for Vendetta and will probably do the same with this latest work, stating that he never thought that Watchmen could be realistically portrayed, or adapted through the medium of film. I think too that Terry Gilliam asked to direct at one point, but was either turned down or realised he didn’t want too. And Moore is a grouch when it comes to Hollywood, despite the fact that it has probably opened his works up to millions more people.
Basically the premise of the movie (and book) is set in an alternate reality/ history, one where superheroes do exist and have an influence both domestically and through American foreign policy. The Watchmen are their name, a group of individuals/celebrities, not so much with super-extraordinary powers, such as the powers Spiderman or Superman are gifted with, but having certain strengths nonetheless, enough to be feared by the criminal fraternity and live out a costumed fantasy in a twisted reality. The only real one of them who has abnormal superhuman powers is Dr.Manhatten, who has the ability to disassemble everything into their separate components as well as teleportation (and a host of other things he can do) and he is really almost god-like, something which he actually denies. ‘The Superman exists, and he is American’, so the story tells us. The way he developed his powers is in true classic comic book style – being trapped in a room where a groundbreaking scientific experiment is taking place – and ends up with extraordinary powers as a result.
The setting is 1985 America. In true steampunk style, we have alternate history (true to Moores style), with Dr Manhatten and The Comedian (one of the Watchmen) almost singlehandedly winning the Vietnam war, which means that President Nixon changed the constitution for a third term and so remains President. There are no Reagans here, as if they were needed. Its seems also that the Cold War is still very much a threat, and Dr Manhattan is used to keep a very insecure stalemate and reinforce M.A.D (Mutually Assured Destruction), and hence being called a tool of Imperialism by the Soviets. The usual things occur; one of the watchmen, Ozymandias, wants power all to himself, frames Dr Manhattan causing him to disappear, as well as trying to kill off the remaining Watchmen, and subsequently sparks off a superpower conflict, with the Russians beginning to invade Afghanistan. Nuclear conflict seems moments away – The Doomsday Clock reaching 5 minutes before midnight…and falling…
It seems as if the whole setting is stuck in some kind of late 60s mentality; like the 80s never happened, with Nixon holding onto power and the nuclear threat a very real reality, with the Watchmen holding the balance, or at least Dr. Manhattan. Its not so much dystopian (and certainly no utopia), but it certainly is a kind of right-wing reality. Not surprising in some respects, with some of the Watchmen, The Comedian most notably, having some very questionable views and outlook. And being a complete bastard to boot.
The film carries the plot from the graphic novel almost word for word. Some things are excluded, but it really is an accurate portrayal of the novel. Kudos for Zack Snyder for attempting it, as well as remaining true to the novels concept. Literally it is word for word. I expect however it will be another adaptation disowned by Alan Moore, but as I said earlier, what all the films of his works have done is introduce younger and newer generations into his works. Just go to Waterstones, Borders or any major bookseller outlet, and you will find his works being advertised greater than before, based around the film advertising. He must be grateful for that. And Watchmen is good.