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Movie Review: 'Watchmen' a faithful adaptation of comic

Lane Blevins • Mar 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM

After many a late night of listening to monologues about comic books from one of my most wonderfully eccentric friends, I decided I needed to get into comics.

There was something about his stories that captured my imagination. He would talk about comics from different eras and different trends throughout time. He would talk about writers and artists. And suddenly, I found myself desperately wanting to know more.

So he loaded me up with a wide array of essentials to get me started. In that collection was “Watchmen.”

I thought since the “Watchmen” adaptation would be coming out in theaters soon that I would give it a read beforehand so that for once, I would be familiar with the source material of a comic book movie. When I finished the book, I immediately began to wonder how on Earth they were even going to approach filming it.

“Watchmen” is a dense, sprawling epic. On top of that, it is the most atypical superhero book imaginable. In fact, it is often touted as a “superhero deconstruction story” and has long been considered impossible to film by Hollywood since the book finished its run in the late ’80s.

That being said, director Zack Snyder’s live-action “Watchmen” is a wildly successful adaptation, visible even through its tiny flaws.

The universe of “Watchmen” both on the page and on the screen is that of a world on the brink of nuclear war. The story takes place in the mid-’80s and the creation of the world’s first and only superhuman, Dr. Manhattan, has created an alternate version of the world we know.

After asking Dr. Manhattan to intervene in Vietnam, Richard Nixon won the war and has remained president through 1985. The presence of Dr. Manhattan and the perception that he is being used unfairly as a weapon has created an increasingly strong axis of communist regimes spearheaded by Russia.

Also in the world of “Watchmen,” there is a cast of costumed heroes that have been forced into retirement by a country that began to consider their acts of heroism as unjust vigilantism. “Watchmen” focuses on the busted and broken lives of these retired superheroes and what happens when they are forced from retirement by the suspicion of a sinister conspiracy.

This film is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t like violence and gore, this film isn’t for you. If you don’t like sex included in your movie going experience, this film isn’t for you. If you don’t like movies that stretch over 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film definitely isn’t for you.

But fans of the book will be pleasantly surprised by the care involved in bringing this property to life. The attention to detail is astonishing, and every actor successfully brings their character to life with flying colors.

While at times you can feel the massive chops the film had to take to get down to fighting weight (Zack Snyder has said the DVD will contain a three-and-a-half hour version), you can still fall in love with how accurately Snyder brought the spirit of the “Watchmen” books to the screen.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This film will be enjoyable to audiences that did not read the book, but the film’s principle criticism by these people will most certainly be its length.

As for me, I am in awe of what the cast and the director has done with this “impossible” movie.

3½ stars (out of 4)

STARRING: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson

DIRECTED BY: Zack Snyder

RATED: R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language

RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 43 minutes

Lane Blevins is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University and an aspiring filmmaker.

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