On a whim I decided to attend the Watchmen movie premiere last night. I read the re-print of the original 1986 graphic novel a few months ago and it’s great; it’s even listed as one of Time Magazine‘s best 100 novels of all time.
This is not your usual superhero movie based on a comic book character such as Superman, Spider-Man, or the X-Men. No, this is a self contained story with all original charaters. No prequels, no sequels, no series. Just Watchmen. The book’s plot is quite complicated and definitely not kid-friendly. You shouldn’t be fooled by the superhero premise nor by the hand-drawn presentation: Watchmen is for adults.
The story is set in an alternate 1985 in which Richard Nixon is still president and the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are on the verge of nuclear anhilation. Normal humans costumed as superheroes (with one exception) have existed for a while but were recently banned by the government.
I’m not going to give up any plot details but I do want to say that the movie is a fantastic and faithful adaptation of the novel. You can see many frames lifted directly from the comic book page onto the big screen (here are some side-by-side comparisons). There’s a lot of material to cover and the movie is forced to leave some stuff behind (for the director’s cut, I presume). While the things that were left out are important in establishing the overall backdrop, I think they were the right choices. Visually the movie is stunning, as we’d expect from 300 director Zack Snyder. The costumes, the color palette, the blood… even Doctor Manhattan‘s glowing genitals is there. The soundtrack however is sometimes a joke, something you’d use in a parody.
My recommendation is that you see the movie and that you read the book. I’m not sure which order is best. Oh, and the endings are different.