Like Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Watchmen distils the spirit of its source material rather than literally translating it in the style of Robert Rodriguez' Sin City. Much of the detail from the source material is necessarily discarded (some regrettably so - the subplot of Rorschach's alter ego and the death of Hollis Mason, for example) but, as a whole it holds together very well. Those unfamiliar with the source material will find nothing untoward here unlike, say, the Harry Potter films where the plot gaps are enormous. The film evens manages to pull off the near impossible by presenting an alternative ending which is more elegant than the original.

Director, Zack Snyder, displays a penchant for comedy and visual flair in presenting a great opening montage that provides a brief recent history of this alternative universe and sets up the story to follow. He also employs an interesting and provocative use of songs which are almost always inappropriately tagged to incongruous scenes (ballads over fight sequences, for instance) and could easily have become cliché but somehow they work, coming over instead as comical and ironic and further reinforcing that this alternative reality is slightly out of kilter with our own. There's a lot of apparent depth here, it's like several movies in one. Many of the characters are of sufficient complexity that they could have featured in a simpler (and much lesser) movie of their own. Let's hope that the franchise is not cheapened by a succession of inferior ‘origin story’ sequels.

Performances are all adequate for their roles although Matthew Goode seems a little miscast as Adrian Veidt, lacking the apparent body mass that would be credibly required to perform the feats of strength that he does, but this is a minor point. The film belongs to Jackie Earle Haley, however. His performance of Rorschach is spot on - he's only a little fella but, boy, can he kick arse! And improves even further when his alter ego is revealed, shifting the film up another gear when it was already cruising along at a decent clip. Criticism of Malin Akerman is unfounded; her purpose is to stand there and look pretty and bed the heroes, as the script requires, a role she performs quite nicely, thank you very much.While the structure of the plot may be a little multi-stranded to be neatly cohesive, there's more than enough interest in the various plot strands throughout and the result is a comic book… oops, sorry…’graphic novel’ adaptation which surpasses Zack Snyder's previous (and rather woeful) 300; indeed it's one of the best ever made.
Stuart Jamieson
official website

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