Who watches the Watchmen?

Published the same year as Miller's Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen was a year long, twelve part, epic graphic novel published from 1986 to 1987. It tells the story of an alternate earth, where although the year is 1985, Richard Nixon is still the President of the United States of America, a country locked in a bitter cold war with the amassing power of the Soviet Union, and there are masked heroes running about fighting crime. The times are bleak and the future is looking even worse as these two giants stare each other down with tremendous nuclear weapons on either side.

It is in the midst of these dark times that Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) discovers that the recent murder of one of his comrades (otherwise known as Watchmen) isn’t as simple as it seems to be. Rorschach discovers that somebody is out to kill the remaining Watchmen, Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and Nite Owl II (Dan Dreiberg).

The idea of adapting Watchmen started in the early 90s and there were many casting rumors attached to it. These included Robin Williams as Rorschach, Jamie Lee Curtis as Silk Spectre, Gary Busey as the Comedian, and both Richard Gere and Kevin Costner considered for the role of Nite Owl. The project underwent numerous rewrites under director Terry Gilliam but it was eventually shelved. Gilliam declared that the project was unfilmable as a feature production and instead was interested to direct it as a five hour miniseries.

However, as time went on, another director, Darren Aronofsky was attached to the project. Aronofsky did express interest in the project, but found the original story dated. He opted to adapt the story to recent times and make changes accordingly. But the studio was uncomfortable with the direction Aronofsky wanted to take so Zack Snyder was hired to helm the project instead.

Snyder is known for his faithful adaptations, he has done it twice before, with Miller’s 300 and with George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Both movies reflect their original works and yet at the same time have enough originality in them to make them stand on their own. Snyder’s attention to detail and commitment to the source material has made him a hit with the fans: and with the Watchmen it was no different.

Production began with casting in July 2007 for look-alikes of the era's famous names for the film – all of whom appear in the graphic novel – including Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Annie Leibovitz, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fidel Castro, Albert Einstein, Norman Rockwell, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy and Andy Warhol to name a few.

But these are all background characters, to give audiences a feel of the times and the era. It is however, the main characters, that drive the story and in the case of Watchmen, the title characters are as colorful as they can get.

Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) can best be described as Detective Columbo on drugs and with every single psychological problem you can imagine. Dressed in a fedora, trench coat and pin striped trousers; this masked vigilante leaves no stone unturned and no criminal unpunished. To him, every iota of society has become degenerated and desolate.

Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) can best be described as the domesticated Batman. Though as eager as Batman to fight crime, somewhere along the line, Nite Owl or Dan Dreiberg, he quit. Wilson described Dreiberg as a soldier who had returned home after a war, unable to fit in society again.

Adrian Veidt or Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) was believed to be the most intelligent man alive. He retired as a superhero and set up a business empire worth billions of dollars. Veidt’s demeanor – completely nonchalant to the happenings around him –surprises many of his teammates.

The Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan) is one of the most important characters in the movie. He is the only one who realizes who the real mastermind is but is unable to tell his comrades in time. He is cruel, harsh and sometimes downright sadistic; a sight which is interesting to see considering Morgan’s claim to acting fame has been TV series such as Supernatural and Grey’s Anatomy.

Silk Spectre II or Laurie Juspeczyk (Malin Åkerman) is a second generation super heroine, and the only female in the group of super powered heroes. The love triangle between Laurie and Dan and Jon, reflects the choice of Laurie between the man she used to love and the man she could have loved. Her relationship with her mother, the original Sill Spectre (Carla Gugino) is volatile especially when Laurie discovers a dark secret.

Dr Manhattan or Jon Osterman (Billy Crudup) is the only proper superpowers in the group. Transformed into an almost omnipotent being by an experiment gone wrong, his teammates often feel that the Osterman the man slowly gave up his humanity and became more of an almost alien like being by becoming Dr Manhattan. His relationship with Laurie (Malin Åkerman) – like many of his past relationships – is slowly crumbling as he becomes less and less human.

At almost 162 minutes, watching the Watchmen can prove to be a tedious experience for some cinemagoers, considering most of the movie is actually told through intricate and inter-twining flashbacks which often end up being quite confusing if you haven’t read the original graphic novel.

There will be obvious comparisons to last year’s The Dark Knight, although to be fair, both movies have their edges. The Dark Knight had Heath Ledger’s memorable last performance in a motion picture. A feat only overshadowed by his unfortunate demise, a drum that Warner Brothers – the studio that produced the movie – regrettably continues to beat. Watchmen has tremendous visual effects and an impeccable soundtrack to go with it. Every moment on screen is carefully in sync with music from

Nat King Cole, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, KC & The Sunshine Band, Philip Glass, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone.

The Watchmen is truly an incredible piece of cinema that will surely be remembered for time to come. For now, though, its fate lies with audiences that continue to go to the cinemas to watch it and thanks to them it has already earned over $80 million dollars worldwide since its opening. Proving that there are people out there who are watching the Watchmen.
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