Zack Snyder’s Watchmen is the type of superhero film that is best enjoyed as a live action comic book. The film seems to live and die by its source material and most of the best aspects of the movie are probably more of a credit to the graphic novel than the film. In comparison to other super flicks, Snyder’s movie has a unique set of priorities. Rather than glorify its superheroes, the film does an excellent job of making them as flawed as possible. In the end, the characters seem more like the despicable, battling gods of Greek mythology than admirable comic book superheroes. Also, in sharp contrast to many comic adaptations, Watchmen relies heavily on its plot and the story and setting are given more attention than one who hasn’t read the graphic novel (me) would expect. Those anticipating non-stop action and likable superheroes will be sorely disappointed.
When action does arrive, the audience is treated to slow motion and booming music. The fighting scenes, which are Snyder’s most obvious contribution to the film, are rather scarce, but they are still quite good. Perhaps the most memorable is the opening scene, an awesome mash-up of flying fists, slow-mo, and Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.” Such sequences become the defining moments of Watchmen and though they are relatively few, they certainly make an impression on the audience. The portion of the film that does not include violence is dedicated to telling the back stories of each of the superheroes and depicting an alternate reality in which those heroes work alongside the government (Nixon sends them to Vietnam and the Vietcong completely surrender within weeks). While it certainly makes for an original take on the genre, I suspect that it may occasionally come off as a self-indulgent one to some as well. It demands a lot of time and offers little in the area of humor or good, innocent fun, unless you laugh at its undeniable campiness. In fact, the movie is about as depressing as a film of this kind can be, yet against all odds, I enjoyed Watchmen very much.
Admittedly, there is way too much dialogue that should not have been transferred to the screenplay. Also, the final act is rather forgettable in comparison to the rest of the movie, but like Man of Steel, I couldn’t help but have a good time. I was intrigued by the world that Snyder & Co. brought to life here. I enjoyed the way that the film explored the interactions between superheroes during the Cold War. I thought the fight sequences were over-the-top action gold and I absolutely loved the soundtrack of Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Hendrix, and others. Still, there is something else that helps the movie stand out among other blockbusters of the genre. Unlike superhero films like Iron Man 3 and The Avengers, Watchmen has the ability to spark thought and conversation about morality and the world we live in long after the film is over, making for a solid superhero flick despite its unapologetic Synderness.