The film adaptation of Watchmen, one of the most famous graphic novels ever, comes with much anticipation to see if the supposedly unfilmable novel can somehow work. Though it looks great and retains some of the novel’s essence, it feels misguided and, even worse, boring.
Set in an alternate-universe 1980s, the world of Watchmen is an unstable place teetering on the brink of nuclear armageddon. Richard Nixon is well into his third term as president and the Cold War is dangerously close to turning hot. Costumed heroes, once mainstays in the United States, have been banned and chaos reigns in the streets. If that’s not bad enough, someone begins knocking off the retired heroes as the Doomsday Clock (meant to estimate humanity’s proximity to total annihilation) ticks closer to midnight.
This is an unfair distillation of the rich and deep source material, but the film provides just that. It’s unreasonable to expect all the nuances to translate to the screen because the novel itself is so dense and thrives on ambiguity. The film makes a noble effort to cover most of the bases, but when a movie tries to summarize and remains nearly three hours, the result tends to be confusing. And, because the mind’s not engaged, boredom starts to set in.
The film is stellar technically and the opening credits sequence is incredible. While the central issues of morality and responsibility are included, the film tries to balance too much in too little time for the result not to become muddled.
Watchmen may please diehard fans, but it’s very unlikely to make new ones. Pick up the novel instead; it’s one of the best books one could read.
Rating: 1.5 out of 4