The Watchmen is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. As of March 6, 2009, it is also a movie directed by Zack Snyder. This review will be structured a little differently than the others I’ve done because I will be talking about both the graphic novel and the movie.
The Watchmen is such a complicated and involved story that it is hard to put one short summary on it. I could say that it is a story of the fear and psychology of America during the war in Vietnam and the arms conflict with Russia. I could say that it is a story taking a look at the ‘real’ lives of superheroes and all of the adversity that they face in every day life. I could say that it is story about the perception of good and evil and how both of these relate to the human condition. I could say all of these things and still be leaving out important facets of the story.
But I can tell you that this is not a happy story. It’s full of fear and violence. Yes, this is about superheroes, but the good guys don’t catch the bad guys. Reading or watching it, you can never be sure who is working for the good of the every day people and who is working for their own benefit. There are no good guys. Everyone comes out with black marks on their record.
This story makes you think. If you are looking for mindless entertainment, neither the graphic novel nor the movie is for you. The storytelling is nonlinear, slowly revealing the overall plot through flashbacks, time jumps, and changes in points of view. Even the characters themselves require attention in order to understand their drives and motives. Characters like Dr. Manhattan, who was disassembled in an accident in a nuclear research facility and, in reassembling himself, became something aware of all the little parts of time and space, and Rorschach, a vigilante sociopath with a clear sense of right and wrong dealing out justice in the most brutal of fashions, cannot be comprehended shallowly. They’re not Superman or Batman. Their stories are much more complex.
I decided to talk about both the movie and the graphic novel in this review because Zack Snyder did a fantastic job of following the graphic novel. He followed it visually almost frame by frame, and included storylines and scenes that no one expected to see. When I was watching the movie, it felt like I was watching the graphic novel. There were, of course, things cut out and changed from the original story, but I believe he managed to translate the overall feel and message of the graphic novel incredibly effectively.
This is a story for people who enjoy puzzles, whether they are the psychological puzzles of the characters or the storytelling puzzles of the overall story. This is also a story for the strong stomached readers/watchers out there. There is sex and rape and loads of violence.