After years of thinking it would never reach the screen, I finally saw the film adaptation of Watchmen last week.
If you are unfamiliar with the source material, it explores what happens to a group of superheroes in an alternative 1985 in which Richard Nixon is a 5-term president and the world stands on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.
The story begins with the vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigating the murder of a former hero called the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and he uncovers a wider plot involving his now retired colleagues.
Director Zack Snyder explains more in this featurette:
One of the reasons the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons built up such a fanbase is that it deconstructs the ideas of traditional comic book superhero in dark and often fascinating ways.
But it has proved an incredibly difficult film to bring to the screen with its extended flashbacks, violence and bleak tone.
However, after 300 became a huge and unexpected hit, Warner Bros let Zack Snyder do his dream project which was a no holds barred version of Watchmen.
The good news is that Snyder has been incredibly faithful to the source material and has realised the world of the graphic novel with considerable skill and panache.
The production design and visual look of the film are wonderful to look at (the opening credit sequence is particularly fantastic) and the performances, especially Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup, are good across the board.
There is also a strange thrill that comes from watching so many ‘unfilmable’ ideas appear on screen and Hollywood conventions broken: it runs to 2 hours and 40 minutes, has a sombre tone, keeps nearly all of the flashback material and – even for an 18/R-rated film – contains quite brutal scenes of violence, rape and even full frontal nudity.
None of it is excessively sadistic, like certain modern horror films, but I have a feeling it may put audiences off.
It is going to have a huge opening, but it will be interesting to see how it does in the long run at the box office.
I’m split on its prospects. Part of me thinks grosses will tail off after the initial fans and younger males eat it up over the next two weeks.
But if a downbeat comic book movie like The Dark Knight can do so well, then maybe Watchmen has a good shot at dominating the March box office.
Watchmen is out on Friday
> Official UK site
> Find out more about the graphic novel at Wikipedia
> Read about the lawsuit that threatened to delay the film’s release