Reviewed on 2009 March 7
This is a rare movie to review, because I can tell you everything you need to know — and then some — without giving it away. There have been several where it was hard to give you an idea of what it was about without ruining the thing, and this is going to be fairly easy. I will warn you of a couple things: it is not a happy feel good movie, and you’ll want to go easy on the soda while you’re watching it. It’s almost three hours long, and it’s pretty densely layered. You get up, you might miss something.
The story starts with a man being murdered in his apartment in New York, and one masked vigilante, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley, and I’ll be angry for him if he doesn’t get some award here) is determined to find out who did it. To the citizens on the filthy streets of the run-down city, it’s just another corpse. Rorschach recognizes him as the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), one of the Minutemen who helped fight crime in the 40s and gave rise to the ’70s and ’80s era Watchmen. They’re both groups of crime-fighters, both flawed, both battling their share of demons, but as Rorschach says, “an attack on one is an attack on us all”. He investigates the murder against an alternate-universe backdrop in which America has to deal with both a fifth-term President Nixon (scary, huh?) and a Russia that seems to be nudging the Doomsday Clock ever closer to a nuclear midnight.
I was amazed at the opening, which besides just being extremely cool, explained enough for me to follow the thing without any prior knowledge of Watchmen or Minutemen. You know you have an amazing start when something is filmed that beautifully and someone like me, who never touched the graphic novels and barely recalled seeing the famous bloody smiley face on her husband’s copies, doesn’t feel left out. It did have a few flaws beyond that. It pulled me wholly into the artificial world for a while, though I felt like it dragged a bit in the middle, and there were some parts that were so violent I had a hard time watching. This is not for kids. But it was a very well-knit story, and it works well in its 163 minutes even without many likable characters. The most decent one is Rorschach, and I’m glad he got what I think is the best line in the whole movie. The music worked well too; great soundtrack.
Three chocolate morsels.