| The first big blockbuster movie of 2009 has finally arrived in theaters following a settlement reached in a copyright infringement lawsuit between two competing Hollywood studios over the production and distribution rights.
Director Zack Snyder (“300”) has adapted the 12-issue limited comic book series written by Alan Moore (“V For Vendetta” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”) and published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987.
Moore wanted nothing to do with the project and believed his complex, multi-layered masterwork was “inherently unfilmable.”
The determined and meticulous Snyder, with an assist from screenwriters David Hayter and Alex Tse, has proven Moore wrong.
The movie is campy escapist fun with strange characters. It is exciting, suspenseful and oozes with extreme violence, bloody gore and raw sex.
The film takes places in an alternate reality and rewrites American history. Richard Nixon is in his third term of office at the height of the Cold War. The United States has emerged victorious in the Vietnam War. The sniper on the grassy knoll in Dallas responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy is identified.
The readers of the original graphic novel (declared by Time magazine as one of the 100 great books of the 20th century) have a leg up on the material.
The escalated threat of nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States has caused the “Doomsday Clock” to be set at five minutes before midnight.
Retired 67-year-old crime-fighting vigilante Edward Blake, aka The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from “P.S. I Love You” and “Grey’s Anatomy”), is thrown out the plate glass window of his high-rise apartment in Manhattan.
He is the strand linking a group of costumed superheroes formed in the 1940s named the Minutemen with the current 1985 version referred to as Watchmen.
Blake wears a yellow smiley face badge that becomes blood-stained. One of his compatriots, Walter Kovacs aka Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley from “Little Children”), investigates the murder and believes there is a conspiracy afoot to knock off costumed heroes.
Rorschach wears a white mask with ink blots that morph to reflect his emotions. He keeps a daily journal of his findings and serves as our voiceover narrator.
Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias (Matthew Goode from “Brideshead Revisited” and “Match Point”) is the smartest and richest man in the world. His goal is to unite the world like his hero Alexander the Great. He is working to develop a cheap renewable energy source that will make war obsolete.
Jon Osterman aka Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup from “Almost Famous” and “Stage Beauty”) is a renowned nuclear physicist transformed by a freak lab accident into a glowing blue Superman. He is a living weapon of mass destruction that watches over Earth and gives the U.S. a distinct advantage against possible enemies. He is able to teleport people across the country or the universe. He views time as a continuum with the extraordinary ability to live simultaneously in the past, present and future.
He exiles himself to Mars after being accused of being the cause of cancer in friends and former colleagues in a nationally televised interview.
Motion-capture CG technology has made it possible for this omniscient god-like Colossus to majestically appear on screen.
Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson from “Lakeview Terrace,” “Little Children” and “Angels in America”) is an impotent, middle-aged Clark Kent. His interests include birds, airplanes and mythology. His macho side comes out when he dons his caped outfit. He has a unique hovercraft and will remind you of Batman.
Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman from “The Heartbreak Kid” and “27 Dresses”) has followed in the footsteps of her mother Sally (Carla Gugino from “American Gangster” and “Sin City”) in becoming a crime fighter out of the mold of Wonder Woman. She moves in with Dreiberg after breaking up with Dr. Manhattan and they become lovers. She learns the true identity of her biological father.
The movie does an adroit juggling act of mixing flashback origin stories with the whodunit mystery. The broad theme is the sacrifices required by society to accomplish world peace.
The movie holds your interest with a soap opera appeal despite a running time in excess of 2 ½ hours. The standout special effects and the super slow-motion FX fight sequences borrowing from the style of “The Matrix” trilogy are a feast for the eyes.
The full frontal nudity of Dr. Manhattan detracts from the story.
The soundtrack plays like a greatest hits album from the 1960s and 1970s, but fails to even remotely match up with what is transpiring on the screen.
Behind their masked costumes, every character has human frailties and weaknesses. They all have different perspectives, but share a common fear of human extinction. The atmosphere and overall tone of the film is bleak, dark and depressing. The movie makes astute observations on human nature and the presence of evil in the world. It borrows the winning formula prevalent in the classic Westerns, pitting the good guys against the bad with the audience having no trouble identifying those worth cheering for.
Haley stands out as the hard-boiled psychopathic sleuth whose noble side is revealed despite his cynicism. Wilson shows the vulnerability and insecurity of his mundane existence when not playing vigilante. Akerman is an enticing goddess who looks deliciously hot in spandex.
The mature subject matter makes this unsuitable viewing for impressionable teenagers. The movie is tailored for grown-up male action fans.
The IMAX version is available exclusively in Johnson County at AMC Studio 30.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"