Review: “Watchmen”

* * * * out of four stars

I was reminded of one particular director as I watched Zack Snyder’s latest epic, “Watchmen.” Quentin Tarantino. “Watchmen” isn’t Tarantino-esque, but it accomplishes what Tarantino accomplished with “Kill Bill” and “Pulp Fiction.” It transcends the genre. It’s a whole new kind of superhero story.

The first question someone asked me after I had seen it was “Is it better than ‘The Dark Knight?'” In some ways it is. In many others, it isn’t. However, the question is irrelevant. “Dark Knight” and “Watchmen” are two entirely separate entities, with different struggles and morals. They’re apples and oranges. Both, however, are four-star, top-of-the-line superhero/action films.

“Watchmen” opens with the murder of former superhero The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Through an open credits sequence taking place after the murder we see the history of a group of superheroes named “The Minutemen” who fight together throughout the fifties and sixties (including Comedian). We see through their eyes several events in history, including the Kennedy assassination (which didn’t happen the way we all think) and Vietnam.

Then President Nixon passes the Keenan act, outlawing superheroes, forcing them to retire.

Now it’s 1985, Nixon is still in office, and the threat of nuclear war hangs over the world. Our remaining heroes are the sexy Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), nerdy Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), dark and mysterious Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), all-powerful Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and rich entrepreneur Ozymandias (Matthew Goode). Each are retired now, thanks to Nixon’s Keenan act, trying to live normal lives.

Well, all except the paranoid Rorschach, who is undertaking the investigation of Comedian’s murder. Rorschach must work in secret, for he’s a wanted man. Meanwhile, Dr. Manhattan is perfecting a series of nuclear reactors while working with Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias. He is also having problems in his relationship with Laurie (aka Silk Spectre II), and this could be because he’s lost his perspective on being human. Or maybe it’s because she’s tired of him walking around naked all day?

Dr. Manhattan was originally the son of a clockmaker who became a scientist. One day he forgot his watch in the lab and went back to get it. The lab doors then locked him inside and he was zapped into oblivion. Soon he found a way to reconstruct himself, and when he did he had incredible power, blue skin, and no clothes. Ladies, he’s worth the price of admission.

Laurie grows impatient with Manhattan. So she goes to see Dan aka Night Owl II. The two have a great connection, and maybe she’d be better off with him. The two reminisce about old times and have a drink together.

In the mean time, Rorshach is framed for murder and found by the police, who expose his true identity, and begin to move our plot from introspective character piece (which is done very well) to all-out action film (which is done much better).

I’ve been vague on details because chances are if you’re reading this, you’ll want to go see it, and would probably see it anyway even if I gave it one star. Well trust me, as vague as I am, this is no one star film. Great visuals, excellent storytelling and some very wild action scenes.

The most intriguing character is Rorschach, whose mask features a constantly-shifting ink blot. Rorschach occupies a world of his own at times, away from the other characters. And at the end we probably sympathize with him the most.

Speaking of the end, if you haven’t read the graphic novel, the ending is going to surprise you. It’s brilliant, it’s bold, it’s different. This is going to be one of the best films of the year.

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