***Full spoilers for Watchmen follow***
Over a decade after it’s release I finally watched Watchmen. After countless recommendations over many years I took the time to watch it thanks to it being added to the Netflix roster recently. I can confidently agree with the assessment from many that it is underrated. Zack Snyder proves his abilities as a storyteller and director in this 2009 flick. The acting is top notch, story well fleshed out, and overall premise unique even after a decade of additional entries into the superhero genre.
Watchmen offers viewers something unique in its gritty tone, dark shots and dreary world. One could argue that the DC Snyder films are dark (and they are) but they don’t reach the same levels as Watchmen does. The idea is that superheroes are gone and those that exist are extremely flawed/borderline psychopathic at best. Granted some of the group, such as Nite owl and Silk Spectre, are overall good people that have morals but the rest are nuts. Rorschach is a man so wrapped in his sense of justice that he is willing to go to any lengths to achieve his goals. While his intentions are to create a better world and he is technically a “good guy”, he certainly doesn’t go about things in a good way.
Meanwhile Dr. Manhattan is not what I expected. Having heard about the movie, I knew that Dr. Manhattan was extremely powerful but I had no idea who the character actually was. My assumption was that he was the antagonist and was evil. Instead I found him so compelling and not one dimensional in that way at all. I expected him to be an evil overseer with how powerful he is. Rather we saw a character who thought he could help the human race in his own way and actually succeeds in the end. It’s the rare story where the antagonists actually win and it was extremely refreshing. Nothing about Watchmen is typical in the genre. The good guys are not black and white, the bad guys mostly have their hearts rooted in a good place and the end result is death and defeat on the side of good. Yet, I wasn’t disappointed as it felt in place with what the rest of the story had given us.
In 2009 this was not a concept that could be found in the comic book movie genre. Today we have Infinity War and Black Panther that show relatable villains and the villain winning in the case of Infinity War but in that day that was unheard of. Imagine if Phoenix had killed all the X-Men and destroyed the entire planet in X-Men Last stand or if Venom and Sand-Man has successfully killed Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3. An argument could be made that The Dark Knight ended on a note where the villain won but Watchmen was a different level of victory for the “bad guys”. Where The Dark Knight shows that The Joker was able to turn the shining public hero Harvey Dent into a criminal, Batman still ended up defeating Joker and takes the blame for Dent’s crimes so that the victory isn’t truly won by the maniacal Heather Ledger Joker. It’s certainly closer to a villain victory than others but Watchmen took an even greater risk with its ending.
Watchmen is not perfect but it adds itself to one of the most admirable films in the genre. Visually it is Snyder to a T and tonally as well. It demonstrates that Snyder is a director who takes risks that don’t always pay off. The story of Watchmen already existed but it was a risky project. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice if a big example of where a risk was taken and received poorly whereas Watchmen, while not a massive box office success, is highly regarded as a great addition to the superhero genre. Characters such as The Comedian and Rorschach demonstrate what vigilantes in our world could be like should super powers exist. Selfish and vile like The Comedian or demented and misguided like Rorschach are vigilantes that I would expect in our world. This film is a refreshing take on heroes and something well ahead of its time. I look forward to the HBO series in the future and seeing more films like this as the genre continues to evolve.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions and a throw pillow!!!