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Will the fanboys unite behind “visionary” Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen, listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels since 1923? That will likely depend on how faithful the fans feel the vision is to the graphic frame — although some might argue over the liberties taken with the ending.

The short-term box-office success will have to be weighed against the historic significance of Snyder’s film following so closely on the heels of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, because Knight wanders the same dark psychological streets of superheroes and the society they have reluctantly sworn to protect.

Can you please the base as well as the mainstream, and more importantly, can you give audiences the action they crave along with a reading that reflects the moral and philosophical ambiguities of the times? That’s quite a bit to ask of the guy who gave us a remake of Dawn of the Dead and a translation of Frank Miller’s 300, but Watchmen fights the good fight.

This alternative world where superheroes (and there are questions regarding their actual “powers” that neither the book nor the movie ever truly answer) have been co-opted by the government or forced, by law, into retiring from the game certainly embraces the dark hearts and minds of its characters. The great irony is that maybe there’s no such thing as “good” and “bad,” instead there is only, at this point in history, the final march into the dead of night. The heroes dispense brutal retribution and the villains exist as mere foils.

A healthy cynicism permeates every frame of Moore’s text, but onscreen the life it is given doesn’t achieve a state of grace and humanity. We are supposed to believe that supreme sacrifices have been made, but Snyder’s rendering feels largely indifferent to anything other than the marvelous spectacle of the exercise. (tt stern-enzi) Grade: C