Watchmen may be the film I've been most eager to see.
The comic limited series (I'm hesitant to call the later bound version a "graphic novel," as binding several issues together into a single book isn't really a graphic novel, it's a re-issue) was entertaining and thought provoking, unlike anything I'd ever read in the medium. I loved how writer Alan Moore based Watchmen characters on those found in old Charlton comics, then created an entirely new mythology around them. The multi-panel page layout used by artist Dave Gibbons was revolutionary, and provided a means through which the art could be used to provide subtle, yet vital, aspects of the story.
The Watchmen limited series helped transform comic books into respectable reading within non-geek crowds with its complex plot, inventive narrative and all-too-human characters.
So, yeah. I anticipated the movie like a real fanboy. With crossed fingers, and prepared arguments for the inevitable critic who hated the film.
"You just don't get it, you have to read the comic."
"The story is complex, and hard to transfer to film."
"Dude, they're human, they're not supposed to have super powers."
Thankfully, I didn't have to use any of the excuses. Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, delivers.
Set in an alternate America in the mid-80s, Watchmen tells the story of a group of former heroes who, while investigating the murder of a colleague, stumble upon a plot to kill millions of people worldwide in order to unite humanity behind a common cause. The plot is complicated and veers a bit off the path of the comic-based story, but is used effectively in the film.
The story integrates each character's origin well, and is visually stunning. Snyder's film stays mostly true to Moore's story, almost to the point of being an homage. The acting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played The Comedian, was especially good.
The plot is simply a means through which we get to know intimately (pun intended, for those who know Dr. Manhattan usually wears no pants) the main characters, most of whom are very much human. Humans who are sometimes selfish, petty and fearful, yet still have the capacity for putting themselves in danger in order to save others. Nite Owl, Rorschach and Laurie Jupiter represent every man and woman: people who struggle mightily with fear and hopelessness, but recognize that action must be taken in order to have some control in our lives.
Watchmen explores the existential themes we tend to ignore when life is going smoothly, and dwell on during times of hardship: fatalism, religion, sacrifice and love. That the characters faced with these dilemmas fight crime and have unbelievable abilities in the martial arts is irrelevant; those characters on that screen are you and me.
The difference is, you and I aren't wearing spandex and capes.
I watched the film with my good friend AllClick, who is also a Watchmen comic fan, which made the experience even more enjoyable. But I thought Watchmen was so good, I'm going to see it for a second time this weekend.
That's my highest compliment.