Review: 'Watchmen'

Intensely violent superhero movie is a film noir for comic-book geeks.

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

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    TO THE RESCUE: Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup, center) is one of a group of superheroes whose mission is to watch over humanity. But who is watching the Watchmen?
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Alan Moore's 12-part graphic novel "Watchmen," originally published in single issues in 1986-87 by DC Comics, has been on the Hollywood radar for decades. Now that it's finally here – and from the director who gave us "300" no less – the question is: Will anyone but comic-book geeks flock to it?

Not being one of the tribe, I can only report that "Watchmen" left me looking at the exit far more often than at the screen. Set in a bizarro universe of 1985 where Richard Nixon remains president and the cold war is reheating, it's about the Watchmen, a race of costumed superheroes – they're more like supervigilantes – who come out of hiding in a world where they have been banned by Nixon. (The plot machinations are much more baroquely detailed than this, but you get the idea.) Included in the lineup are the hyperblond Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), who bills himself as "the smartest man in the world"; Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), who seems to be trying to outdo Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill"; Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who looks like what Mr. Clean might resemble if he joined the Blue Man Group; The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose garish death in the opening scenes is served up for our delectation; and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), whose inkblot face mask is the most expressive thing in the movie. Although the film's visuals are a cut above, say, "Sin City," another serioso graphic novel-turned-movie, it has the same mood: a film-noir-ish soddenness punctuated by megaviolence. "Watchmen" is the anti-"Incredibles." Grade: C- (Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.)

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