Many fans and film critics over the last 20 years have referred to Alan Moore’s fascinating 400-page graphic novel as the unfilmable superhero movie. This turns out to be anything, but true. Director Zack Snyder (who brought us the equally visually stunning “300”) stays faithful to the tale, it’s shadowy visual style, and any small changes are for the better.
The story takes place in 1985 as America faces the fear of engaging in nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Masked vigilante superheroes have been banned by the government for years. Since then some have chosen to capitalize on their former crime-fighting days, which others try to live a normal life, and others yearn to relive their former days of glory.
A mystery unfolds as someone appears to be killing these former masked crimefighters. It starts when The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a former thug who wrecked havoc in Vietnam for the Nixon administration, is thrown out his skyscraper window. Then a hit man narrowly fails to kill Ozymandias, considered to be the smartest (and probably richest) man in the world. The crazy, but wildly entertaining superhero named Rorschach (another amazing performance by Jackie Earle Haley) recruits former colleagues Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman), and her blue lover Dr. Manhattan (a superhero with real powers) to uncover the mystery, which is linked to the imminent nuclear war.
The technical crew for this film will be nominated for Oscars. Every frame is gorgeous and keeps this lengthy film (nearly 3 hours) moving and engaging. The environment of this world in chaos is full of detail, whether it’s Dr. Manhattan walking across the planet Mars, Nixon’s war room (in a funny homage to “Dr. Strangelove”), or the incluion of a rusted sign outside an auto junkyard that reads: “obsolete models a speciality” (a joke on our aging superheroes). The amount of brilliant detail make this film worth watching on IMAX.
Fans should love almost everything about this film. Those in the audience that are unfamiliar with the source material may need a second viewing to grasp everything complex that is happening. The film brings new life to the superhero genre by exploring their politics, their sexuality, and their philosophy. It is like the “Moby Dick” of comic book stories, but this adaptation to the big screen is far more successful and a joy to experience.