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Information about WatchmenWatchmen is a 2009 (8 years ago) superhero movie directed by Zack Snyder and starring Malin Akerman (14 walls), Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. It is an adaptation of the comic book of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Set in an alternate-history 1985 (32 years ago), tensions heighten between the United States and the Soviet Union as a group of former vigilantes investigates an apparent conspiracy against them and uncovers something even more grandiose and sinister.
Following publication of the Watchmen comic, a live-action movie adaptation was mired in development hell. Producer Lawrence Gordon began developing the project at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. (parent company of Watchmen publisher DC Comics) with producer Joel Silver and director Terry Gilliam, the latter eventually deeming the complex novel "unfilmable". During the 2000s, Gordon and Lloyd Levin collaborated with Universal Studios and Paramount pictures (wallpaper) to produce a script by David Hayter; Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass were also attached to the project before it was canceled over budget disputes. The project returned to Warner Bros., where Snyder was hired to direct – Paramount remained as international distributor. Fox sued Warner Bros. for copyright violation arising from Gordon's failure to pay a buy-out in 1991 (26 years ago), which enabled him to develop the movie at the other studios. Fox and Warner Bros. settled this before the film's release with Fox receiving a portion of the gross. Principal photography began in Vancouver, September, 2007 (10 years ago). As with his previous movie 300, Snyder closely modeled his storyboards on the comic, but chose to not shoot all of Watchmen using chroma key and opted for more sets.
The movie was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on Mar. 6, 2009 (8 years ago), grossing $55 million on the opening weekend, and grossed over $185 million at the worldwide box office. It divided movie critics; some gave it overwhelmingly positive reviews for the dark and unique take on the superhero genre, while others derided it for the same reason, as well as the R-rating, the running time, and the much-publicized accuracy to the graphic novel. A DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) based on elements of the Watchmen universe was released, including an animated adaptation of the comic Tales of the Black Freighter within the story, starring Gerard Butler (5 walls), and the documentary Under the Hood, detailing the older generation of superheroes from the film's back-story. A director's cut with 24 minutes of additional footage was released in July, 2009 (8 years ago).
PlotThe story takes place in an alternate timeline in which masked, costumed vigilantes fight crime in America, originally in response to a rise in masked and costumed gangs and criminals. In the 1930 (87 years ago) and '40s, the vigilantes formed a group called the Minutemen to "finish what the law couldn't." The original lineup often suffered early and violent deaths in action, or became suicides, or were arrested for breaking the law themselves, or in one case was committed to an asylum. Decades later, a second generation of "superheroes" attempts to form a team as well, called the Watchmen. Various historical events are shown to have been altered by the existence of superheroes, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War. The American victory in Vietnam, due to the intervention of the godlike being Doctor Manhattan, leads to Richard Nixon's third term as President following the repeal of term limits in the United States. By the 1980s, however, the Watchmen have been outlawed by Nixon after an outpouring of anti-vigilante sentiment in the country, and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union have escalated the Cold War with threats of nuclear attack.
By 1985 (32 years ago), only three adventurers remain active: the Comedian and Doctor Manhattan, both of whom act with government sanction, and the masked vigilante Rorschach, who refuses to retire and remains active illegally. Investigating the murder of government agent Edward Blake, Rorschach discovers that Blake was the Comedian, concluding that someone is trying to eliminate the original Watchmen. He goes off to warn his former comrades—the emotionally detached Dr. Jon Osterman (Doctor Manhattan) and his lover Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre), Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl), and Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias)—but he makes little progress.
After Blake's funeral, Dr. Manhattan is accused of causing the cancers afflicting his former girlfriend and colleagues from before the accident that turned him into the being he is now. Manhattan exiles himself to Mars, giving the Soviet Union the confidence to invade Afghanistan in his absence. Later, Rorschach's conspiracy theory appears to be justified when Adrian, who had long since made his identity as Ozymandias public before retiring, narrowly avoids an assassination attempt, and Rorschach finds himself framed for murder.
Meanwhile Jupiter, after breaking up with Manhattan, falls in love with Dreiberg, and the two former superheroes come out of retirement as they grow closer. After breaking Rorschach out of prison alongside Nite Owl, Silk Spectre is confronted by Manhattan. He takes her to Mars and after she asks him to save the world, explains he is no longer interested in humanity. Probing her memories, he discovers the Comedian was her father. His interest in humanity renewed, Manhattan returns to Earth with Silk Spectre.
Investigating the conspiracy, Rorschach and Nite Owl discover that Adrian may be behind everything. Rorschach records his suspicions in his journal, which he drops off at a newspaper office. Rorschach and Nite Owl confront Adrian, dressed in his Ozymandias costume, at his Antarctic retreat. Ozymandias confirms he is the mastermind behind The Comedian's murder, Manhattan's exile, and the framing of Rorschach; he also staged his own assassination attempt to place himself above suspicion. He explains that his plan is to unify the United States and Soviet Union and prevent nuclear war by destroying the world's main cities with exploding energy reactors he had Doctor Manhattan create for him under the pretense of providing free energy for the world. Rorschach and Nite Owl physically attempt to stop him, but Ozymandias easily beats the both of them. Ozymandias then reveals that his plan has already been set into motion. The energy signatures are recognized as Doctor Manhattan's, and the two opposing sides of the Cold War unite to combat their "common enemy."
Jupiter and Manhattan arrive at the ruins of New York City and realize Ozymandias's plan. They confront him in Antarctica and Adrian attempts to kill Manhattan with an intrinsic field subtractor, sacrificing his pet Bubastis. Dr. Manhattan reappears, but after seeing a news report in which President Nixon states that the US and Soviets have allied, Dr. Manhattan, in a state of helpless disbelief, realizes that killing Ozymandias and revealing the conspiracy would only break this peace and lead to war again. Rorschach is unwilling to remain silent and, upon exiting Ozymandias' retreat, is confronted by Manhattan. Knowing that he is the only one among them who wants to reveal Ozymandias' plot, he tells Manhattan to kill him. After much reluctance and coaxing by Rorschach himself, Manhattan finally kills him. Manhattan shares a final kiss with Jupiter and departs for another galaxy.
With the end of the Cold War and the uniting of humanity, Jupiter and Dreiberg return to a New York City being rebuilt, and begin a new life together. The movie closes with a newspaper editor in New York complaining of nothing worthwhile to print because of the world-wide peace. He tells a young employee that he may print whatever he likes from a collection of crank mailings, among which lies Rorschach's journal, implying that Veidt's plot may be unveiled to the world.
Development1986, producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver acquired movie rights to Watchmen for 20th Century Fox. Fox asked author Alan Moore to write a screenplay based on his story, but he declined, so the studio enlisted screenwriter Sam Hamm. Hamm took the liberty of re-writing Watchmen's complicated ending into a "more manageable" conclusion involving an assassination and a time paradox. Fox put the project into turnaround in 1991 (26 years ago), and the project was moved to Warner Bros., where Terry Gilliam was attached to direct and Charles McKeown to rewrite it. They used the character Rorschach's diary as a voice-over and restored scenes from the comic book that Hamm had removed. Gilliam and Silver were only able to raise $25 million for the movie (a quarter of the necessary budget) because their previous movies had gone overbudget. Gilliam abandoned the project because he decided that Watchmen would have been unfilmable. "Reducing [the story] to a two or two-and-a-half hour movie...seemed to me to take away the essence of what Watchmen is about," he said. After Warner Bros. dropped the project, Gordon invited Gilliam back to helm the movie independently. The director again declined, believing that the comic book would be better directed as a five-hour miniseries.
In Oct. 2001 (16 years ago), Gordon partnered with Lloyd Levin and Universal Studios, hiring David Hayter to write and direct. Hayter and the producers left Universal due to creative differences, and Gordon and Levin expressed interest in setting up Watchmen at Revolution Studios. The project did not hold together at Revolution Studios and subsequently fell apart. In Jul. 2004 (13 years ago), it was announced Paramount pictures (wallpaper) would produce Watchmen, and they attached Darren Aronofsky to direct Hayter's script. Producers Gordon and Levin remained attached, collaborating with Aronofsky's producing partner, Eric Watson. Paul Greengrass replaced Aronofsky when he left to focus on The Fountain. Ultimately, Paramount placed Watchmen in turnaround.
In Oct. 2005 (12 years ago), Gordon and Levin met with Warner Bros. to develop the movie there again. Impressed with Zack Snyder's work on 300, Warner Bros. approached him to direct an adaptation of Watchmen. Screenwriter Alex Tse drew from his favorite elements of Hayter's script, but also returned it to the original Cold War setting of the Watchmen comic. Similar to his approach to 300, Snyder used the comic book as a storyboard. He has extended the fight scenes, and added a subplot about energy resources to make the movie more topical. Although he intended to stay faithful to the look of the characters in the comic, Snyder intended Nite Owl to look scarier, and made Ozymandias' armor into a parody of the rubber muscle suits from 1997's Batman & Robin. While 20th Century Fox filed a lawsuit to block the film's release, the studios eventually settled, and Fox received an upfront payment and a percentage of the worldwide gross from the movie and all sequels and spin-offs in return.
Dave Gibbons became an adviser on Snyder's film, but Moore has refused to have his name attached to any movie adaptations of his work. Moore has stated he has no interest in seeing Snyder's adaptation; he told Entertainment Weekly in 2008 (9 years ago), "There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can't". While Moore believes that David Hayter's screenplay was "as close as I could imagine anyone getting to Watchmen," he asserted he did not intend to see the movie if it were made.
ReceptionThe original theatrical release of the movie received mixed reviews. Based on 255 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Watchmen currently has a 64% 'fresh' approval rating from critics, with an average score of 6.2/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes' Top Critics, which consists of notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, TV and radio programs, the movie holds a 'rotten' overall approval rating of 42%, with an average score of 5.2/10. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the movie has received an average score of 56, based on 39 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the movie was B on an A+ to F scale, and that the primary audience was older men.
Patrick Kolan of IGN Australia gave the movie an enormous amount of praise, awarding it a perfect 10/10 and saying "It's the Watchmen movie you always wanted to see, but never expected to get". Also praising the movie along with another perfect score (4/4) was Kyle Smith of the New York Post, comparing it to some of Stanley Kubrick's films. "Director Zack Snyder's cerebral, scintillating follow-up to 300 seems, to even a weary filmgoer's eye, as fresh and magnificent in sound and vision as 2001". Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars. "It’s a compelling visceral movie — sound, images (wallpaper) and characters combined into a decidedly odd visual experience that evokes the feel of a graphic novel." Richard Corliss of Time concluded "this ambitious picture (wallpaper) is a thing of bits and pieces", yet "the bits are glorious, the pieces magnificent." Total movie awarded it 4/5 stars, stating: "It's hard to imagine anyone watching the Watchmen as faithfully as Zack Snyder's heartfelt, stylised adap. Uncompromising, uncommercial, and unique." When comparing the movie to the original source material, Ian Nathan of Empire felt that while "it isn't the graphic novel... Zack Snyder clearly gives a toss, creating a smart, stylish, decent adaptation". Nick Dent of Time Out Sydney gave the movie 4/6 in his review of Feb. 25, praising the film's inventiveness but concluding, "While Watchmen is still as rich, daring, and intelligent an action movie as there's ever been, it also proves Moore absolutely right [that Watchmen is inherently unfilmable]. As a comic book, Watchmen is an extraordinary thing. As a movie, it's just another movie, awash with sound and fury."
The negative reviews generally cite the film's much-advertised reverence to the source material, as statically replicating – rather than creatively interpreting – Alan Moore's graphic novel. "Watchmen is a bore...It sinks under the weight of its reverence for the original," wrote Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post. Devin Gordon wrote for Newsweek, "That's the trouble with loyalty. Too little, and you alienate your core fans. Too much, and you lose everyone – and everything – else." Owen Gleiberman's Entertainment Weekly review reads, "Snyder treats each image (wallpaper) with the same stuffy hermetic reverence. He doesn't move the camera or let the scenes breathe. He crams the movie with bits and pieces, trapping his actors like bugs wriggling in the frame." "[Snyder] never pauses to develop a vision of his own. The result is oddly hollow and disjointed; the actors moving stiffly from one overdetermined tableau to another," said Noah Berlatsky of the Chicago Reader. David Edelstein of New York agrees: "They’ve made the most reverent adaptation of a graphic novel ever. But this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed." A reviewer in The Wall Street Journal wrote, "Watching 'Watchmen' is the spiritual equivalent of being whacked on the skull for 163 minutes. The reverence is inert, the violence noxious, the mythology murky, the tone grandiose, the texture glutinous." Donald Clarke of The Irish Times was similarly dismissive: "Snyder, director of the unsubtle 300, has squinted hard at the source material and turned it into a colossal animated storyboard, augmented by indifferent performances and moronically obvious music cues." The trade magazines Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were even less taken with the film. Variety's Justin Chang commented that, "The movie is ultimately undone by its own reverence; there's simply no room for these characters and stories to breathe of their own accord, and even the most fastidiously replicated scenes can feel glib and truncated," and Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter writing, "The real disappointment is that the movie does not transport an audience to another world, as 300 did. Nor does the third-rate Chandler-esque narration by Rorschach help...Looks like we have the first real flop of 2009 (8 years ago)."
Analyzing the divided response, Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times felt that, like Eyes Wide Shut, The Passion of the Christ or Fight Club (9 walls), Watchmen would continue to be a talking point among those who liked or disliked the film. Boucher felt in spite of his own mixed feelings about the finished film, he was "oddly proud" that the director had made a faithful adaptation that was "nothing less than the boldest popcorn movie ever made. Snyder somehow managed to get a major studio to make a movie with no stars, no 'name' superheroes and a hard R-rating, thanks to all those broken bones, that oddly off-putting Owl Ship sex scene and, of course, the unforgettable glowing blue penis."
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