It is 1985, Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term as US president and the world stands on the brink of destruction as the world's two superpowers vie for nuclear supremacy. The only thing stopping the USSR from launching a doomsday attack is America's Dr Manhattan – a being with enough power to destroy planets and much else besides.
Wow! I was lucky enough to watch this at a preview screening in London last night and came to the film with little knowledge about what to expect. Having seen the posters around the place and perhaps catching one or two of the trailers I was expecting something akin to another "X-Men" movie (which frankly I've never found particularly interesting). However, it was a very pleasant surprise to find that Zack Snyder has served up something entirely fresh and quite dazzling. Watchmen takes the well-worn superhero format and turns it on its head. As you would expect from a movie of this genre you get a tale of attempted world domination by evil baddies, good guys wearing latex costumes, fistfuls of action and spectacular special effects. What you would not expect is to have this interwoven with eye-watering violence (a scene where one particularly nasty bad guy gets a meat cleaver brought down on his forehead being one example), full frontal male nudity (albeit computer generated) and rampant satire. The US political system, military posturing and blind patriotism are all given a bit of a roasting by David Hayter and Alex Tse's script. Add to this a host of compelling performances, notably Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach and Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl, and you have an exceptional cinematic experience.
Watchmen is no ordinary superhero movie and likely to manage the difficult feat of satisfying both the fan-boys and the uninitiated punters (like myself). Its success means it must be highly likely that there will be a sequel – if not several. Catch this early if you can and be one of the first to witness that rarefied thing in cinema – something beautiful, exciting and original