Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, Watchmen embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own.
Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws and must embrace the nostalgia, Detective Angela Abar investigates the reemergence of a white supremacist terrorist group inspired by the long-deceased moral absolutist Rorschach.
The source material is a masterpiece, bold, uncompromising, subtle, witty, imaginative with very unique characters and an immersive world. Albeit one that is near-unfilmable, with the themes, the huge amount of content and the amount of depth needed. Also really liked the 2009 film version, flaws and all, by far Zack Snyder's best film and the only one to be close to being very good. So expectations were high for 2019's 'Watchmen', which is more a continuation set in an alternate universe than a direct adaptation.
'Watchmen' is well worth watching. It is not for everybody and it needed to get going quicker than it did and have a stronger finish for me to call it a masterpiece. There are though so many brilliant things, so in general to me the critical acclaim 'Watchmen' got is very much deserved. Even if the show didn't do much for me it would have been given at least a 4/10, and it doesn't deserve the extreme and very over the top negativity it got from the first episode alone from those that missed the point of what the show was trying to do. It goes very well with the film, as long as it's judged on its own terms (actually like them very much equally in their own way), and at its best it is as great as prime-'Lost' (that Damon Lindelof was also responsible for) and prime-'Game of Thrones', HBO's crowning jewel. The lesser episodes also to me still managed to be a lot better than the whole of the last season of 'Game of Thrones' and quite a lot better than lesser episodes of most shows (am including 'Lost' here too).
Is it perfect? As said, no. The first two episodes "It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice" and "Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship" see 'Watchmen' at its weakest. While they are stylish, well-acted, intriguing and do a great job with its world-building and immersing one into those worlds, they are also quite slow-going and not always easy to follow. So yeah, the show was a bit of a slow-starter.
Although very entertaining and intriguing (with some of the show's most memorable moments), the Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias storyline at first was too much of a disconnect with everything else and his role only start to get clearer in the twist (which was basically confirmation of what the viewer was speculating all along, and this was even before the show aired) in "She Was Killed By Space Junk".
Despite actually liking "See How They Fly" on the whole, to me it did end on an anti-climactic note that is crying out for a second season (have actually heard and seen varying accounts as to whether there is going to be one) and the episode was on the over-stuffed side at times.
However, so much is done right. 'Watchmen' looks fantastic for a start. Incredibly stylish and atmospheric, almost cinematic quality. Really loved the interiors and exteriors of Veidt's castle. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provide another winner of a music score, being someone that loves their score for 'Gone Girl', very haunting and adds to the unsettlement complete with clever use of sound. There is some inspired use of pre-existing music, and none of the choices and placements are questionable. No awkward use of Leonard Cohen here like there was in the film.
Every one of the nine episodes were clearly produced and directed with a lot of passion, especially evident in "This Extraordinary Being" and "A God Walks Into Abar" (containing some of the best television in recent years). This was clearly done by people that had clear love for the source material. The writing is throughout witty and thought-provoking, with a fair share of grit as well. Complete with some great references and inside jokes that are both knowing and affectionate. One of the funniest and strangest moments of the show being Veidt's trial. Once 'Watchmen' got going, the storytelling was very compelling, even if it was not a direct adaptation of the source material it always captures the spirit of it, more so than the film perhaps.
It is very bold and uncompromising in tone throughout, as ought, the themes in the source material carry over and are expanded upon. As well as done in a way that's relevant today and done with a lot of force in a way not for the easily-sensitive, which has been the source of the show's divisiveness here and online. Found the characters fascinating, the development of Looking Glass in "Little Fear of Lightning" being one of the most striking examples. All the performances are on point. Regina King is a commanding lead and Jean Smart is every bit her equal. Tim Blake Nelson kills it as Looking Glass, his performance in "Little Fear of Lightning" is a tour de force, and Jeremy Irons is a big improvement over Matthew Goode in the film (far more of a charismatic presence, a lot more enigmatic and energetic and he actually looked as if he was having fun).
Overall, very very good and nearly great, started off uneven for a few episodes but it became pretty much superb after that so well worth sticking with. 8/10
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