Watchmen is a 2009 American neo-noir superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, based on the 1986–87 DC Comics limited series of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It stars an ensemble cast of Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson. A dark satirical and dystopian take on the superhero genre, the film is set in an alternate history in the year 1985 at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, as a group of mostly retired American superheroes investigates the murder of one of their own before uncovering an elaborate and deadly conspiracy, while their moral limitations are challenged by the complex nature of the circumstances.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Zack Snyder|
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Edited by||William Hoy|
|Box office||$185.3 million|
From October 1987 until October 2005, a live-action film adaptation of the Watchmen series became stranded in development hell; producer Lawrence Gordon began developing the project at 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., the parent company of Watchmen publisher DC Comics, with producer Joel Silver and director Terry Gilliam, with the latter eventually deeming the complex comic "un-filmable". During the 2000s, Gordon and Lloyd Levin collaborated with Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures to produce a script by David Hayter; Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass were also attached to the project before it was cancelled over budget disputes; and in October 2005, the project returned to Warner Bros., where Snyder was hired to direct; Paramount remained as its international distributor whereas Warner Bros. would distribute the film in the United States. However, Fox sued Warner Bros. for copyright violation arising from Gordon's failure to pay a buy-out in 1991, which enabled him to develop the film 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. As with his previous film 300, Snyder closely modelled his storyboards on the comic, but chose not to shoot all of Watchmen using green screens and opted for real sets instead.
Following its world premiere at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2009, the film was released in both conventional and IMAX theaters on March 6, 2009, and grossed $55 million on its opening weekend and over $185 million at the worldwide box office. The film polarized fans and critics; the style was praised, but Snyder was accused of making an action film that lacked the subtlety and wit of the comic. A DVD 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, and the fictional biography 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. The "Ultimate Cut" edition incorporated the animated comic Tales of the Black Freighter into the narrative as it was in the original graphic novel, lengthening the runtime to 3 hours and 35 minutes, and was released on November 3, 2009. The directors cut was received better than the theatrical release.
Using an alternative timeline and applying multiverse theory, the story exists in a nearly identical, but separate America, while slightly mimicking both historically significant time periods. Initially starting in 1939, during the fading Interwar Period, a team of costumed crime fighters called the Minutemen formed in response to a rise in costumed gangs and criminals; this creation and timeline occurring prior to, and similarly covering the 1960s Vietnam War Era through mid-1980s Cold War Era America, saw the rise of the "Watchmen" team formed decades later (originally called the Crimebusters in Watchmen). Their existence and influence dramatically affected world events: Doctor Manhattan's powers have helped the United States win the Vietnam War, and given the West a strategic near-peer parity military advantage over the Soviet Union, which by 1985 threatens to escalate the Cold War into a fully committed thermonuclear war. Additionally, the Comedian has suppressed evidence of the Watergate Scandal, allowing President Richard Nixon to stand for, be re-elected, and serve multiple consecutive Presidential Terms. Owing to success in ending the War, dodging The Watergate Incident, and overwhelming support sees a full Repeal of the 22nd Amendment.
Eventually, growing anti-vigilante sentiment is sweeping the U.S. general public, coupled with a massive nationwide police strike, enables the passing of the Keene Act, deeming all "costumed adventuring" and "vigilantism" illegal. While many of the heroes retire, Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian operate as government-sanctioned agents, and Rorschach continues to operate outside the law.
While investigating the murder of government agent Edward Blake, Rorschach discovers that Blake was the Comedian, and theorizes that someone may be attempting to eliminate former costumed heroes. He warns his retired comrades—Daniel Dreiberg (Nite Owl II), Dr. Manhattan, and the latter's lover, also a former heroine Laurie Jupiter (Silk Spectre II). Dr. Manhattan ignores Rorschach, and Dreiberg is skeptical, but relays this information to vigilante-turned-billionaire Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias), who also dismisses it.
At a press conference, reporter Ted Koppel proposes that Dr. Manhattan has given several people close to him cancer, bringing in his ex-girlfriend to reveal that she also has cancer. Outraged, the attendees surround and question Dr. Manhattan, who angrily exiles himself to Mars, giving the Soviets the confidence to invade Afghanistan. Rorschach's theory appears to be justified when Veidt narrowly avoids an assassination attempt, and Rorschach finds himself framed for the murder of a former villain named Moloch. When Rorschach is arrested, his identity is revealed to be Walter Kovacs, and he is sent to prison. Jupiter goes to stay with Dreiberg after breaking up with Dr. Manhattan. The two become lovers and decide to come out of retirement. After helping Rorschach break out of prison, Jupiter is confronted by Dr. Manhattan, who transports her to Mars. As he probes her memories, he discovers that she is Blake's daughter, and realizes the miracle of her life, created in spite of her parents' turbulent relationship. He then returns to Earth with her.
Investigating the conspiracy, Rorschach and Dreiberg discover that Veidt is behind everything. Rorschach records his suspicions in his journal, which he drops off at the publication office of the New Frontiersman, a right-wing tabloid. Rorschach and Dreiberg confront Veidt at his Antarctic retreat. Veidt admits to being responsible for Blake's murder, Manhattan's exile, Rorschach's framing, and his own assassination attempt. He explains that his plan is to unify the U.S. and U.S.S.R. by destroying the world's main cities with exploding energy reactors generating a Radioactive Decay Signature similar to that produced by Dr. Manhattan. Rorschach and Dreiberg attempt to stop him, but Veidt subdues them both and reveals that his plan has already been set into motion: The reactors already detonated, and the Decay Signatures are recognized as Dr. Manhattan's, leaving the world powers to assume he caused the attack.
Jupiter and Dr. Manhattan arrive in a destroyed New York City and determine that Veidt is responsible. They teleport to his base, causing him to retreat and attempt to kill Dr. Manhattan. Unsuccessful, he shows them a televised news report in which Nixon states that the two superpowers have allied against their new "common enemy": Dr. Manhattan. Although his allies realize that revealing the truth would only disrupt this new peace, Rorschach refuses to compromise, and attempts to return to the United States to expose Veidt. Dr. Manhattan intervenes and complies with Rorschach's demand to kill him to keep him from revealing the truth.
Dr. Manhattan shares a final kiss with Jupiter before departing permanently to another galaxy, while an enraged Dreiberg attacks Veidt, who makes no effort to defend himself. Nevertheless, he defends his actions, claiming that for world peace to be possible, there had to be sacrifice. Dreiberg rejects his logic declaring that Veidt has deformed and mutilated humanity. Dreiberg and Jupiter return to New York with plans to continue fighting crime. Later, an editor of the New Frontiersman tells a young employee that, as the world is at peace, there is nothing to report on. The editor gives the employee permission to print the contents of a collection of crank mailings, among which is Rorschach's journal, thus revealing the truth.
Cast and charactersEdit
Production for Watchmen began casting in July 2007 for look-alikes of the era's famous names for the film—something Snyder declared would give the film a "satirical quality" and "create this '80s vibe"— including Richard Nixon, Leonid Brezhnev, Henry Kissinger, H. R. Haldeman, Ted Koppel, John McLaughlin, Annie Leibovitz, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fidel Castro (portrayed by John Kobylka), Albert Einstein, Norman Rockwell, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy (portrayed by Brett Stimely and Carrie Genzel), Andy Warhol (portrayed by Greg Travis), Truman Capote (portrayed by Greg Armstrong-Morris), Elvis Presley, Mao Zedong, Larry King, David Bowie (portrayed by J.R. Killigrew), Mick Jagger (portrayed by Steven Stojkovic), Lee Iacocca, and the Village People. Snyder said he wanted younger actors because of the many flashback scenes, and it was easier to age actors with make-up rather than cast two actors in the same role. Snyder's son appears as a young Rorschach, while the director himself appears as an American soldier in Vietnam. Actor Thomas Jane was invited by Snyder, but declined to work in the film due to being too busy.
- A 35-year-old masked vigilante who continues his extralegal activities after they are outlawed. He takes his name from the Rorschach test, as the shifting black-and-white patterns on his mask resemble its inkblots. Unlike the other principal actors, Haley had read the comic as a young adult and was keen to pursue the role when he heard he had become a favorite candidate among fans. Rorschach wears a mask with ink blots: motion capture markers were put on the contours of Haley's blank mask for animators to create his ever-changing expressions. Haley has a black belt in kenpō, but described Rorschach's attack patterns as sloppier and more aggressive due to the character's boxing background. Rorschach appears several times in the movie without his mask before he is apprehended, carrying a placard sign proclaiming, "The End is Nigh," but not until he is unmasked by the police is it made apparent that the sign bearer is Rorschach.
- Eli Snyder as Young Walter Kovacs
- A 40-year-old retired superhero with technological expertise. Snyder cast Wilson after watching 2006's Little Children, which also co-starred Haley. Wilson put on 25 pounds (11 kg) to play the overweight Dreiberg. He compared Dreiberg to a soldier who returns from war unable to fit into society.
- Åkerman described her character as the psychology and the emotion of the film due to being the only woman among the men. The actress worked out and trained to fight for her portrayal of the crime-fighter.
- Haley Guiel as Young Laurie Jupiter
- The only member of the group with genuine superpowers, Dr. Manhattan is virtually omnipotent and works for the U.S. government. He is a scientist who suffered an accident during 1959 , giving him superhuman powers. Crudup plays Osterman in flashbacks as a human and is replaced for his post-accident scenes with a motion-capture CG version of himself. During filming, Crudup acted opposite his co-stars, wearing a white suit covered in blue LEDs, so he would give off an otherworldly glow in real life, just as the computer-generated Manhattan does in the movie. His body was modeled on that of fitness model and actor Greg Plitt. The crew then 3D-digitized Crudup's head and "frankensteined it onto Greg Plitt's body." Snyder chose not to electronically alter Crudup's voice for Manhattan, explaining the character "would try and put everyone as much at ease as he could, instead of having a robotic voice that I think would feel off-putting."
- Jaryd Heidrick as Young Jon Osterman
- A retired superhero who has since made his identity public. At first Snyder wanted Jude Law (a big fan of the character) for the part, but said that Goode was "big and tall and lean," which aided in bringing "this beautiful ageless, German superman" feel to the character. Goode interpreted Veidt's back-story to portray him with a German accent in private and an American one in public; Goode explained Veidt gave up his family's wealth and traveled the world, becoming a self-made man because he was ashamed of his parents' Nazi past, which in turn highlighted the themes of the American Dream and the character's duality. Snyder said Goode "fit the bill... We were having a hard time casting [the role], because we needed someone handsome, beautiful and sophisticated, and that's a tough combo."
- A superhero and a former member of the Minutemen who is commissioned by the U.S. government as a black-ops specialist. When reading the comic for the part, Morgan stopped when he saw his character was killed off three pages in. When telling his agent he did not want the part, he was told to continue reading it and find out how important his character was. Morgan found the role a challenge, explaining, "For some reason, in reading the novel, you don't hate this guy even though he does things that are unmentionable. [...] My job is to kind of make that translate, so as a viewer you end up not making excuses to like him, but you don't hate him like you should for doing the things that he does." Of his casting, Snyder said, "It's hard to find a man's man in Hollywood. It just is. And Jeffrey came in and was grumpy and cool and grizzled, and I was, like, 'OK, Jeffrey is perfect!'"
- Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre:
- A retired superheroine, mother of Laurie Juspeczyk and the first Silk Spectre. Gugino's character ages from 25 years old in the 1940s to 67 years old in the 1980s, and the 37-year-old actress wore prosthetics to reflect the aging process. Gugino described her character's superhero outfit as "Bettie Page meets Alberto Vargas."
- Dan Payne as William Brady / Dollar Bill:
- A deceased member, Brady was a bank-sponsored member of The Minutemen who was created for publicity purposes. He dies during a bank robbery in 1947 when his cape is caught in the bank's revolving doors, allowing the robbers to shoot him at point-blank range.
- Niall Matter as Byron Lewis / Mothman:
- A former member, Lewis had a privileged upbringing and sought to help the less fortunate and fight oppression and corruption as a crime fighter. To this end, Lewis created a costume with special wings that helped him glide. His mental stability ultimately deteriorated after he was called before HUAC, leading to him being forcibly brought to a mental asylum.
- Apollonia Vanova as Ursula Zandt / The Silhouette:
- Deceased. A gun-toting vigilante, motivated by the deaths of her parents and sister at the hands of the Nazis in their native Austria. Zandt is killed along with her lesbian lover in what is implied to be a hate crime.
- Glenn Ennis as Hooded Justice:
- A deceased former member, H.J. was a violent vigilante who was trained in hand-to-hand combat.
- Darryl Scheelar as Nelson Gardner / Captain Metropolis:
- A former Marine Lieutenant, he was one of the more active members of the Minutemen, having organized its formation. He died in a car accident in 1974 that left him decapitated, and is believed by some to be a form of suicide.
- Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason / Nite Owl:
- A retired former member and the first Nite Owl, Mason now works in an auto shop.
- Clint Carleton as Young Hollis Mason
- A former supervillain. Moloch was jailed for a time during the 1970s. He is dying of cancer which he received from Adrian Veidt. Moloch was later murdered by Adrian who frames Rorschach.
- Mike Carpenter as Young Moloch
- A scientist who was Osterman's first girlfriend until he fell for Laurie.
- Danny Woodburn as Big Figure:
- A jailed dwarfish crime boss and former adversary of Nite Owl and Rorschach. He tries to get revenge when Rorschach is imprisoned in the same jail as he is.
- Robert Wisden as Richard Nixon
- Sean Allan and Garry Chalk as NORAD Generals
- Michael Kopsa as Paul Klein
- Ted Cole as Dick Cavett
- Chris Gauthier as Seymour
- Salli Saffioti as Annie Leibovitz
- Gary Houston as John McLaughlin
Jay Brazeau cameos as a news vendor. Mark Acheson cameos as a large man at Happy Harry's. Leah Gibson cameos as Silhouette's girlfriend. Alessandro Juliani cameos as a Rockefeller Military Base technician.
In 1986, producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver acquired film rights to Watchmen for 20th Century Fox. After author Alan Moore declined to write a screenplay based on his story, Fox enlisted screenwriter Sam Hamm. Hamm rewrote Watchmen's complicated ending, making a "more manageable" conclusion involving an assassination and a time paradox. Fox put the project into turnaround in 1991, and the project was moved to Warner Bros., where Terry Gilliam was attached to direct and Charles McKeown to rewrite it. Gilliam and Silver were only able to raise $25 million for the film (a quarter of the necessary budget) because their previous films had gone overbudget.Gilliam eventually left Watchmen, describing the comic as "unfilmable", and Warner Bros. dropped the project.
In October 2001, 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 July 2004, it was announced Paramount Pictures would produce Watchmen, and Michael Bay was considered to direct. Eventually, 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 October 2005, Gordon and Levin met with Warner Bros. to develop the film there again. Tim Burton at one point expressed interest in directing the film but ultimately turned it down. 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. Following negotiations, Paramount, which had already spent $7 million in their failed project, earned the rights for international distribution of Watchmen and 25% of the film's ownership.
The fight scenes were extended, and a subplot about energy resources was added to make the film 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. Production took place in Vancouver, where a New York City back lot was built. Sound stages were used for apartments and offices, while sequences on Mars and in Antarctica were shot against green screens. Filming started on September 17, 2007, and ended on February 19, 2008, on an estimated $120 million budget. To handle the 1,100 shots featuring visual effects, a quarter of them being computer-generated imagery, ten different effects companies were involved with Watchmen. 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 film 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 film adaptations of his work. Moore has stated he has no interest in seeing Snyder's adaptation; he told Entertainment Weekly in 2008, "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 film if it were made.
Both a soundtrack and excerpts from Tyler Bates' film score were released as albums on March 3, 2009. The soundtrack features three songs written by Bob Dylan—"Desolation Row", "All Along the Watchtower" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'"—with only the latter performed by Dylan on the soundtrack. It includes some songs mentioned in the comic, such as Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "All Along the Watchtower" are also quoted in the graphic novel. Music by Philip Glass from Koyaanisqatsi plays when Dr. Manhattan is looking back on his life when he arrives on Mars. The Introitus of Mozart's Requiem appears at the end of the film. "Desolation Row" was covered by My Chemical Romance especially for the film, and the song plays in the end credits.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment published a USA-only episodic video game to be released alongside the film called Watchmen: The End Is Nigh. Warner Bros. took this low-key approach to avoid rushing the game on such a tight schedule, as most games adapted from films are panned by critics and consumers. The game is set in the 1970s, and is written by Len Wein, the comic's editor; Dave Gibbons is also an advisor. On March 4, 2009, Glu Mobile released Watchmen: The Mobile Game, a beat 'em up mobile game featuring Nite Owl and The Comedian fighting enemies in their respective settings of New York City and Vietnam. On March 6, 2009, a game for the Apple Inc. iPhone and iPod Touch platform was released, titled Watchmen: Justice is Coming. Though highly anticipated, this mobile title suffered from serious game play and network issues which have yet to be resolved.
As a promotion for the film, Warner Bros. Entertainment released Watchmen: Motion Comic, a series of narrated animations of the original comic book. The first chapter was released for purchase in the summer of 2008 on digital video stores, such as iTunes Store and Amazon Video on Demand. DC Direct released action figures based on the film in January 2009. Director Zack Snyder also set up a YouTube contest petitioning Watchmen fans to create faux commercials of products made by the fictional Veidt Enterprises. The producers also released two short video pieces online, which were intended to be viral videos designed as fictional backstory pieces, with one being a 1970 newscast marking the tenth anniversary of the public appearance of Dr. Manhattan. The other was a short propaganda film promoting the Keene Act of 1977, which made it illegal to be a superhero without government support. An official viral marketing web site, The New Frontiersman, is named after the tabloid magazine featured in the graphic novel, and contains teasers styled as declassified documents. After the trailer to the film premiered in July 2008, DC Comics president Paul Levitz said that the company had had to print more than 900,000 copies of Watchmen trade collection to meet the additional demand for the book that the advertising campaign had generated, with the total annual print run expected to be over one million copies. DC Comics reissued Watchmen #1 for the original cover price of $1.50 on December 10, 2008; no other issues are to be reprinted.
Tales of the Black Freighter, a fictional comic within the Watchmen limited series, was adapted as a 26-minute, direct-to-video animated feature from Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation titled Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter, and released on March 24, 2009. It was originally included in the Watchmen script, but was changed from live-action footage to animation because of the $20 million it would have cost to film it in the stylized manner of 300 that Snyder wanted; this animated version, originally intended to be included in the final cut, was then cut because the film was already approaching a three-hour running time. Gerard Butler, who starred in 300, voices the Captain in the animated feature, having been promised a role in the live-action film that never materialized. Jared Harris voices his deceased friend Ridley, whom the Captain hallucinates is talking to him. Snyder had Butler and Harris record their parts together. International rights to Black Freighter are held by Paramount.
The Black Freighter releases also include Under the Hood, a 38-minute, fictional in-universe documentary detailing the characters' backstories, which takes its title from that of Hollis Mason's memoirs in the comic book. Under the Hood is rated PG because it is meant to resemble a behind-the-scenes television news magazine profile of the characters. The actors were allowed to improvise during filming interviews in character. Bolex cameras were even used to film "archive" footage of the Minutemen.
In addition, the 325-minute Watchmen: Motion Comic was released via Blu-ray, DVD and digital video stores on March 3, 2009.
Warner released a 186-minute director's cut of the film, expanded from the 162-minute theatrical cut, on all formats on July 21, 2009. This was followed by the November 10, 2009, home video release of the 215-minute "Ultimate Cut". It comprises the director's cut with Tales of the Black Freighter edited in throughout, along with additional newsstand framing sequences. The Ultimate Cut was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on July 19, 2016.
Watchmen debuted at the top of the rental, DVD, and Blu-ray charts. First week sales of the DVD stood at 1,232,725 copies, generating $24,597,425 in sales revenue. By November 1, 2009, the DVD had sold a total of 2,510,321 copies and made $46,766,383 in revenue.
Watchmen was released at midnight on March 5, 2009, and earned an estimated $4.6 million for the early showing, which is approximately twice as much as 300, Snyder's previous comic book adaptation. The film earned $24,515,772 in 3,611 theaters its first day, and later finished its opening weekend grossing $55,214,334. Watchmen's opening weekend is the highest of any Alan Moore adaptation to date, and the income was also greater than the entire box office take of From Hell, which ended its theatrical run with $31,602,566. Although the film finished with $55 million for its opening, while Snyder's previous adaptation 300 earned $70 million in its opening weekend, Warner Bros.' head of distribution, Dan Fellman, believes that the opening weekend success of the two films cannot be compared due to the extended running time of Watchmen—the film comes in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, while 300 is just under two hours—provides the 2009 film with fewer showings a night than 300. Next to the general theaters, Watchmen pulled in $5.4 million at 124 IMAX screens, which was the fifth-largest opening behind Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek, Avatar, and The Dark Knight.
Following its first week at the box office, Watchmen saw a significant drop in attendance. By the end of its second weekend, the film brought in $17,817,301, finishing second on that weekend's box office. The 67.7% overall decrease was at the time of its release one of the highest for a major comic book film. Losing two thirds of its audience from its opening weekend, the film finished second for the weekend of March 13–15, 2009. The film continued to drop about 60% in almost every subsequent weekend, leaving the top ten in its fifth weekend, and the top twenty in its seventh. Watchmen crossed the $100 million mark on March 26, its twenty-first day at the box office, and finished its theatrical run in the United States on May 28, having grossed $107,509,799 in 84 days. The film had grossed one fifth of its ultimate gross on its opening day, and more than half of that total by the end of its opening weekend.
Watchmen sits sixteenth in all-time March openings as of March 2019, as well as the eighteenth-largest opening for an R-rated film in North American history. It was the sixth-highest-grossing R-rated film of 2009, behind The Hangover, Inglourious Basterds, District 9, Paranormal Activity, and It's Complicated. At the North American box office, Watchmen currently sits in the lower half of the thirty-two films based on a DC Comics comic book (narrowly ahead of 1997's Batman & Robin), and the 31st-highest-grossing film of 2009.
Watchmen earned $26.6 million in 45 territories overseas; of these, Britain and France had the highest box office with an estimated $4.6 million and $2.5 million, respectively. Watchmen also took in approximately $2.3 million in Russia, $2.3 million in Australia, $1.6 million in Italy, and $1.4 million in Korea. The film collected $77,743,688 in foreign box office, bringing its worldwide total to $185,253,487.
Watchmen received a polarizing reaction from both audiences and critics. Some critics gave it overwhelmingly positive reviews for the dark and unique take on the superhero genre, the cast, and the visual effects; others derided it for the same reasons, as well as the R rating, the running time, and its narrative for being too confusing to follow.[improper synthesis?]
On Rotten Tomatoes, Watchmen has a 64% approval rating based on 302 reviews and an average rating of 6.33/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Gritty and visually striking, Watchmen is a faithful adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel, but its complex narrative structure may make it difficult for it to appeal to viewers not already familiar with the source material." By comparison, on Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 56 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the film was B on an A+ to F scale, and that the primary audience was older men.
Patrick Kolan of IGN Australia awarded it a perfect 10/10 and said, "It's the Watchmen film you always wanted to see, but never expected to get." Also praising the film 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 and wrote: "It's a compelling visceral film—sound, images 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 is a thing of bits and pieces," yet "the bits are glorious, the pieces magnificent." Jonathan Crocker of Total Film awarded it 4/5 stars, with the verdict: "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 film 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 film 4/6 in his review of February 25, praising the film's inventiveness but concluding, "While Watchmen is still as rich, daring, and intelligent an action film as there's ever been, it also proves Moore absolutely right [that Watchmen is inherently un-filmable]. As a comic book, Watchmen is an extraordinary thing. As a movie, it's just another movie, awash with sound and fury."
Some critics who wrote negative reviews disliked the film's use and depiction of the Cold War-period setting, stating that the film's attempt to use the 1980s fears that never came to pass felt dated, and that Snyder's slavish devotion to faithfully adapting the source material as literally as possible did not allow his work to exhibit a creative distinctiveness of its own, and that as a result, the film and its characters lacked vitality and authenticity. Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post, for example wrote, "Watchmen is a bore [...] It sinks under the weight of its reverence for the original." 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 with the same stuffy hermetic reverence. He doesn't move the camera or let the scenes breathe. He crams the film with bits and pieces, trapping his actors like bugs wriggling in the frame." "[Snyder] never pause[s] 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." Joe Morgenstern of 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. Justin Chang of Variety 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 film 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."
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, 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."
Watchmen was nominated for one award at the 2009 VES Awards, seven awards at the 36th Saturn Awards, and 13 awards at the 2009 Scream Awards. The film was also pre-nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, although it did not make the final shortlist.
|36th Saturn Awards|
|Best Fantasy Film||Won|
|Best Director||Zack Snyder||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Malin Åkerman||Nominated|
|Best Writing||Alex Tse and David Hayter||Nominated|
|Best Costume||Michael Wilkinson||Won|
|Best Production Design||Nominated|
|Best Special Edition DVD Release||Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut||Won|
|2009 Scream Awards|
|Best Fantasy Film||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Carla Gugino||Nominated|
|Breakout Performance-Female||Malin Åkerman||Nominated|
|Scream Song of the Year||"Desolation Row" by My Chemical Romance||Nominated|
|Best Superhero||Jackie Earle Haley||Nominated|
|Most Memorable Mutilation||Arms Cut off by Rotary Saw||Nominated|
|Fight Scene of the Year||Ozymandias v. The Comedian||Nominated|
|Holy Sh!t! Scene of the Year||The Destruction of Manhattan||Nominated|
|Best Comic Book Movie||Won|
|2009 VES Awards||Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture||Doctor Manhattan||Nominated|
- "Watchmen". AFI Catalog of Feature Films.
- "Watchmen (2009) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
- "Watchmen (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
- Belloni, Matthew (April 20, 2009). "Date set for 'Watchmen' mediation". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
- Hoberek, Andrew (2014). Considering Watchmen: Poetics, Property, Politics. Rutgers University Press. p. 127. ISBN 9780813572963.
- Hardie, Beth (February 24, 2009). "Watchmen premiere: The stars come out in London – video and pics". Daily Mirror. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
- Shepard, Jack (February 23, 2019). "Watchmen at 10: The fascinating story of how the 'unfilmable' comic book series finally made it to the big screen". Independent. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
- Thill, Scott (March 23, 2009). "Watchmen Back Story Unspools in Under the Hood DVD". Wired.com. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
- McMillan, Graeme (November 14, 2008). "Who Names The Watchmen?". io9 (Movies). Gizmodo. Gizmodo Media Group. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
As those who've read the original series know, neither of the story's two superteams are actually called 'the Watchmen'—There are the original Minutemen, and then the more modern Crimebusters—[s]o why is someone in the trailer telling the audience that 'the Watchmen are... over'?
- Carroll, Larry (March 2, 2009). "Lee Iacocca Is Alive and Well — And Not Looking Forward to Watchmen Movie". MTV. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- "Look-Alikes Being Cast for Watchmen". ComingSoon.net. July 3, 2007. Retrieved July 3, 2007.
- Larry, Carroll (November 14, 2008). "'Watchmen' Set Visit: Zack Snyder's Enthusiasm, The Owl Ship And ... The Village People?". MTV. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
- Douglas, Edward (July 27, 2007). "Zack Snyder Talks Watchmen!". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved July 27, 2007.
- Franklin, Garth (2008). "Dark Horizons | Special Feature: Zack Snyder on Watchmen". Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved November 8, 2008.
- Sciretta, Peter (February 9, 2009). "Photo: Zack Snyder's Watchmen Cameo". /Film. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved February 9, 2009.
- "Fanboy Radio #405 - Thomas Jane Returns LIVE". Fanboy Radio. July 27, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
- Kit, Borys (July 26, 2007). "Watchmen powering up with castings". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 1, 2007. Retrieved July 26, 2007.
- Hewitt, Chris (March 2009). "Under the Hood". Empire. pp. 76–85.
- "Zack Snyder Fan Q&A — Part II". WatchmenComicMovie.com. February 14, 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
- Crocker, Jonathan (February 2009). "Hero Complex". Total Film. pp. 52–59.
- Crocker, Jonathan (February 11, 2009). "The Characters of Watchmen". IGN. Retrieved February 12, 2009.
- Newgen, Heather (September 29, 2007). "Malin Åkerman Talks Watchmen". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved September 29, 2007.
- McCarthy, Erin (March 9, 2009). "The Making of Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on April 10, 2009. Retrieved April 5, 2009.
- Leupp, Thomas (October 7, 2008). "New Watchmen Footage Raises New Questions". ReelzChannel. Archived from the original on October 10, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
- "Capone Interviews Ozymandias! Matthew Goode Talks Brideshead Revisited and Watchmen!". Ain't It Cool News. July 21, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- Lovece, Frank (March 1, 2009). "'300' director Zack Snyder is 'Watchmen' hero". Newsday. Archived from the original on March 3, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Newgen, Heather (December 8, 2007). "Morgan and Butler Talk Watchmen". Superhero Hype!. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
- Thompson, Anne (August 26, 1986). "Filmmakers intent on producing new comic-book movies". Sun-Sentinel.
- Hughes, David (April 22, 2002). "Who Watches the Watchmen? – How The Greatest Graphic Novel of Them All Confounded Hollywood". The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. Chicago Review Press; updated and expanded edition Titan Books (2008). ISBN 978-1-84576-755-6.
- Cieply, Michael (September 20, 2008). "Battle Over 'Watchmen' Surrounds a Producer". The New York Times. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
- "Python Won't Bite For Watchmen". Empire Online. November 13, 2000. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Stax (October 27, 2001). "David Hayter Watches The Watchmen". IGN. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Kit, Borys (December 19, 2005). "'Watchmen' on Duty at Warner Bros". The Book Standard. Archived from the original on March 28, 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2006.
- Linder, Brian (July 23, 2004). "Aronofksy Still Watching Watchmen". IGN. Retrieved October 18, 2008.
- Borys Kit (July 23, 2004). "Watchmen unmasked for Par, Aronofsky". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Kit, Borys; Liza Foreman (November 22, 2004). "Greengrass, Par on Watchmen". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- "Someone To Watch Over Watchmen". Empire Online. June 7, 2005. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Stax (October 25, 2005). "Watchmen Resurrected?". IGN. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Robert Sanchez (February 13, 2007). "Exclusive Interview: Zack Snyder Is Kickin' Ass With 300 and Watchmen!". IESB. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Ellwood, Gregory (July 18, 2006). "World awaits Watchmen". Variety. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
- Weiland, Jonah (March 14, 2007). "300 Post-Game: One-on-One with Zack Snyder". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved March 16, 2007.
- John Horn (November 16, 2008). "A super battle over 'Watchmen'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 17, 2008.
- Davis, Erik (October 7, 2008). "Cinematical Watches The 'Watchmen'". Cinematical. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Jeff Jensen (July 17, 2008). "'Watchmen': An Exclusive First Look". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 18, 2008.
- "Exclusive Zack Snyder Video Interview Backstage at Saturn Awards". Collider.com. June 26, 2008. Retrieved June 27, 2008.
- Kiel Phegley (August 21, 2007). "Zack Snyder prepares for Watchmen". Wizard. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
- Jonah Weiland (November 9, 2006). "Snyder Gives A Watchmen Update". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved November 9, 2006.
- Eric Vespe (July 29, 2007). "Zack Snyder and Quint have a brief conversation about Watchmen! Pirate storyline! Rorschach! More!!!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
- Zack Snyder (February 19, 2008). "That's a wrap!". Warner Bros. Retrieved February 24, 2008.
- Itzkoff, Dave (February 1, 2009). "Watchmen Skulk to the Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
- Desowitz, Bill (March 10, 2009). "Deconstructing Watchmen -- Part 2". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- "Watchmen". Cinefex. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
- Fleming, Michael (January 15, 2009). "WB, Fox make deal for 'Watchmen'". Variety. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- MacDonald, Heidi (May 30, 2005). "Moore Leaves DC for Top Shelf". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- Gopalan, Nisha (July 16, 2008). "Alan Moore Still Knows the Score!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 22, 2008.
- Jensen, Jeff (October 25, 2005). "Watchmen: An Oral History". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 2, 2007.
- Larry Carroll (July 23, 2008). "Snyder Reveals Hendrix, Dylan, Other Tracks in 'Watchmen,' No Smashing Pumpkins". MTV Splash Page. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
- Fritz, Ben (July 23, 2008). "'Watchmen' games a go". Variety. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
- Totilo, Stephen (July 23, 2008). "'Watchmen' Video Game Preview: Rorschach And Nite Owl Star In Subversive Prequel Set In 1970s". MTV. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
- "Become a Hero with Watchmen: The Mobile Game". Business Wire. March 4, 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
- LeFebvre, Rob (March 6, 2009). "Watchmen: Justice is Coming is Borked. Kinda. Yeah. No. Yeah". [The Portable Gamer]. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009.
- "Motion Comics". WatchmenComicMovie.com. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
- Gopalan, Nisha (April 15, 2008). "First Look: 'Watchmen' Action Figures". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 18, 2008.
- Sciretta, Peter (April 22, 2008). "Zack Snyder Launches Watchmen Contest". /Film. Retrieved April 23, 2008.
- "Viral Microsite Launches". WatchmenComicMovie.com. February 3, 2009.
- Gustines, George Gene (August 13, 2008). "Film Trailer Aids Sales of 'Watchmen' Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
- "WATCHMEN #1 – NEW PRINTING". DC Comics. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- Brooks Barnes (May 26, 2008). "Warner Tries a New Tactic to Revive Its DVD Sales". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2008.
- Chris Hewitt (February 28, 2008). "Gerard Butler Talks Black Freighter". Empire Online. Retrieved February 28, 2008.
- Ian Spelling (March 4, 2009). "Jared Harris finds his inner ghostly sailor in Black Freighter". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
- "UK DVD release of Tales of the Black Freighter". DVDActive.com. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Shawn Adler (October 23, 2008). "Carla Gugino Improvises For 'Watchmen' In-Character Documentary, 'Under the Hood'". MTV Splash Page. Retrieved October 23, 2008.
- Casey Seijas (March 20, 2009). "'Watchmen: Tales Of The Black Freighter' Director Dishes On 'Under The Hood'". MTV Splash Page. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
- "Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut - Ultra HD Blu-ray Ultra HD Review | High Def Digest". ultrahd.highdefdigest.com. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
- "Watchmen DVD comparison". DVDCompare.
- "Watchmen Blu-ray comparison". DVDCompare.
- "Watchmen Blu-ray 4K comparison". DVDCompare.
- Arnold, Thomas K. (July 29, 2009). ""Watchmen" dominates video charts". Reuters. Retrieved April 5, 2010.
- "Watchmen". The Numbers. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
- Joal Ryan (March 6, 2009). "Watchmen's "Decent" Midnight Box Office". E!. Yahoo! Online. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Watchmen Starts with $4.550 Million at Midnight". The-Numbers. March 6, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Daily Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- "Comparison of Alan Moore adaptations". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Who's watching the 'Watchmen'? Everybody". msnbc.com. Associated Press. March 8, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- Brandon Gray (March 9, 2009). "Weekend Report: 'Watchmen' Rages in the Top Spot". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Avatar helps bust $100M mark for IMAX". Ottawa Citizen. Canwest. January 5, 2010. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2010.
- Gray, Brandon (March 16, 2009). "Weekend Report: 'Witch' Blasts Off, 'Watchmen' Burns Out". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- "March 13–15, 2009 Weekend Studio Estimates". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- "Top Opening Weekends by Month". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
- "Top Opening Weekends by MPAA Rating". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "2009 Yearly Box Office by MPAA Rating". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
- "DC Comics Adaptations Comparison". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "2009 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 31, 2009.
- "'Watchmen' falls short of expected box office take". Reuters. March 8, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- Segers, Frank (March 9, 2009). ""Watchmen" rules overseas box office". Reuters. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- "Watchmen Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- "Watchmen (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
- Joshua Rich (March 8, 2009). "'Watchmen' takes box office lead". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
- Kolan, Patrick (February 23, 2009). "Watchmen AU Review". IGN AU. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Smith, Kyle (March 4, 2009). "Watch It!". New York Post. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Ebert, Roger. "Watchmen". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Corliss, Richard (March 4, 2009). "Watchmen Review: (A Few) Moments of Greatness". TIME. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Crocker, Jonathan (February 24, 2009). "Watchmen (18)". Total Film. Archived from the original on http://web.archive.org/web/20090225074040/http://www.totalfilm.com/reviews/cinema/watchmen. Retrieved April 19, 2019. Check date values in:
- Nathan, Ethan. "Watchmen (18)". Empire. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
- Dent, Nick. "Watchmen Review". Time Out Sydney. Archived from the original on November 3, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Kennicott, Philip (March 5, 2009). "Blight 'Watchmen'". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Berlatsky, Noah. "Watchmen". Chicago Reader. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Edelstein, David (February 27, 2009). "Hopelessly Devoted". New York Magazine. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Chang, Justin (June 2, 2009). "Watchmen (review)". Variety. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Morgenstern, Joe (March 6, 2009). "Pow! Bam! 'Watchmen' Batters Public". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Gleiberman, Owen (March 2, 2009). "Movie Review: Watchmen (2009)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Gordon, Devin (February 28, 2009). "The "Watchmen" Movie and the Trouble With Loyalty". Newsweek. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Clarke, Donald (March 6, 2009). "Watchmen Review". The Irish Times. Retrieved June 18, 2009.
- Honeycutt, Kirk (February 26, 2009). "Film Review: Watchmen". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- Geoff Boucher (March 10, 2009). "Is 'Watchmen' the 'Fight Club' of superhero films?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
- Aperlo, Peter (February 2009). Watchmen: The Film Companion. Titan Books. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-84856-159-5.
- Aperlo, Peter (February 2009). Watchmen: The Art of the Film. Titan Books. p. 256. ISBN 978-1-84856-068-0.
- Enos, Clay (February 2009). Watchmen: The Film Portraits. Titan Books. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-84856-069-7.