Few directors are as controversial as Zack Snyder. There are those who believe the hyper-stylized 300 counts among the greatest comic book adaptations of all time while others are of the school of thought that Snyder should never again be let behind the camera (though in the case of Sucker Punch they may have a point). Critical opinion is mixed surrounding the recent Man of Steel and arguably even more so with 2009’s Watchmen, his adaptation of Alan Moore‘s acclaimed graphic novel (the only one to appear to appear on TIME Magazine’s list of the top 100 books).
Some consider it The Godfather of superhero films while others, Alan Moore included, would prefer to pretend it never happened. While it’s far from perfect – occasionally airless and overly rigid, too slavishly faithful to its source material – here are eight scenes from Watchmen the naysayers should be made to (re)watch.
8. A Comedian Dies in New York…
Snyder’s Watchmen gets off to a good start in its depiction of the brutal murder of retired “superhero”, The Comedian. Hulking and grizzled, Jeffrey Dean Morgan constitutes the film’s first pitch perfect piece of casting. The weary contempt with which he surveys the idiot box to the twisted humor he shows in accepting his own demise – “It’s all a joke” goes a long way to establishing the character at the end of his life, if anything more nihilistic, more vulnerable certainty, than his appearances in flashbacks show him to be.
Every blow laid against him by the masked intruder impacts percussively, fleshy thuds and gristly crunches, as his luxurious apartment is demolished and The Comedian himself is effectively deconstructed by his superior foe. Snyder’s judicious use of slow motion, often a bugbear for his critics, only adds to the sense of futility; by the time the aged killer is beaten into submission and hurled out the window to his death, we feel a degree of sympathy for The Comedian, this man we already do not like – a copy of Hustler and a loaded firearm lying on his coffee table are more or less a character statement – but are beginning to understand.
That the whole thing is accompanied by the elegant tones of Nat King Cole serves to underscore the brutality of this death, this murder, that sets Watchmen‘s whole plot in motion.
7. Rorschach’s Journal
Of course, without Rorschach’s investigation into the death of his former colleague, the defenestration of Eddie Blake (AKA The Comedian) may have been put down to a home invasion, a tragic but ultimately meaningless, opportunistic act of violence. Rorschach’s paranoid yet self-aware, distinctly noirish voiceover guides us into the world of Watchmen, the seedy underbelly of New York City where the one remaining active member of the eponymous superhero team now operates.
Like The Comedian, we may not like Rorschach – with his black and white moral code, his aggression against any who cross his path – but he demands our respect. In an increasingly murky world, Rorschach takes a stand. Jackie Earle Haley‘s gruff, though occasionally hysterical take on the character is arguably the most memorable component of the whole film, enough so that it’s hard to think of anyone else who could have pulled it off, especially from behind that mask.
It doesn’t hurt that, amidst his right-wing rantings, he gets the most iconic line of dialogue in the whole piece: “All the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us’, and I’ll whisper, ‘No’.”