Directed by 300‘s Zack Snyder, Watchmen presents a set of familiar superhero archetypes — and then subverts them completely, turning them into criminals, jerks, narcissists, megalomaniacs, and plain ol’ whiny wusses. Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) is like the Spirit…except he’s a joyless, hard-line misanthrope. The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is like Captain America…but loyal only to sadistic thrills and a corrupt worldview. Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) is part Batman, part Iron Man…except he’s also a schlubby, impotent coward. Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) is the resident genius…who’s built an empire on superhero toys.
Watchmen is set in the year 1985. The U.S. and the Soviet Union are on the brink of nuclear war, and the president is Richard Nixon, whose success at ending the Vietnam War (he asked Dr. Manhattan to blow up the Vietcong) has earned him five terms of office from a grateful nation. Conservative politics are popular, as are Indian fast food and pirate comics. But costumed heroes, once all the rage, are now outlawed. When the Comedian gets murdered, Rorschach tries to round up his old allies to investigate. They eventually uncover an insidious conspiracy hatched by an unlikely villain, one whose grand ambition isn’t world domination but something else altogether.
And that’s only half the comic.