I'd heard a lot of good things about this film from people I know who had seen it, and I'd also been told that it had been written as a deliberately unfilmable comic, and that Alan Moore was not a fan of adaptations of his work. One of the first things I noticed in the credits was the lack of Moore's name.
I didn't know what to expect when watching the film, so just sat back to enjoy the ride. The only things I'd been made aware of were the high levels of violence, and Dr. Manhatten's nudity. The opening credits show the rise and fall of the Minutemen, a team of masked superheroes, set to Bob Dylan's The Times they are a-Changin'. (The use of music seemed like a wry nod to the audience. Hallelujah and All Along the Watchtower don't feel shoehorned in. Me and Bobby McGee appears in the tracklisting in the credits, but I didn't catch when it was used -a shame, as I love that song). Skip forward several decades, and we are in 1985, except in an alternate reality where Nixon is president, and America won the Vietnam war. We learn of the Watchmen, a sort of spiritual successor to the Minutemen, however heroes in masks and their own special blend of vigilante justice have been outlawed, and the team have disbanded.
One member, the sociopathic Rorschach continues to work outside of the law, and he discovers what he believes to be a plot to kill former "masks". As he contacts his former colleagues we learn of a much more sinister plot, involving the nuclear unease between America and Russia. To be honest, explaining the film is complicated due to the nuances it contains, and the fact I want to avoid spoilers.
The film is around three hours long, but at no point did I feel it dragged- no extended fight scenes for padding for example. The effects did not feel out of place, and none of the characters felt 2D. This is an unpleasant film, but in this context that isn't a bad thing- it's a fantastic film that deals with a lot of unpleasant subjects. The cliché of the "flawed superhero" is taken to an extreme, and it is logical- why not "dirty" heroes? Rorschach may see things in shades of black and white, but this film shows that the world, even the world of heroes, just doesn't work that way.
I didn't like the ending. At least, I thought I didn't like the ending. Now I'm not so sure- just because I didn't like it doesn't mean it wasn't the appropriate ending, and the more I think about it (and it did make me think), the more the ending grows on me.