A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Dark, complex messages about issues like morality, humankind's basic nature, and the specter of mass global destruction. There's not much here that falls into clearly "right" or "wrong" categories; it's all muddled and ambiguous.
Positive Role Models
Unlike traditional superhero films, which draw clear lines between the evil villains and the valiant heroes, the characters here are all very complex antisuperheroes, with complicated motivations and sometimes questionable ends. They all believe they're doing the right thing, though to accomplish their goals they may have to break the law, beat up a few people, or worse; the climax presents a huge moral dilemma, as one character concocts a heinous plot aimed at achieving a noble aim -- but at an enormous cost.
Violence & Scariness
Several intense martial arts fight scenes with close-up, slo-mo shots of limbs breaking, faces being smashed into walls and furniture, and people being stabbed, punched, and kicked across the room. The film opens with a man being beaten severely and then thrown from a high rise window to his death. A woman is savagely beaten and almost raped. One character seems to relish carnage, whether it's on the battlefield or during an urban riot, while another shows no emotions as he methodically attacks people in inventive and painful ways, including pouring boiling oil on one attacker, sawing off someone's hands and electrocuting him, and taking a meat cleaver to a child rapist. A young child's corpse is eaten by dogs, and the ashes of the rest of her remains are shown in a furnace.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few long, intimate close-up sex scenes include partial male and female nudity. The only character who's computer enhanced wears no clothing at all and walks around with his penis visible (it's blue, but it's definitely a penis). A prostitute propositions customers on the sidewalk, graphically flashing her breasts. Porn magazine Hustler is visible on a coffee table.
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Plenty of swearing, including "goddamn," "f--k," "s--t," "prick," "bastard," and other choice words.
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Products & Purchases
Tie-in to vast quantities of related merchandise. Almost nothing except for a fleeting glance of Fuji Film (remember the non-digital camera days?).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some characters smoke; one has a fondness for cigars. Several scenes feature bars and drinking. One woman seems to have a drinking problem and is rarely seen without a drink in her hand.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this non-animated adaptation of the beloved cult graphic novel isn't just another superhero story and is absolutely not for kids. Even the director has said that he purposely made the movie intensely gory to make a point about the consequences of violent behavior. Sex is paired with graphic violence in a near-rape scene, and characters act in ways that seem highly amoral. They also swear constantly (including "f--k" and "s--t"), smoke, and drink. There's plenty of nudity, with some very graphic sex scenes and a computer-enhanced character who walks around nude (sure, he's blue, but he still has a normal male anatomy). Both the novel and the movie examine complex issues of morality, humankind's basic nature, and the specter of nuclear holocaust. Not light stuff, and certainly not for anyone who expects a simple good vs. evil story. If your teens can tackle heavy philosophical questions, they might be mature enough to make sense of the film's complicated plot. Finally, the movie clocks in at 2 hours 41 minutes most of which are chock full of in-your-face violence, darkness, and peril. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Purists, take heart: This big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' revered graphic novel hews fairly closely to the written page, right down to the darkly beautiful world it renders. But that may be its biggest downfall. For no matter how respectful it is to the novel (save for a tweak here and there, including a simplification of the ending), WATCHMEN is curiously unenergetic. Much of it is told in flashback, and the plot moves from one back story to the next. Plus, the dialogue falls flat -- lines like "Here I am, spilling my guts to my archenemy" are best left on the page -- and scenes meant to be climactic are decidedly not. That's not to say that director Zack Snyder didn't try. In fact, he amps up the fight sequences so much that they're martial arts-movie-worthy and even gratuitously violent. That's actually a departure: Watchmen is famously cerebral -- the action isn't the point, and by focusing on the superheroes' battle prowess, the film undercuts the novel's attempt to humanize them.
The cast is uneven. As Sceptre II, Akerman is wanting. She struggles to plumb depths and pales in scenes that pair her with the deeply serious (and, not surprisingly, first-rate) Crudup. But even he is outshined by Haley, whose continued success is heartening (it's good to see him cement the comeback he achieved with Little Children). Haley's Little Children co-star, Wilson, is also fantastic, perhaps because he, too, has opted for a palpably realistic performance, instead of the stylized one that Goode unfortunately adopts. All of that said, Watchmen deserves to be watched. The special effects are impressive, the cinematography admirable. Just don't expect the same thrill that fans of the novel must have experienced when they first cracked open the book.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.