MALIN AKERMAN as Silk Spectre II 

One of the most anticipated movies of this year, Watchmen, is not to be missed.

Taking place in an alternate universe, where the United States has won the Vietnam War and Nixon is president for his third term in a row, Watchmen digs into the American psyche but leaves a lot of questions.

The film, simply put, is a murder mystery: Who killed the Comedian? But what develops over nearly three hours is a look at the American hero through the ages, from the golden age of comics in the ’30s and ’40s (including the lesbian hero, Silhouette, seen for a few brief moments) to present-day 1985, in which the Keene Act has outlawed masked vigilantism at the urging of the public.

No longer seen as beacons of justice, costumed heroes are an endangered species. Some retired (Laurie Jupiter aka Silk Spectre II and Dan Dreiberg aka Nite Owl II). Some continued about their business and ended up in prison (Walter Kovacs, aka Rorschach). Others became special ops for the government (Jon Osterman aka Dr Manhattan and Edward Blake, aka the Comedian).

It opens with the murder of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who, through flashbacks, is a rapist, murderer, assassin, a government agent, and, along with Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup), helped the United States win the Vietnam War. What follows is the rest of the disbanded vigilantes trying to find out who murdered him and why. In the meantime, the United States and the Soviet Union are on the verge of nuclear war, which inches closer and closer as the tension rises.

As the heroes unravel the mystery, we learn a little of their back-history, though much of it is glazed over. Most of the focus goes to the more intriguing characters, Dr Manhattan and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). At the same time, Malin Ackerman’s Silk Spectre (developed fairly well in the graphic novel and around whom much of the story revolved) and Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl are almost accented characters. And there’s virtually no development for Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias (Matthew Goode).

But fangirls of the graphic novel will be happy that the film stays as faithful to its roots as possible. Sometimes a little too accurate, in fact. The film is a bloody mess, literally. There is gore everywhere and in bright colors. And at times feels like you’re watching a bunch of music videos in a row (though I’m not going to knock the homage to Apocalypse Now). Also, expect a lot of director Zack Snyder’s signature slow motion, a short soft-core porn scene and a giant naked blue man. One thing I do take particular issue with is the changed ending. It’s OK to have two hours of bloody violence and murder (not to mention unspeakable acts against women and children), but it’s not OK to show dead New Yorkers. I blame post-9/11 censorship.

A well-acted film that will leave you thinking, Watchmen is the comic book film to see this year.

Watch on Apple TV