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  • © 2009 Warner Bros.

Zack Snyder's meathead adaptation of Frank Miller's ancient Greek comic epic 300 was all 'roids and high fives set to nu-metal. With Watchmen, Snyder directs what Terry Gilliam said was an unfilmable graphic novel and creates a visually compelling stunner from a genre doped up on convention.

  In an alternate 1985, still-president Nixon hovers over the doomsday clock as it ticks closer to nuclear holocaust. Masked vigilantes are outlawed, and all but three have been outed. With the exception of science project-turned-military superpower Dr. Manhattan, a god-like atomic anomaly, these heroes are powerless and ordinary, with dull sex lives and a few extra pounds in all the wrong places. Their compromising pasts are revealed in the opening scene's whodunit murder of a retired mask.

  Snyder takes Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel source material and paints the screen with their iconic visuals and gut punches to superhero stereotypes. Even without Moore's years-deep character development, Snyder remains faithful to the frames and cuts to the chase: What becomes of heroes when the world makes them obsolete? — Alex Woodward

Watchmen (R)

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Malin Akerman

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