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Watchmen 2019 / A gorgeously conceived milestone for superhero storytelling on screen with a real, subversive message

8.3

If all live-action superhero media stopped here, it would’ve been a triumphant conclusion. Carving its own path from the subversive Alan Moore classic and still so much gutsier than most superhero films and TV shows, Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen miniseries continues interrogating the idea of powerful masked vigilantes to explore institutionalized racism, America’s history of anti-Black violence, and even the phenomenon of white supremacy in “nerd culture” fandom. It’s an incendiary take on a genre that’s all-too-often reduced to mindless fantasy action, and it never tries to beat other properties at their own game—relying on constantly building intrigue and fantastic characters to tell its story.

But even if you’re not familiar with the original Watchmen story, the series should have enough style and intricate plotting for everybody. A pulsating musical score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; gritty (but not flavorless) art direction; and powerful performances from Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, and Jean Smart, among others complete this vision of a nation plunged into chaos due to collective unresolved trauma. All this makes for viewing that’s never difficult, but demands trust and attention even as the story branches off to places that seem at odds with itself. How often can you say that about a superhero story these days?

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