Overall, the movie is incredible, truly fantastic. It was everything I could have hoped that it would be and more.
It captures the look and feel of the book perfectly, in many places as a literal translation from page to screen, and in every technical sense it is perfection. Most of the performances are spot on, especially those of Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II, and Matthew Goode as Ozymandias. Most of the negative reviews I've read note the wooden performance of Malin Akerman as Silk Specter II, and while I'll agree that she wasn't as great as the others I've mentioned she wasn't terrible either and I was able to buy her in the role in an emotional sense (as her character certainly has the most emotional work in the film) and certainly on a physical level (as is the case with all of the fight scenes, frakking incredible stuff).
As for the theme and meaning of the book, I believe that they translated perfectly to the big screen version. I got many of the same feelings from watching the movie as I got from reading the book that Time Magazine called one of the best of the 20th Century, saying,
"Watchmen is a graphic novel—a book-length comic book with ambitions above its station—starring a ragbag of bizarre, damaged, retired superheroes: the paunchy, melancholic Nite Owl; the raving doomsayer Rorschach; the blue, glowing, near-omnipotent, no-longer-human Doctor Manhattan. Though their heyday is past, these former crime-fighters are drawn back into action by the murder of a former teammate, The Comedian, which turns out to be the leading edge of a much wider, more disturbing conspiracy. Told with ruthless psychological realism, in fugal, overlapping plotlines and gorgeous, cinematic panels rich with repeating motifs, Watchmen is a heart-pounding, heartbreaking read and a watershed in the evolution of a young medium."
Watchmen the film is a comic book movie, also with "ambitions above its station". Like The Dark Knight before it, Watchmen is also much more then just a comic book movie. In fact it is almost a statement on the whole idea of comic book movies. It is a look at exactly what a world filled with vigilantes and "supermen" would be, what such a place would look like. (Just like the graphic novel was a statement on comic books).
With a superhero that is nigh indestructible what effect would that have on anyone else who attempted to be a "superhero" when they are in fact not at all "Super"?
What does being a vigilante require? What kind of tortured past must one endure and what kind of psyche would they have? Does the dark overcome them completely where they become almost as bad as the evil that they are fighting (Rorschach and The Comedian)? Or does their need to be something bigger then themselves and feel like they truly are important and making a difference in the world make them completely unable to be or do anything else (Nite Owl II and Silk Specter II)?
And how do these "heroes" from DC in an alternate reality compare to the DC heroes we are so familiar with (primarily Superman and Batman)? A very interesting article could certainly be written on how Dr. Manhattan compares to and comments on Superman and how Nite Owl II and Rorschach combine to be very similar to Batman.
I also like how the film makes some statements on the time in which we live, 2009, (despite being set in an alternate 1986) much like the graphic novel made statements on the real 1986. "Who would want a Cowboy to be in the White House?" indeed.
Yes, Watchmen certainly strives to be much more then just a comic book movie and like the graphic novel on which it is based it completely succeeds.
High, high marks. Go see the film, I don't think you'll regret it.
Until Next Time, I enjoyed the visual nod to Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb) which made a great bit of sense in retrospect, and I enjoyed the small things that were hidden throughout the film such as the snippet of the classic Apple commercial "1984" (another nod that makes a lot of sense within the film). And, of course, I loved, loved, loved the Star Trek preview, holy crap it was AMAZING!!!