The first batch of reviews from the London opening of Watchmen are in and the results are mixed with a major divide between critics who loved the film and those who hated it.  The majority of early reviews appear to be positive (it currently has an 86% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though it is very early with just 7 reviews counted), but even some of those who liked the film such as Ian Nathan of Empire Magazine, who called it a “smart, stylish adaptation,” also commented that it was “low on accessibility for the non-convert.” But Steve Anglesey of the Mirror countered that exact point by remarking that the film “looks amazing… Snyder pulls it off with an aplomb far beyond that suggested by his previous comic book adaptation, of Frank Miller’s 300, which should make Watchmen gratifyingly accessible to those who haven’t read the book.”


One thing that these early reviews make clear is that Watchmen's appeal to comic book fans does not appear to be in question. But the jury is still out on whether the admittedly dark and violent film will be able to capture the zeitgeist of these turbulent times in which audiences are responding to the "feel good aura" of films like Slumdog Millionaire.


It certainly does appear that Snyder’s Watchmen has more than earned its “R” rating. Kevin Maher in the The Times of London noted, “The film that has emerged, however, is a mesmerising and brutalising experience… Along the way, limbs are broken, bones are smashed and skulls split as the film earns its unprecedented 18 certificate (the supposedly ultra-violent Dark Knight was a 12A).”  Or as the liberal/left Guardian newspaper put it, “This is an [R-rated] superhero movie which makes last year's famously brooding Batman sequel The Dark Knight look like Alvin and the Chipmunks.”


Writing in Total Film Jonathan Crocker enthused: “That’s one reason Watchmen is so impressive - you can feel the level of love and the lack of compromise. Alan Moore’s graphic novel ripped up the rule-book for superheroes: sex, murder, no happy endings.  Snyder’s Watchmen almost does the same for superhero movies. The director follows Alan Moore’s novel at a safe distance, matching the original framings and shots while animating them with cinematic verve…” before delivering his verdict, “Not just another superhero movie. Gripping onto sex, violence and angst, it’s hard to imagine anyone watching the Watchmen as faithfully as Zack Snyder’s heartfelt, stylised adap. Uncompromising, uncommercial and unique.”


On the CHUD Website Devin Faraci was even more positive, “A huge budgeted superhero movie that delivers intellectually? That takes serious, ballsy chances with the form? Why, that sounds like a piece of art. A glorious, epic, exciting, mind-blowing piece of art.”


Those who disliked the film were just as adamant.  Robbie Collins of the Murdoch-owned U.K. tabloid News of the World website concluded, "This two-and-a-half-hour wannabe pop culture epic isn't the worst superhero movie ever made, mind. But it IS one of the most spirit-crushingly disappointing. Because this time round, it was supposed to be all so different. We were promised darkness. We were promised maturity. But what we've got, is 163 minutes of tin-ear dialogue and absurd violence." 


Writing on his Hollywood Elsewhere site Jeffery Wells was even more down on the film, “Speaking as a huge admirer and devotee of the graphic novel, the film is a staggering failure. On the plus side, you've got a pretty literal adaptation of the source material. It is at times a meticulous and gorgeous recreation of Alan Moore's original work. Unfortunately it's an empty, inert, meandering and, yes, boring 2 hours and 45 minutes.”  (It should be noted that Wells’ critique is weakened by his suggestion that Paul Greengrass, king of the nausea-inducing hand-held camera work, the ultimate example of 21st Century phony realism as any look at actual contemporary steadicam news photography will attest, should have directed Watchmen instead of Zack Snyder).


Charlotte O’Sullivan of the Evening Standard delivered the exception-proving early mixed review noting, “If the detective work is routine, the characters are often fascinating, the effects breathtaking,” before coming to generally positive conclusion, “There are plenty of good reasons to watch Watchmen. Ultimately, though, it’s a movie about cynicism that is full of cynical moves; nastier than the book, yet more sentimental, too.”