Snyder’s film depends heavily on the visceral experience. Luckily, there’s little wrong with this. By sticking to the story laid out for him, he gave himself the ability to spend most of his time with how the film looked and felt, rather than the ways it worked. However, this is not to say he leaves depth and character development and such things behind. He merely lets them fall in organically. This is most likely more attributable to the writers and the actors than Snyder, but whatever he did or didn’t do, he did it right.
The film’s only real problem is the lead actress, Malin Akerman. Her lack of acting ability is quite distracting, especially in the scenes which call on her to act. Luckily, the other performances range from good to outstanding. Patrick Wilson brings a vulnerability to Nite Owl, without bordering on pathetic. Billy Crudup perfectly plays Dr. Manhattan, an extremely difficult task considering how little humanity the character is given. The two standouts are Jeffery Dean Morgan as The Comedian and Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Morgan lets you love a character that you should hate. And Haley plays a man so emotionally mutilated by past horrors that he’s lost so much of what makes him human, but with a subtle desire to not be so sick, and a less subtle desire to make everyone like him.
Snyder’s distinct visual style, coupled with a handful of fantastic performances let the themes of the novel play their course while never forgetting that originality is what made Watchmen great in the first place.