The story, however, is a bit trickier. Watchmen the graphic novel is a dark, complex, brooding tale that has as many layers as it does characters. Not only is the story deeply complex, but its characters are also some of the most complex characters in literature. Snyder's task in translating such an intricately woven tale and cast of characters to the silver screen seems insurmountable, and his efforts bring mixed results.
Snyder appears to have put a lot of work into the development of Rorschach, arguably the most complex character of the lot. Here, there is some success. Jackie Earle Haley's performance accurately conveys the lonely, disillusioned, stick-to-his-principles-at-all-costs character from the novel. Haley's is the brightest piece of acting in the film, and Rorschach the brightest attempt at character development by the director.
Another bright spot is the portrayal of Dr. Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup). Though this is a superhero film, the only character with superpowers is Dr. Manhattan, the tragic victim of a physics experiment gone wrong, which transforms him into something beyond human that can manipulate the environment around him in any way he likes. Crudup does a fine job bringing to life a Dr. Manhattan that grows ever more distant from humanity, retreating into himself and away from the turbulent world that humans have created for themselves.
The other performances, sadly, fall much flatter. The biggest disappointment is Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias (played by Matthew Goode). In the film, there is little to no development of this character, which is strange considering he's a pretty big deal in the overall plotline. Another disappointment is Laurie Jupiter, aka Silk Spectre II (played by Malin Akerman), who gives a flighty, clueless, emotionally weak version of the character from the novel. Granted, some of this may be due to the writing, but decent actors can often overcome less-than-stellar writing. Unfortunately for much of the cast of this film, that just doesn't happen.