Watchmen, 10 years later: How a gritty superhero film inspired the DCEU


In honor of the 10 year anniversary of Watchmen, we look back at the cult classic movie that helped create what the DCEU is today.

No matter what you think about the DCEU, there is something to be said for its distinctive style (at least within its earlier movies). All it takes is looking at movies like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Suicide Squad to see a cinematic universe that initially was defined by gritty tones, unusual heroes, and noir storytelling.

But these superhero movies are not alone, as Watchmen is perhaps one of the most iconic DC movies to offer such darkness and drama. 10 years later, it’s easy to see just how Watchmen left a lasting imprint on the DCEU.

While 2013’s Man of Steel is considered the first official movie in the DCEU, there is a lot to be said for changing that narrative. If you look back at Watchmen, you will find a DC movie directed by none other than Zack Snyder, who loves to offer gritty neo-noir style approaches to superheroes. Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1980s comic series was unapologetic, offering a shocking superhero film that could entice a mature audience. Watchmen wasn’t lighthearted. Heroes weren’t always pure or shining examples of good, and very often, just as flawed and conflicted as any of us.

This approach carried over into the early stages of the DCEU, with the strongest influences appearing in Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and David Eyer’s Suicide Squad.

For these two films, our dear heroes toed the line between good and bad, either because of their actions or because they really were anti-heroes. From Superman being seen as an alien threat to humanity to Suicide Squad‘s assembly of an insane anti-hero crew to save the world, you might as well slap a yellow happy face sticker across these titles.

Watchmen also supported the notion that superhero films could go full-force with problematic or controversial storylines. For example, Watchmen‘s discussion of politics, war, and the dark side of humanity was far more intense than the arms trafficking plot within Jon Favreau’s Iron Man.

Finally, while movies like Aquaman and Wonder Woman may not blatantly remind us of Watchmen thanks to lighter tones and all-around pleasing heroes, this isn’t to say there are nor correlations between them and the 2009 neo-noir superhero film.

In terms of Wonder Woman, you are looking at a heroine who was naive to the evil of the world. While she may not have wanted to see the bad in people, eventually she had to accept that not everyone is all good or even all bad.

And even Aquaman has his issues, as he is torn between two worlds, fighting to stay out of the conflicts that surrounded him, whether on land or in the water. And the added pressure that he was destined to become a king certainly did not help any.

Watchmen‘s influence on heroes to this very day is the focus on flaws of supposedly perfect beings. Sure, these two characters did not have the same grit and grime of say Batman, but they are definitely much more flawed than we usually see in our beloved superheroes. And that ability to be flawed, while still being a hero is something that made Watchmen so amazing.

The “Watchmen” team were never your “typical” heroes, and neither are most members of the DCEU. Watchmen in many ways was a useful nudge for superhero films to take risks, from pushing it with gritty tones to offering up heroes we could relate to while still admire. We hope he and other DCEU directors continue to take inspiration from the 2009 classic.

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It’s bittersweet to know that while we may never see Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing Edward Blake/Comedian or Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl again, their legacies live on with DCEU’s recent films and upcoming productions.

However you feel about the DCEU, after 10 years, Watchmen remains a classic superhero film that has stood the test of time as it continues to inspire films within the franchise (and beyond). We’re thankful it exists, and for the way it has influenced the development of characters, storylines, and the superhero genre as a whole.