"a bit of the old ultra-violence."
-A Clockwork Orange
Watchmen is a universe unto itself, an alternative history of the 20th century, and an exploration of "human nature" that slices to the bone.
This is not your typical superhero film, and it seeks to be a radical departure from standard comic book fare. Based on the comic books and best-selling graphic novel of the same name, the story of the Watchmen is significant and worth commenting on.
The Watchmen are highly developed characters who fit into the story like precise parts of a well-designed machine. They also explore some very creative territory, with Dr. Manhattan being the most striking, most powerful and most visually stunning member of the team.
But, they aren't really a team, and they end up opposing one another in a complex scheme which only the "smartest man in the world," a Watchman named Ozymandias understands. Ozymandias has crafted a solution to the imminent escalation toward nuclear war by the U.S. and the Soviets.
The time period is 1985. Richard Nixon remains in power. The Watchmen have been outlawed from wearing masks. The conflagration in Afghanistan is the flashpoint. America has gone to the dogs (under Nixonian control?). Dr. Manhattan, bankrolled by Ozymandias, seeks to create a free and unlimited energy supply, supposedly to take away the motivation for war between the superpowers. The stakes are infinitely high.
I'd like to quibble, just slightly, on the original author's interpretation of the Afghan conflict. Some dramatic license was taken, although at the time of the comic's writing (1986) the truth may not have been understood by the western public. My concern is that it is still not well understood by the public, and may never be, even though the United States military remains in Afghanistan to this day.
Afghanistan, far from being a place worth ending the world over, was used by the Carter and Reagan regimes as a trap to weaken the Soviets -- to give the Russians their own Vietnam type quagmire. The Afghan war was a game to Washington, who started the conflict by funding, arming and training the Mujahadeen "terrorists" and "insurgents", whom Washington called "Freedom Fighters" at the time. This plan was crafted by Zbigniew Brzezinski who was a National Security Advisor to both Carter and Reagan.
Watchmen is an alternative history through and through, and so altering the real world scenarios is no problem, as long as people can tell the difference. I'm not sure if many viewers today can discern fake history from the real, and so there is some danger of misinformation taking off. Erroneous preconceptions and reinforcement of those should be considered.
In the case of Afghanistan, the Watchmen scenario presumes that the U.S. wanted to keep the Russian military out of Afghanistan. The real history suggests the direct opposite: they wanted to lure the Russian military into Afghanistan and keep them "bleeding" there for as long as possible. How this was accomplished, through proxy armies and covert sponsorship through Pakistan's intelligence service, remains a huge real world issue today. This issue is not understood by most people, and yet is crucial to ending war and bringing peace to the world, or at least to that region.