It's a murder mystery! It's got superheroes you've never heard of! It's totally deep and way metaphysical! It's an '80s period piece, with Richard Nixon and a giant blue naked guy!
Graphic novel adaptation Watchmen opens this week to big buzz, even though you may know nothing about it. But don't worry. We sat down with the oddly familiar cast and director Zack Snyder to decode this antihero epic, and gather the five essentials:
1. Watchmen Is the Utimate Geek Comic: Want street cred at Comic-Con? Talk Watchmen. Anyone can go on about the X-Men, but aficionados obsess over Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' 1986 series about how very twisted masked men and women in tights would really be.
2. The Dark Knight Was Lightweight: This isn't just a romp about beating up bad guys. Watchmen dwells on questions about the role of superheroes and the toll crimefighting takes on the psyche. Like The Dark Knight, only...darker. "You accept that Batman can walk around in a real world and that a bad guy can dress like a Joker," Snyder tells E! News. "Watchmen blows that up again. "It's time to take [those ideas] apart," he says, "and re-examine - without a smile or a wink - what the f--k this mythology is about."
3. Denny Duquette Is a Real A-hole: Izzy, don't accept any marriage proposals from The Comedian, played by Grey's Anatomy's Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He may be one of the heroes, but he's a bad dude. Seriously. "I may lose a couple of Grey's Anatomy fans," Morgan tells us, "but I'll gain some Watchmen fans, so it's an even trade."
4. You Know These Characters, But You Don't: Watchmen doesn't have a Christian Bale or Heath Ledger or even a Wolverine or Spidey. What it has are heroes you'll find familiar, but with names like Nite Owl, Rorschach, Moloch the Mystic - and Silk Spectre, actually Malin Akerman in tight yellow synthetics. "I don't know if anyone in here has a latex fetish," Akerman (maybe you know her from Entourage?) tells us. "I certainly do not after this film."
5. The Giant Blue Penis Is a Fake: Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is the movie's only hero with actual superpowers, an energy force who looks like a big buff guy. He's too busy analyzing particles to put on pants, but don't get too excited. "I like being nude in front of people as much as the next guy," Crudup tells us, "but no, they insisted that I remain clothed, and they do all the work in postproduction."