Imagine a world where superheroes exist, except they have no real power. They are ordinary people, fed up with how things work, and decide to take matters into their own hands. They suit up and voila, you've got the Minute Men.
Out of all these heroes, there is one true superhero with superpowers: Dr. Manhattan. Due to an accident he has a godlike status. Imagine the Vietnam War and now imagine it being won by the USA. Richard Nixon going strong and taking on a third term as the president, or even the assassination of JFK is altered. As you may have figured out, we're in a different timeline, a what it.
Fast forward to the 1980s. The Minutemen have either died or given up their vigilante style. The second generation of superheroes (Watchmen) has been disbanded by then as well and only three remain active: the Comedian, Dr Manhattan and Rorschach. In the mean time total nuclear war is a constant threat.
The movie basically starts with the murder of the Comedian. Rorschach investigates what has happened and whether someone is trying to get rid of the 'masks'. Only a handful are known to the public, so he goes to warn them. He even goes as far as questioning the Comedian's nemesis. Eventually Rorschach is set up for murder and things progress from there.
There are several versions of the movie. The theatrical cut, the special edition cut (up to 3 hours) and the superawesome cut which has The Black Freighter incorporated into it (3.30 hours). I've only seen the second one, and am going to watch the superawesome cut.
As opposed to the live action movie, the Tales of the Black Freighter itself is a cartoon. But hey, it's voiced by Gerard Butler... which is always a good thing. Not that I'm biased >.>
In the movie there are not many things explained, for example Rorschach's mask. I know this because the friend I went to the cinema with did not shut up about it. But overall, they stayed close to the material. Some shots are directly taken from the graphic novel itself. The costumes are also updated, thank God. I don't think I could have endured the Comedian and his gimp outfit