Watchmen

I am not a fanatic follower of either Alan Moore or Watchmen. I’ve only read the book once and that was barely a year ago though I thought it was excellent when I finally did get around to reading it and have enjoyed many interesting discussions on what we feel the book is about, character’s motivations and how it fits into the grand spectrum of super-hero comicbooks.

I was excited for the film and in the run up I decided not to re-read the book and was often the voice in a discussion pointing out that it would need to be changed for the screen and we shouldn’t expect anything less, it’s an adaptation after all. Still, even with those caveats I was nervous about the film. Having read the new ending I wasn’t particularly sold on it but vowed to go with an open mind and try to enjoy it for what it is.

There are so many good things to say about the film. It’s visually stunning (leaving aside Snyder’s insistence on slow motion shots), the performances are all excellent with special mention for Jackie Earle Haley as Rorscach and Henry Dean Morgan as The Comedian. Many of the shots are lifted directly off the page which could have gone wrong but works perfectly. There’s no attempt to sex up the story with extra action sequences or characters and, for the most part, it is faithful. However, a lot of the book is missing and here’s where my earlier insistence that this is necessary wavers.

There will be spoilers, don’t bother complaining as the book’s twenty years old. Also, I may make mistakes since, as previously mentioned, I haven’t opened the book in over six months.

We lose much of the character backgrounds that was supplied in the chapter end inserts. There are entire sub-plots missing including a couple that I think are crucial to events that are left in the film. There are subtle changes such as Silk Spectre killing one of the muggers and appearing to enjoy it. That’s the style of the Comedian, surely? Ozymandias is sign posted as the villian with evil glances to camera. Oh, and Ozymandias’ impression of Dr Strangelove in the final act is…not in need of further comment.

The real bugbear is the ending though. Okay, so the space squid would be very difficult to pull off now that the disappearing artists story has been removed but what replaces it manages to change the original ethos and also make no sense. Ozymandias plans to bring peace to an unstable world by uniting people against a common, external threat but in this new ending the common threat is Dr Manhattan.

We’re expected to believe that a world on the virge of all-out nuclear war (the US is at DEFCON 1) stands idly by as mass destruction takes place across the globe. Add to this the fact that the US is the last country to be hit, a full 35 minutes behind the first. Surely that would be seen very, very negatively. Not only that, but the USSR extends the hand of friendship to the country where the apparent source of the explosions was created? Not likely!

The scenes of devastation are glossed over. In the original it’s hammered home that as ordinary people caught up in the machinations of a few, self-appointed keepers  but since several of the characters have been excised it we’re shown a brief glimpse of a crater in New York instead.

So after Dr Manhattan is blamed for the devastation the world surrenders to peace, in fear of a vengeful god returning to repeat his earlier aggression. The generators were being created by Veidt technologies but apparently no-one cares about that as they hire the company to rebuild the world. All while the remaining masks carry on life as normal with apparently no backlash.

Complete nonsense. I’ve already had a couple of people say that I should “just go with it” or similar. It saddens me that people will go to see the film as just another comic book super-hero film without realising that the original elevated the form to something else. I’ll forgive low budget films their flaws but when you’re playing with hundreds of millions of dollars I don’t see the point in making excuses.