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March 3, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe


 
First reaction: "As opposed to Snyder's script, which made only one significant change and it was to the ending?"

After reading the article: "Oh."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:28 PM on March 3, 2014


"I had to destroy Watchmen to save it!"
posted by entropicamericana at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


I'm sort of confused as to why people keep calling the speculated ending, "Gilliam's ending." As far as I can tell, it wasn't written by Gilliam nor has Gilliam ever talked about that version of the movie. Both Joel Silver and Zach Snyder are shit-stirring.
posted by muddgirl at 1:30 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]




Of course, the studio would've just edited it out, like the original ending to "Brazil".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


And now that I re-read the original interview, Silver was perfectly happy with Snyder's version of Watchmen.
posted by muddgirl at 1:32 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Watchman has reached a point where neither Alan Moore nor Dave Gibbons need be tagged when discussing it. 50% of those people are likely fine with that development.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love the original Watchmen, love it so much that I have no problem with the faithfulness of Snyder's movie, but I also think the Gilliam ending sounds amazing and I wish both movies existed.
posted by escabeche at 1:35 PM on March 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


I liked the Snyder ending better than the one in the book. Cutting up actual psychics (because it's Alan Moore and thus psychics and magick-with-a-k are actually real things he thinks) to make a fake supermonster is idiotic, and we've already seen that if New York is suddenly and catastrophically attacked, the world does not band together in perfect harmony.
posted by kafziel at 1:38 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I say this as someone who has loved Watchmen from the day it first appeared and as someone who thinks that Moore very rarely missteps but ... from a storytelling perspective Snyder's ending is superior.

There, I've said it. Let the winds take it wild and the chips fall where they may.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:39 PM on March 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


I have never read the Watchmen and thought the Snyder movie was good enough. What is it that got lost from the comic to make the reception from fans so lukewarm?
posted by Hoopo at 1:41 PM on March 3, 2014


I didn't have too many issues with the end in Snyder's version. It was probably the best film you could possibly make from the book.
posted by John Shaft at 1:41 PM on March 3, 2014


So who's going to direct The Invisibles? I vote Shane Carruth.
posted by naju at 1:42 PM on March 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Haven't seen the movie, but if Wikipedia is accurate, Snyder's Ending>Gilliam's Ending>Moore's Ending.

Sorry, Affable Al.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:43 PM on March 3, 2014


The only faithful film adaptation of Watchmen would be one that skewers superhero movies the way Watchmen skewered the superhero comics of its time.

The problem is that movies like Man of Steel and The Dark Knight are, in a sense, responses to Watchmen. And the response is to wholeheartedly embrace the things that Watchmen was trying to make seem horrible. The Dark Knight wants Batman to be as "cool" as Rorschach and as omniscient as Ozymandias. Man of Steel thinks we want to cheer for an alienated superbeing who has to kill for the greater good.
posted by straight at 1:44 PM on March 3, 2014 [54 favorites]


If there's going to be a bun fight, then I'm definitely more closely aligned with Team Gilliam here but this:
" ... which would have seen Ozymandias convince Doctor Manhattan to go back in time and stop himself from being created, which would have created a vortex that sucked the other remaining heroes into a new timeline in which superheroes only existed as comic-book characters ..."
does put me in mind of
" ... You see, to be quite frank, Kevin, the fabric of the universe is far from perfect. It was a bit of botched job, you see. We only had seven days to make it. And that's where this comes in. This is the only map of all the holes."
Here's to stinking Manhattan!
posted by octobersurprise at 1:45 PM on March 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


The Watchmen film was so unutterably boring I can't remember a single thing about it. So the ending may well have been better than the original I suppose but it certainly wasn't as memorable. .
posted by dng at 1:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Clearly the only way to skewer Watchmen is to bring back the sense of wonder, glory, and optimism of comic books. Reconstruct them.

ASTRO CITY
posted by Apocryphon at 1:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


I have never read the Watchmen and thought the Snyder movie was good enough. What is it that got lost from the comic to make the reception from fans so lukewarm?

It's not a movie. It was not written as a movie. It was not written with a film adaptation in mind, not in any way. Many aspects of it were included specifically to take advantage of the comic book format - it is a comic about comics (among other things). It's designed to be read at your own pace, and to be flipped back periodically as you notice new things about it, and go back to see earlier information you hadn't caught before. The only reason it was ever made into a film was that executives wanted more money and comic fans found using their imaginations burdensome and wanted someone to take away that need and just make the action figures honk and clonk across the screen and deliver their catchphrase.

Moore said that the only thing you could do with a Watchmen film is basically make a movie out of the surface narrative, which even he himself felt to be fairly unremarkable.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2014 [24 favorites]


The Watchmen movie was "faithful" in the same way that Google Voice transcriptions are faithful. It may be the case that "I'm going to bill you" is one substitution away from "I'm going to kill you," but the effect is totally different. Also, in both cases you get the sense that the translation was performed by an entity with no semantic intelligence whatsoever.
posted by invitapriore at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


Faithfulness is overrated. Snyder's film was just not very good; it felt both lifeless and like someone's weird fetish.

DNG: I was just thinking that myself. I can't even remember what it changed.
posted by selfnoise at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


I always thought the point of Moore's ending was that Ozymandias was an idiot who killed a million people for what would amount to a few months of international harmony before the status quo returned. The rest of the "superheroes" were emotionally damaged people playing dress-up and beating people up, and the New Ozymandias was just this on a large scale. The New Frontiersman is going to publish Rorschach's journal and expose the whole thing.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


Because I don't want to spoil things so I won't list examples, but Gilliam's reverse-It's a Wonderful Life ending, where the ostensible protagonist is convinced to go back in time and sacrifice themselves for a better world, is pretty cliche by now. Snyder's false-flag operation is as well, honestly.

I'm not saying that Moore's ending doesn't have problem, but warts and all, it blew me away the first time I read Watchmen just because of the sheer magnanimity of the plan and the content of the page. It may not make as much sense as a different ending, but it is one hell of a spectacle.
posted by griphus at 1:51 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


The only faithful film adaptation of Watchmen would be one that skewers superhero movies the way Watchmen skewered the superhero comics of its time.

Eh, there's no movie that directly does it, but here are those that nip at the superhero genre. I think "Chronicle" and "Super" kind of do it, as does the LEGO Movie (especially with Arnett/Batman).
posted by FJT at 1:52 PM on March 3, 2014


Why be fanatically faithful to the graphic novel at the superficial level of some of the individual panels, if you're going to pointlessly rewrite the ending?

I'll tell you a change, though, that bothered me a LOT worse than the ending: Rorschach's account of his own origin story.

He's caught a guy who's kidnapped and killed a little girl.

In the movie, he gets REAL MAD and kills the kidnapper with a meat cleaver. GRAR!

In the comic, he manacles the guy to a radiator; sets the building on fire; and gives the guy a hacksaw so that, if he really wants to, he can cut off his own leg and escape. He then goes outside to watch what happens.

Rorschach doesn't object to murder on principle; he murders people himself. He has always seemed to me to be saying to the kidnapper, "Oh, so you're a Nietzchean superman like me? Show me." If the guy had cut off his own leg and made it out of the burning building, would Rorschach have let him go?

That scene is, for my money, the best thing in the whole comic. And there's a LOT of stuff in the comic. But the heart of it, in my opinion, is Rorschach and that scene. And they took it out, and replaced it with some completely generic GRAR. Anybody who would do that, IMHO, completely missed the best part of the book, and should hand in their License To Make Film Adaptations Of Cool Shit.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 1:52 PM on March 3, 2014 [48 favorites]


The New Frontiersman is going to publish Rorschach's journal and expose the whole thing.

I mean, it'll expose the truth with about as much success as the Weekly World News exposes the current whereabouts of Bat Boy. The fact that Rorscach knew the Truth, and the Truth sounds like the exact sort of conspiracy a deluded, mentally ill guy like Walter Kovacs would believe wholeheartedly is sort of the point of that ending, no?
posted by griphus at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Once again, I'm going to lay any fan disgruntlement over Watchmen at the feet of Robert Rodriguez. Sin City was so faithful from the story to the look (and so star-studded, too!) that Snyder made 300 which was a great memetic hit and paved the road to Watchmen. All three films embody the hyperreal "comic book film identical to comic book" CGI-soaked style.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2014


When Snyder has done anything even remotely close to being as interesting as Brazil, he'll probably shut up because he'll have gotten a lot smarter.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


Yes, the film was faithful to a fault. I totally remember that bit in the book where the human protagonists gained super human strength and the book pornographically focused on the violence to the absence of actual character, like every soulless film Zack Snyder ever made.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


Also, the Kick-Ass films are pretty much the Watchmen of our time. They embody the gritty "real messed up people as real messed up superheroes" thing, while being tonally abrasive and having really unpleasant characters. Those films are really reminiscent of Watchmen. Maybe it's the garish costumes.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The fact that Rorscach knew the Truth, and the Truth sounds like the exact sort of conspiracy a deluded, mentally ill guy like Walter Kovacs would believe wholeheartedly is sort of the point of that ending, no?

I think it is deliberately ambiguous. Doesn't the editor literally say "I leave it in your hands, Seymour" at the end? My reading was definitely towards the other interpretation, given Dr. Manhattan's comment that nothing ever ends.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Zack Snyder has never made a movie I wanted to see twice. And almost every one of them I've regretted seeing the first time. Sure, he's really good at making a frame from a comic book appear on screen, but along the way he sucks out the soul of the story.
posted by DigDoug at 1:58 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


What is it that got lost from the comic to make the reception from fans so lukewarm?

It's a bit hard to describe, really. Moore does point out that the medium of comics is fundamentally different from that of film or other media and can do things that those media can not.

So, there is no way that film can recreate the rorschach print that the entire issue devoted to Rorschach the character makes - i.e., the issue as a printed whole makes a rorschach print in terms of color and layout.

And too - they cut out the entire meta-narrative of the Black Freighter, which was a narrative commentary/chorus underlying the whole story.

There are visual markers and complex references that weave throughout the entire series. There are whole character sub-narratives that are excised from the film that make for an incredibly rich tapestry of experiences in the comic books.
posted by jammy at 2:00 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


What kind of dumb superhero names himself "Ozymandias"? He's just begging to get defeated and his head cut off in some epic way. It's like naming a daughter Electra IT JUST CANT END WELL.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2014 [17 favorites]


Doesn't the editor literally say "I leave it in your hands, Seymour" at the end?

Yeah, I always thought that reflected on the futility of Ozymandias' plan. Whether or not the Frontiersman runs the story, nobody will believe it. Just like whether or not Ozymandias' plan succeeds maybe for a moment, it doesn't hold up in the long run and, on the whole, just makes things that much worse.
posted by griphus at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, the status quo has changed because the USA's superhuman nuclear deterrent said, "Fuck all y'all, I'm going to space."
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:03 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's like naming a daughter Electra IT JUST CANT END WELL.

Somewhere Nikolas Natchios is kicking himself.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think Gilliam's ending might have been a lot more fun to watch than Snyder's. Snyder does a wonderful job recreating scenes, but his movies lack an essential quality I can't quite identify.

Fans would have freaked the hell out over Gilliam's take. No question.
posted by zarq at 2:05 PM on March 3, 2014


Maybe the fault should be at the feet of Frank Miller, since Sin City and 300 are so much less complicated than Watchmen that the successful adaptations of those comics (which both captured the visual style of the comics to a bloody, ultraviolent tee) bamboozled people into thinking a Watchmen movie could be done in the same.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:06 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only faithful film adaptation of Watchmen would be one that skewers superhero movies the way Watchmen skewered the superhero comics of its time.

Amen. I always felt that Snyder's Watchmen was a great example of missing the forest for the trees. And I can't even begin to tell you how annoyed I was that they had Nite Owl rebuke Ozymandias at the end over Doctor Manhattan...
posted by peteyjlawson at 2:07 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Snyder actually filmed the Black Freighter segments as cel animation, but it didn't make the cut for the theatrical release. It's on the deluxe DVD set.

I haven't watched it, because I did not find myself wanting to watch hours more of Zack Snyder's WATCHMEN after sitting through Zack Snyder's WATCHMEN.
posted by murphy slaw at 2:10 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Fans would have freaked the hell out over Gilliam's take. No question.

One of the things that I like thinking about in this scenario is how one of the wonderful things about the original book is how that ending is intended to freak out the reader and throw them for a narrative loop what with the devastating inversion of typical superhero story resolutions. The day not just unsaved, but unsaveable, rendered decisively beyond the reach of even some sort of noble "or die trying" failure.

An adaptation with an ending that fans then go "oh, sure, that's reasonable" about, even if only out of comforting familiarity as The Ending, seems like it's inherently letting the story down.

Gilliam's script had the right idea. Snyder changed the ending but didn't change it nearly enough.
posted by cortex at 2:11 PM on March 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


In the comic, he manacles the guy to a radiator; sets the building on fire; and gives the guy a hacksaw so that, if he really wants to, he can cut off his own leg and escape. He then goes outside to watch what happens.

The funny thing is, this exact scene in the comic is borrowed from a movie (30 year old spoilers):

Mad Max
posted by FJT at 2:12 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I grew up more into Mad Magazine than super heroes but I enjoyed the texture and pacing of Watchmen. It seemed like a respectful and earnest attempt to recreate the comic. When I first heard all he hubbub around it I wondered "Jeezus! What the fuck do people WANT?"
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:16 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


That Gilliam ending sounds just awful, but Snyder's film still doesn't look any better to me. It was like fetish porn for pedantic comic book nerds who want everything to be just so.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:18 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The point with the original ending is that the gigantic psychic squid is an enormous practical joke that Ozymandias is playing on the world. That's what upsets the Comedian so much - he can't compete with a joke on that scale and the sheer cynicism of it shows his own stance up as the narcissistic posturing it is. The event in the movie has none of that resonance: it's just a terrorist bombing.
posted by Grangousier at 2:20 PM on March 3, 2014 [16 favorites]


I feel like I've said this a million times. But Watchmen was doomed from the very beginning to ever be a film that was faithful to the spirit of the original work. It would have had to deconstruct the nature of film heroics and superheroics using the tropes of film heroes and superheroes. No one has done that, ever. The closest anyone has even really tried being being Last Action Hero, which though unfairly maligned is not nor ever tried to be as loftily intelligent a product as Watchmen.

So knowing in advance that a Watchmen film is only going to be faithful to the letter of the original work and not the spirit, Snyders film is about as good as it could have possibly been. The changed ending is FAR more believable than the comic version which frankly always stunk to me. If Manhatten is the ONLY superpowered being in this universe, where does Ozymandias suddenly get all these psychics to help create his alien squid vagina thing? The most common argument against a Manhatten attack against the world being that the world governments would never believe that he would work against the country he spent his entire life working for. Something that was handled, though in fairness not shown, by having Manhatten attack most of the worlds biggest metropolises and not just New York. It's a MUCH more plausible a scenario then alien squid vagina thing.

In the end, Snyders version is flawed only because it was SO faithful to the letter and not the spirit of the original. Gilliams would not have been any better. Though that ending is pretty cool, the rest of the script is mentioned as being pretty garbage.

Its already been mentioned, but it is also worth mentioning that the modern superhero movie is in large a reaction and result of Watchmens existence. Watchmen more or less did the flawed everyman superhero first. So when you show the original inspiration, all the generations of movies that came in its wake make it seem unoriginal.
posted by mediocre at 2:25 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


What kind of dumb superhero names himself "Ozymandias"?

One who's so smart he's certain he will reign supreme in his own lifetime and yet hasn't forgotten that he's not immortal.

Ozymandias knows his scheme won't work in the long term. In the long term, he and everyone else will be dead. He's content to glory in his triumph while it lasts.
posted by straight at 2:32 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm still waiting for Terry Gilliam to direct a film adaptation of The Master and Margarita. I'm fully convinced he's the only director in this world who could pull it off.
posted by evil otto at 2:35 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Not enough polar bears in any version of Watchmen.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:36 PM on March 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


If Manhatten is the ONLY superpowered being in this universe, where does Ozymandias suddenly get all these psychics to help create his alien squid vagina thing?

There was just the one psychic whose brain Ozymandias stole. The rest of the people were artists and so on, and their stuff was fed into that brain.

I think the big point about Ozymandias plan in the comic is that it wasn't plausible and yet very, very real. When you throw it onto the island of Manhattan, there'd be no denying that this totally fucked-up comic book-y thing happened, and, in Ozymandias' plan, that it had to be dealt with as a united front regardless of how stupid it seems.

Dr. Manhattan was a known quantity, just as nuclear war was. In the book, Ozymandias needed something wholly different; not just another kind of nuclear war.
posted by griphus at 2:36 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


The changed ending is FAR more believable than the comic version which frankly always stunk to me.

I think part of the thing about the alien squid monster is that, in the comic, it fits very, very well with the media deconstruction running through the whole book itself. Giant alien squid monster is a bit silly, but specifically it's a bit B-movie, Golden Age comics goofy, the kind of goofy monster that would have just been normal monster in the context of the media landscape in which the Watchmen narrative starts.

Moore and Gibbons may not have made what looks like a contemporary scary alien monster (which might have been something more Giger-esque in the mid-80s?) for the comic's finale, but they definitely made something that looked appropriate to the pulpy, garish heritage of the people living in the comic book itself.

I wonder a little if the original monster idea could have worked on film after all just given a sufficiently aggressive rework of its look and presentation—certainly there's nothing fundamentally unworkable about the idea of panicking the world with the appearing of terrible alien beings materializing violently in NYC, if you can manage to not have the audience accidentally laughing at the design of the thing. Which, as you say, a movie treatment of self-aware media deconstruction would need to ring some different bells than the comic version to really resonate ideally, but I don't think it's so much that that's undoable as it is that that's not what was done.

I really wonder how a six- or twelve-episode miniseries of the story would have worked on TV.
posted by cortex at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Some stories work well across various media. But I think comic books (particularly superhero comics) tend not to make good live-action movies. And a comic book that's a deep critique of comic books especially was not fated to make a good film. I mean, I could tell you the story of Watchmen, using funny voices and puppets even, and get across a lot of the sense of why people like it. But why not just read the goddamn thing?
posted by rikschell at 2:38 PM on March 3, 2014


Oh, and having psychic power was considered to be a (sorta) commonplace thing in Watchmen because Alan Moore is writing the story and that is something he honest-to-goodness believes in.
posted by griphus at 2:39 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I reread The Watchmen last weekend. After the 517th reading, I still firmly believe it belongs in the very small set of things that are both tremendously popular and fantastically good.
posted by DigDoug at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, the original ending is dated (Soviets vs. USA, pre-9/11), but it tells you something about the time it was made. And updating Watchmen is impossible, since it so deeply influenced everything that followed.
posted by rikschell at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2014


Also, the original ending is dated (Soviets vs. USA)

hurm.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:43 PM on March 3, 2014 [28 favorites]


One of the reasons I like Snyder's version of the ending is because the aftermath of Ozymandias' plan shouldn't be predictable. Whether his gambit is going to work, at least in the short- and medium-term, is a complete unknown. Post-9/11, we know what happens when there's a catastrophic attack on New York City by a third party, so the attack gets changed into something else.

(Plus losing the whole "There's no superpowers in this world....oh hey, psychics! What's up?" baggage can only be for the better.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:45 PM on March 3, 2014


Well, there would probably be a difference in reaction if NYC were attacked by a Cthulhuesque monster from Dimension X versus a score of angry young men from the Middle East.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:51 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Say what you want about Snyder's ending, but you've gotta admit his beginning sequence is one of the best ever.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:52 PM on March 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


The only faithful film adaptation of Watchmen would be one that skewers superhero movies the way Watchmen skewered the superhero comics of its time.

I thought it did in parts especially when it came to the brutality of the fights that a real life superhero would have to endure. Consider that in the movies Wolverine, the dude with knives popping out his hands, hardly kills anyone but in Watchmen Silk Spectre, arguably the weakest member of the group, straight up stabs a dude in the neck no questions asked.
posted by PenDevil at 2:52 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


There was just the one psychic whose brain Ozymandias stole. The rest of the people were artists and so on, and their stuff was fed into that brain.

Including a comic book writer's conception of an alien life form. Come on, does Moore have to erect a neon sign about the secret origins of Watchmen's ending?

Because in addition to providing a pastiche of Starro the Conqueror (the giant starfish with mental superpowers from outer space who battled the Justice League of America in their first appearance in The Brave and the Bold issue #28, doncher know) bringing about world peace by faking an extraterrestrial cephalopod invasion at once plays with comic-book/monster movie cliches yet remains an unbelievably silly idea... and yet Ozymandias is evidently as committed to it as the most dedicated fan boy. "This is the world’s smartest man we’re talking about here, so how can you tell?" Nite Owl asks Rorscach at one point. "How can anyone tell if he’s gone crazy?" Moore wanted Watchmen's moral ambiguity to run all the way through the comic book, down to the last panel, in which this whole crazy scheme may yet be uncovered and fall apart.

As far as meta commentary goes, at least Sam Hamm's fadeout is a bit more in keeping with Watchmen's spirit than Zack Snyder's overly literal substitute ending. His movie version of Ozymandias framing Dr. Manhattan for destroying New York as the judgement of an angry god may seem more plausible, yet for that very reason, it missed Watchmen's whole point.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:56 PM on March 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Post-9/11, we know what happens when there's a catastrophic attack on New York City by a third party

Really? So does a society that declares war and vengeance on fictitious alien monsters end up better or worse than a society that declares war and vengeance on Terror?
posted by straight at 3:13 PM on March 3, 2014


Personally, I liked the ending in the movie... but then, I'm bias.

and, for the fun of it...this is Zack's birthday cake the week of the premier.
posted by HuronBob at 3:17 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Fuck Zack Snyder, he makes shitty films. Gilliam is a master storyteller, and he's made far better pictures.
posted by Catblack at 3:17 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who by sheer chance, happened to be teaching Watchmen on September 15, 2001, let me tell you, to those kids the ending felt neither unrealistic nor dated, as much though it might have a few days earlier. Or another way to put it, the surrealism of recent events made the surrealism of the ending seem acutely plausible: The End of History ends not with a whimper, but with a SF-like disruption of everything you had heretofore taken for granted.

And after some discussion, they mostly agreed that the publication of Rorschach's book wouldn't make much of a difference, though it might temporarily shift the enemy everyone was uniting against. And we hadn't even gotten to 1984 on the the syllabus yet...
posted by chortly at 3:32 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


that bit in the book where the human protagonists gained super human strength
The part where Ozymandias actually caught a bullet seemed superhuman enough to me. At least in the movie they let him have gloves.
and the book pornographically focused on the violence to the absence of actual character, like every soulless film Zack Snyder ever made
[roystgnr internal error: rebuttal not found]
posted by roystgnr at 3:42 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not about the ending being realistic, it's about it being plausible or sensical in the world in which it takes place. Suddenly bringing psychics into a world that previously had a huge part of its narrative based around the fact that there was only one being with anything supernormal makes anything that follows it seem wildly nonsensical. Having Dr. Manhatten, a superpowered godlike being who has been spending the majority of the story becoming further and further separated from his humanity and ability to care about anything these ants below him are muttering about decide to turn his back on them in a violent manner seems like something that could happen. Heretofore unheard from psychics being used to help create a monstrous being that will be exploded in New York just does not seem possible in the world that was created around it. There is a difference between out of left field and outlandishly implausible. Dr. Manhatten turning his back on humanity is the former, alien squid vagina thing is the latter.
posted by mediocre at 3:48 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder a little if the original monster idea could have worked on film after all just given a sufficiently aggressive rework of its look and presentation

Given that the end of comic book Watchmen really isn't far off the start of Pacific Rim, I don't see why not.

Of course, the worlds of Pacific Rim and Starship Troopers aren't all that great - I still think it was a pretty poor idea on Ozymandias' part.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:01 PM on March 3, 2014


So Gilliam wanted to end Watchmen by ripping off Donnie Darko. Brilliant.

Frankly at this point, I'll buy 10 copies of Snyder's "Watchmen" if it pisses off Alan Moore.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:08 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Snyder's ending didn't bother me but he music literally made me feel sick, which could illustrate how much Watchmen means to me
posted by akaJudge at 4:22 PM on March 3, 2014


Catblack: "Fuck Zack Snyder, he makes shitty films. Gilliam is a master storyteller, and he's made far better pictures."

Meh. I love Gilliam's older work but I haven't really liked anything since Fear and Loathing. Not that I have much love for Snyder but it's not like I ever want to see Brothers Grimm again.
posted by octothorpe at 4:23 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, there would probably be a difference in reaction if NYC were attacked by a Cthulhuesque monster from Dimension X versus a score of angry young men from the Middle East.

- Buckaroo, the President's on line one!
- The President of what?
- The President of the United States!
- Oh
- He wants to know if everything's OK with the monsters from planet 10 or if he should go ahead and nuke Russia.
- Tell him yes on one, no on two.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


One thing which confuses me about a certain subset of fandom is this idea that films somehow reify comics / books, the whole 'I've been waiting for 25 years for the movie, OMG!!!!'. This leads to unrealistic expectations about the derivative work. There' seems to be a sense of movies somehow completing the narrative of the comic/book, as if it would give you something that wasn't in the original version, and that, IMO, is the source of these people's frustration when movies change endings, etc., this not realizing that works of art are complete in themselves .
Movies are movies, comics are comics, and moving a story from one medium to another doesn't actually do anything to the original version or have any impact on my appreciation of it. Is the movie different than the comic? Of course it is, it's a movie.
posted by signal at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Which one was yes, go ahead and destroy Russia... or number 2?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2014


It's not about the ending being realistic, it's about it being plausible or sensical in the world in which it takes place.

Actually, I would have to disagree with that. The thing with Ozymandias' plan is that it isn't "plausible or sensical," and is in fact completely absurd within the context of the story. Listen to what Dan Dreiberg had to say about it:

"Adrian, I'm sorry... You need help. I know this "Half New York" stuff is bullshit, but I'm still glad we got here before you got deeper into this mess.
"Christ, you seriously planned all this mad scientist stuff? I mean, when was this hopeless black fantasy supposed to happen? When were you planning to do it ?"
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 4:31 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


"all of just choosing to dress up in gaudy opera costumes and express the notion of good and evil in simple, childish terms, while over in Europe they were turning human beings into soap and lampshades" That's from the first Nite Owl's biography in the watchmen comic.

I think the solution in the comic is not realistic in the world it's part of. It's a the end result of a small group of people who are playing out a fantasy.

Ozymandias is not as smart as everyone thinks he is, including himself. I mean there's a scene where he's watching 20 televisions at once and predicting a nuclear war based on increasingly explicit perfume commercials. Meanwhile the comic shows us what President Nixon is doing: nothing. Nixon is going to sit and wait. Also as far as "we know what happens" the event that's supposedly going to be the trigger for nuclear war in the Watchmen comic is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

We know Ozymandias is wrong. We are shown he's wrong, and we are given an entire allegorical story about how wrong he is. The entire thing is insane. That's always been part of the point of the comic for me. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre go along with an act of mass murder, because they're presented with an insane comic book solution to the cold war, and it ultimately fits with the insane comic book lives they're comfortable with.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:34 PM on March 3, 2014 [19 favorites]


An insane comic-book solution to the Cold War that is a bridge too far only for the ostensibly "crazy" one the rest of the "superheroes" worry about.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2014


So Gilliam wanted to end Watchmen by ripping off Donnie Darko. Brilliant.

Isn't that the end of the Butterfly Effect (Director's cut), not Donnie Darko?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2014


I don't even feel like I'm going out on a limb in saying this: Zack Snyder is a better director than Terry Gilliam.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:40 PM on March 3, 2014


"I have never read the Watchmen and thought the Snyder movie was good enough. What is it that got lost from the comic to make the reception from fans so lukewarm?"

Because the comic book is all about subverting, inverting, perverting and destroying so much of the heroic/anti-heroic narrative, especially the Grimdark Loner anti-hero, and Snyder's adaptation was like, "No, let's make Rorschach real cool!" It was epic point-missing; if Snyder had been successful he would have made a movie that every single other maker of superhero movies would have had to confront and deal with, and instead he made a movie that furthered his tropes.
posted by klangklangston at 4:45 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Actually, I would have to disagree with that. The thing with Ozymandias' plan is that it isn't "plausible or sensical," and is in fact completely absurd within the context of the story. Listen to what Dan Dreiberg had to say about it:

"Adrian, I'm sorry... You need help. I know this "Half New York" stuff is bullshit, but I'm still glad we got here before you got deeper into this mess.
"Christ, you seriously planned all this mad scientist stuff? I mean, when was this hopeless black fantasy supposed to happen? When were you planning to do it ?"


Ozymandias is portrayed as a very intelligent person who is capable of planning - that is, linking cause to effect. An intelligent person, even an insane one, would not think even for a second that this was a credible plan. His scheme in the book doesn't make sense even in the context of the book's world, coming from the book's establishment of the character.

It's not about whether the plan is objectively plausible, it's about whether it's believable that the character who enacts it could consider it plausible when he does so. It isn't. It breaks the narrative to have the villain's plan rely on him acting out of character.

Of course, by erecting a world in which Dr. Manhattan is plainly established as the only supernatural thing in the world and then adding psychics and a psychic death monster and making the entire ending sequence 100% reliant on psychics being real, Moore already broke his own narrative. Just like when magic worked in From Hell. Or any of the many times in his works that characters the narrative states to be perfectly human perform plainly supernatural feats.
posted by kafziel at 5:04 PM on March 3, 2014


Part of the meta-narrative about comics is that the world of the Watchman doesn't really have superheroes at the center of the comic industry (except for the briefly mentioned Tijuana Bibles). Costumed heroes at that point in history occupy the same marginal publishing genre as Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Instead, the comic industry surrounding The Watchman seems to make its living on horror and crime drama. (It's a theme that Moore repeatedly comes back to. Top Ten has comic books about accountants. Promethea has Weeping Gorilla and romance comics.)

Framing Manhattan doesn't make a lot of sense, because in the world the characters live in, costumed heroes are almost universally hated. Ozymandais is tolerated because he's retired, rich, and has good PR. Manhattan is kept happy as America's doomsday device. The primary advocate for the costumed heroes in-world are the heroes themselves and a rabidly right-wing newspaper. Uniting the world around hating Manhattan is like uniting the world around hating influenza or malaria.

So of course "the event" involves a Lovecraftian absurdity. First, because Ozy is crazy, and second, because it's a purely fictional boogyman that's not already been criminalized and marginalized.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:09 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Of course, by erecting a world in which Dr. Manhattan is plainly established as the only supernatural thing in the world and then adding psychics and a psychic death monster and making the entire ending sequence 100% reliant on psychics being real, Moore already broke his own narrative.

He's not though. He's the only superpowered person. The existence of psychics as well is established somewhere in the middle of the narrative.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:11 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


He's not though. He's the only superpowered person. The existence of psychics as well is established somewhere in the middle of the narrative.

... I ... psychics are superpowered people. I know they get tossed in casually halfway through, because Moore doesn't think it violates the established setting of a world exactly like the real world with the sole exception of Dr. Manhattan. But psychic powers are supernatural, and possession of them makes a person superhuman.

The problem presented here is that Moore doesn't think a world with magic and psychics is a world with unreal superpowers, because Moore is a goddamn lunatic who things magic and psychics are real things in the real world, and so doesn't expend a shred of thought on how that would change the narrative. Excising that self-contradictory bullshit is only ever a positive move.
posted by kafziel at 5:18 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Of course, by erecting a world in which Dr. Manhattan is plainly established as the only supernatural thing in the world and then adding psychics and a psychic death monster and making the entire ending sequence 100% reliant on psychics being real, Moore already broke his own narrative.

Actually, at the time Moore wrote Watchmen the idea of psychics being a real thing was still being taken seriously in some circles of academia, and even within the intelligence community.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 6:28 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because the comic book is all about subverting, inverting, perverting and destroying so much of the heroic/anti-heroic narrative, especially the Grimdark Loner anti-hero, and Snyder's adaptation was like, "No, let's make Rorschach real cool!"

In essence the movie was made by someone who thought Alan Moore's point with Watchmen was to tell a story of what superheroes would really be like and how they would really be treated in the "real world". And I've taken more shots at Snyder than were perhaps fair, except wait nope still mad about Superman, but Snyder is very, very far from being the only one whose understanding of the story goes no deeper than that. I'd wager that it's the most common reading.

Also, the opening montage was a really fucking good and economical way to handle the golden age storyline. And while I agree with cortex that the monster ending might have been made to work, I actually really liked what Snyder did, even if I don't care for the movie as a whole. He did well overall for someone who didn't fully understand what he'd read.

I also say feh on this whole "it can't be filmed" nonsense. Yes yes, I know the ink blot thing and all that, and I know there are certain effects that can be achieved in comics that don't translate as well to film, but it's sequential art. There are scenes with settings and characters saying and doing things. That can be filmed. The soul of a sequential art story can be (perhaps not perfectly) translated to film. Mad respect to Moore, but dude's never suffered self-doubt when it comes to appraising his own work.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:28 PM on March 3, 2014


> "... Sin City and 300 are so much less complicated than Watchmen that the successful adaptations of those comics (which both captured the visual style of the comics to a bloody, ultraviolent tee) ..."

Here's a thing that seldom seems to get mentioned. The movie version of 300 is a *terrible* adaptation of the comic book, in exactly the same way that the Watchmen movie is a terrible adaptation of that series.

The comic book version of 300 did one really, really interesting thing throughout. All the Spartans are soft-spoken people of few words, given to extreme understatment. This is both a bit of fun historical accuracy for those who happen to know it (the word "laconic" comes from "Laconia", the region of Greece in which Sparta is the principal city), and frankly a rather good character choice. Most of the humor in the comic comes from this choice. One example, although there are many, occurs when Leonidas kills the Persian messenger. In the comic, the reply to "This is madness!" is a gentle correction - "This is Sparta". *push*

In the movie, THIS! BECOMES! SPITTLE-FLECKED! SHOUTING! which completely misses the point. A point that gets missed over and over and over ...

So, yes, the movie of 300 did have the same "visual style" of the comic. That does not mean it was the "slavishly accurate" adaptation people believe or perhaps pretend it is. It's a fairly crappy adaptation that misses the point all over the place. Snyder made many changes to the nature of the dialogue, changes which were always in the service of making the story duller and more conventional than the original.

The same is true of Watchmen. The "visual style" is faithfully reproduced, yes. So what? Snyder amps up the ultra-violence, adding dozens of opponents to some battles and adding in ridiculous and unnecessary extra fight scenes. He changes the dialogue in ways that are always poor choices ("Got my pleasure"?). He doesn't get the Rorscharch isn't Batman, and basically shifts almost all the character focus to him.

The opening montage is great, yes. Some people like the ending better, fine. Two slices of decent bread does not make the shit sandwich better.

Snyder does not make slavish adaptations of comic books. He makes crappy adaptations that have a very similar visual look to the comic books they are based on.

(I mean, criminy, how tone-deaf do you have to be to miss subtleties in 300? It's not like there were a lot of subtleties there to begin with.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:29 PM on March 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


Ozymandias is portrayed as a very intelligent person who is capable of planning - that is, linking cause to effect. An intelligent person, even an insane one, would not think even for a second that this was a credible plan.

There's that angle, but he's also teeming with hubris. He's uniquely in a position, in the narrative, to buy his own So Crazy It Just Might Work bullshit; to do an audacious and unlikely thing, and to be sure that it's audacity is justified, fits. It's not out of character for him to be wrong about his biggest, most ambitious idea; it's just out of character for him to admit the possibility to himself, at least until the deed is done. (His sudden childlike fragility in questioning Dr. Manhattan at the very end as to whether he'd done the right thing is key to this.)

Longer thoughts on that from a few years ago.

I ... psychics are superpowered people.

This is tautology. The presence of ghosts in a story where magic doesn't exist isn't a violation of the narrative unless the narrative plainly states that ghosts are a narrative impossibility; two different things that share the "is supernatural in the general sense" property aren't necessarily narratively identical categories.
posted by cortex at 6:31 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


My only real complaint about the ending is shifting Manhattan's 'oh... it never ends, Adrian' to reported dialogue. Why, just why?

As for the movie's almost pornographic violence - it felt like it was almost unintentionally satirically excessive, and in that sense very in line with the comics that Watchmen was commenting on in the first place.

For the Nixon nose, though, there are no excuses.

None.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I skipped the Black Freighter bits when I read it, philistine though I may be.
posted by lumensimus at 6:59 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think Gilliam is nine times the artist Snyder is. I also think Snyder is right, mostly. His love for the source material was obvious, and he did the best job he could to bring the book to the screen. I mean, he cast the perfect Rorschach, for instance. Gilliam would have made a Gilliam movie of it, and when Gilliam isn't great he can be amazingly bad. Judging by the glimpses we've gotten of his version, it sounds like another big noisy Gilliam mess.

Klangklangston nailed the problems with Snyder's version. People knock it for being too faithful, but the problems it had were mostly the result of Synder not quite understanding his source material. Snyder strikes me as a fundamentally immature filmmaker, your classic fanboy type, and he really got off on the violence and cool costumes and stuff. Moore's book is full of terrible, tragic violence, it's not supposed to make you horny. And the costumes are supposed to sag and crinkle in the wrong places. These characters are heroic, but they are also sad and silly and messed-up. Snyder totally missed the satire.

All that being said, Snyder's adoration of the book did come through. When he talks about saving the book from the "Gilliams of the world", I get where he was coming from. Gilliam would've turned it into the Baron Munchhausen of superhero movies, instead of the deeply flawed but earnest and respectful adaptation that Snyder made.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:03 PM on March 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


... I ... psychics are superpowered people.

Not by the definition explicitly given by the narrative in that passage which says that Manhattan's uniqueness comes from his capacity for mass destruction. It's superpowered in a world where the modestly impossible (in our world) vigilantes who catch bullets, invent and create hovercraft, and swing around on gas-powered grappling hooks are apparently enough of a problem to justify an act of congress. It's a comic-book universe, and impotent psychics and psychic bomb isn't much of a stretch within an entire narrative about comic book heroes who suck at life.

Not to mention that exposition possibly comes to us via an unreliable narrator.

The problem with demonizing Manhattan is that Manhattan is a metaphor for the bomb. Costumed heroes have already been the scapegoats for the "state of society." They've already been criminalized. They're already tolerated only as military weapons. Getting rid of Manhattan is rather like implementing Salt II. It's a nice gesture that doesn't change the fact that you have two political superpowers willing and able to implement MAD.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:05 PM on March 3, 2014


Snyder makes garbage movies and should shut up and retire and not ruin Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman meeting for the first time on film. Highly skeptical of the Gilliam ending but maybe he could have carried it off?

Here is the only film adaptation of Watchmen that I've liked so far.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:44 PM on March 3, 2014


When given the chance to make his very own surreal dark-fantasy passion project, Terry Gilliam made Brazil.

Given precisely the same chance, Zack Snyder made Sucker Punch.

Do we need to discuss the difference?
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


Snyder makes garbage movies and should shut up and retire and not ruin Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman meeting for the first time on film.

I don't know, I'm looking forward to his slo-mo shots of Bruce kicking Clark's ass.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:04 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Moore's book is full of terrible, tragic violence, it's not supposed to make you horny.

Yes and no....I mean, yes, obviously. The whole "Superheros: Kinda fascist, really" thing comes through loud and clear. But there's also a little sotto voice undercurrent of of course they are, that's the way you like them, don't you, you bastards? that's the only way that works. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth for that reason...there's a definite suggestion that Ozymandias' plan is working...Rorscharch's revelations may derail it, but if they do they'll be doing a bad thing, because the leaders of the world are mad bastards and the only way to whip 'em into shape is to meet cruelty with cruelty. A little flavor of the Freshman Who Liked Nietzsche Too Much.

I think it's a great work of art, don't get me wrong. But parts of it were distasteful to me in the same way that the Lord of the Flies was distasteful to me; you can't wholly ignore either the bad or the good in people and see them true.
posted by Diablevert at 8:11 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man of Steel thinks we want to cheer for an alienated superbeing who has to kill for the greater good.

So granted, I'm not a Superman fan. Never really read any of the comics, even as a kid.

But I really liked this aspect of the Snyder version -- instead of oh hey it's our pal Superman who's keen, discovering that beings like Superman exist is this terrifying, cataclysmic event.

I mean, if we discovered a being like that existed on Earth, I hope our reaction wouldn't be to just say "Oh, great, now there's somebody who can foil evil plots!" I hope the world would, in whatever degree of secrecy you can have against that, devote truly vast resources to learning how to kill him. Because we might need to if he gets exposed to whatever kind of kryptonite and turns evil or, hell, just watches too much Fox News and decides to "fix" things.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not to rehash the entire Man of Steel argument all over again, but also, "hero who decides out of nowhere that he's never ever gonna kill anybody no matter what and this is perfectly hunky-dory" is a lot less compelling of a person than "hero who is genuinely deprived of other options and is forced to take a life to keep further life from being lost, and copes with it by swearing to always find a third option in the future".
posted by kafziel at 9:25 PM on March 3, 2014


I hope the world would, in whatever degree of secrecy you can have against that, devote truly vast resources to learning how to kill him.

This is why I thought Project Cadmus in Justice League Unlimited was entirely justified. Plus, ya know, baseline superiority!
posted by Apocryphon at 9:53 PM on March 3, 2014


I don't even feel like I'm going out on a limb in saying this: Zack Snyder is a better director than Terry Gilliam.

This may be true, in the technical sense, but Gilliam is almost certainly a better artist.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:22 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I still think the film's treatment of Rorscharch's death on the Antarctic snow is visual poetry, delivering on that moment in the narrative in a way that the comic missed out on.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:31 PM on March 3, 2014


Here is the only film adaptation of Watchmen that I've liked so far.

If you want a slavish adaptation for Watchmen, there's the Motion Comic. It looks fantastic, pity about the voice acting.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 10:38 PM on March 3, 2014


"Yes and no....I mean, yes, obviously. The whole "Superheros: Kinda fascist, really" thing comes through loud and clear. But there's also a little sotto voice undercurrent of of course they are, that's the way you like them, don't you, you bastards? that's the only way that works. The ending left a bad taste in my mouth for that reason..."

Right, so this gets at it in a way I think is pretty important: In the comic book, that's part of why they're sad people. Moore is hearing that voice and then stripping the power fantasy from it — that's the point of them being sad, matte, and ill-fit. Every narrative is a narrative of power fantasy, from Joey, to the Black Freighter, etc. And in every single one of them, it's saying, "that's the way you like them, don't you, you bastards?" and then it shows you what it would look like to get what you want, and it's always sad.

So reframing it as Rorschach's heroic narrative (anti-hero, but still), Snyder isn't really giving you what you want — he's giving you the fantasy of what you want. He's the one eroticizing fascism, under the guise of the prurient. That's what he missed. It's core to the book. (And, it's worth noting, that the book also serves as an example that you don't need to affirm power fantasies in order to have a satisfying comic book or story. Doing that from within the genre of costumed power fantasy is pretty impressive.)

It'd be a bit like a Die Hard where McClane and Gruber only survive because they cope with the traumas that sent them toward violence and away from their families.
posted by klangklangston at 10:52 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Like many people above, I feel sort of alienated from the internet hivemind1 by the strong negative reaction to Snyder's Watchmen, since my reaction was more or less "huh, that was fun, not an abomination, don't need to see it again, don't regret seeing it."

That said, I think that the giant squid ending needed to be changed, not because it was goofy but because its goofiness was outdated. Something that doesn't seem to have entered into this conversation so far2 is that the original inspiration for Moore in devising Ozymandias's ridiculous fake alien attack was Ronald Reagan's offhand remark about how an alien invasion could unite the human race and end the cold war.

The fact that that particular piece of what-iffery was actually uttered, in public, by one of the actual people responsible for actually keeping one of two insane nations from actually blowing each other up, is in fact legit disturbing — even though as a little kid in the 80s, my reaction was "why, yes, I suppose that would work! US & USSR vs. the aliens! Zam Pow!" Ozymandias's nutty plan was an effective piece of storytelling because it effectively highlighted how ridiculous, nutty, and comic-bookish our actual leaders are — how they thought (and think) in childish ways [despite/because of?] the outsized power they wield.

Dropping that historically specific 1980s element into a post-2000s movie directly would be missing the point. It's unfortunate, though, that Snyder wasn't clever enough to more effectively replace it with something highlighting the comic-bookish idiocy of the world leaders of the 2000s.

[1]: Yes, I acknowledge the way the first two clauses of this sentence contradict each other.
[2]: He says, doing a cursory ctrl-F "Reagan"

posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:57 AM on March 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


V for Vendetta was vaguely updated to fit '00s fears about neoconservatism and so forth. But it wasn't done in a very clever way.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:16 AM on March 4, 2014


I would imagine that the number of successful film adaptations is vastly outnumbered by unsuccessful ones. I am using the word successful as shorthand for 'adding something of value to the experience' rather than financially successful, or not completely terrible.
I have probably read all of the Sin City books and the Watchmen book, but not 300. I have seen a bit of the Sin City film and a bit of 300, but not the Watchmen because I liked the Watchmen book and was indifferent about Sin City. The film adaptation of Sin City seemed to be dumbing down an already pretty stupid, violent grimporn universe, which to me detracts from the experience. I would not like to see that happen to the Watchmen.

It would have been possible to use the Watchmen book as a springboard to create a film that matched the ambition and intelligence of the original, but that is not what anyone expected from Snyder and Hollywood, because they don't do that.

Either the original ending (with an up to date looking space monster) or Gilliam's ending would be preferable to the epic point missing achieved by Snyder.
posted by asok at 3:27 AM on March 4, 2014


I skipped the Black Freighter bits when I read it, philistine though I may be.


The Black Freighter sections in the book do what the music does in a movie: it offers emotional counterpoint and resonances. Not having it as part if the film was not an issue, as it was entirely superfluous.

Snyder's interpretation of the source material showed the gap between plot and theme. Snyder clearly follows the plot, making a few nips and tucks here and there. The theme, however, totally evades him. The book was written when superhero stories were played out and were dwindling. It was written to be a tombstone over the genre and presented the characters as largely unsympathetic -- of the six central figures, four (Veidt, Rorschach, the Comedian, Manhattan) have lost touch with humanity. The book has something to say about the dangers of golden calves. The movie says, "Hey, look, these calves are made of pure gold! Isn't that awesome?"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:21 AM on March 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


It just struck me - and sorry if it's been covered above - but the worst omission that the film of Watchmen makes is leaving out the collateral damage. All through the book there are these scenes set by the newspaper stand, and we get to know the messy contradictory lives of the people who pass by there and then, when Adrian pushes the button, they just die. That was an astonishing moment for me when I read the book originally, amplified by the fact that (in terms of the narrative) their deaths have already happened, he did it half an hour ago, it can't be stopped.
posted by Grangousier at 5:44 AM on March 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


It's time for comics fans to realize that the giant Outer Limits space squid is not very good. The proof that we're seeing Alan Moore at the height of his talents is that he manages somewhat to sell it, but it's clearly the weak spot of the narrative. It fits thematically, but mechanically it's clunky. Each time I re-read Watchmen (and I don't even own it anymore; I lent it out, didn't get it back, and never felt inclined to replace it) I cringe at it a little more. I haven't seen Snyder's movie and don't intend to, but I know what his ending was and I credit him with trying to get it to make more narrative sense. The so-called Gilliam ending also makes more sense, and I'd be curious to see how it would have been pulled off. I especially like how this proposed ending doesn't just sidestep the space squid problem, but also the Dr. Manhattan problem, which the book almost but not quite handles.

Watchmen is a really good graphic novel, probably one of the best. But it's not sacred text, it's not above critique, and it shouldn't have some kind of immunity that other books haven't ever had. It's no 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' and look at the issues with that novel's ending.
posted by Legomancer at 5:48 AM on March 4, 2014


if Snyder had been successful he would have made a movie that every single other maker of superhero movies would have had to confront and deal with, and instead he made a movie that furthered his tropes.

Yes and no. The fact that Snyder could go on to make Man of Steel after making Watchmen would be a pretty definitive proof of the failure of Snyder's Watchmen if it weren't for the fact that DC Comics has mostly had the exact same reaction to having published Gibbons & Moore's Watchmen.

Snyder's movie didn't accomplish what Gibbons and Moore did, but we can hardly fault him for not succeeding where Watchmen the comic book failed.
posted by straight at 9:49 AM on March 4, 2014


So granted, I'm not a Superman fan. Never really read any of the comics, even as a kid. But I really liked this aspect of the Snyder version -- instead of oh hey it's our pal Superman who's keen, discovering that beings like Superman exist is this terrifying, cataclysmic event.

Well yeah. It's mostly a disagreement between people for whom Superman is mostly an idea and an image vs. people for whom Superman is a character.

If all you know about Sherlock Holmes is that he's a detective who wears a deerstalker cap and smokes a curvy pipe, you're probably not gonna have any problem with Robert Downey, Jr. playing him as, basically, Victorian Batman.
posted by straight at 10:02 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Yes and no. The fact that Snyder could go on to make Man of Steel after making Watchmen would be a pretty definitive proof of the failure of Snyder's Watchmen if it weren't for the fact that DC Comics has mostly had the exact same reaction to having published Gibbons & Moore's Watchmen.

Snyder's movie didn't accomplish what Gibbons and Moore did, but we can hardly fault him for not succeeding where Watchmen the comic book failed.
"

Well, kind of. But there are two differences: First off, Gibbons and Moore were massively influential within comics, even if they didn't destroy all of mainstream superhero publishing or anything. But folks like Kurt Busiek and even Chris Claremont had to deal with a lot of the challenges that Watchmen wrought. Unfortunately, a lot of that was to remake Wolverine into Rorschach's gritty loner style. (See also: All of Image.)

But no one is going to have to confront Watchmen: The Movie when they want to make a superhero movie. It's less influential than Spiderman, hell, probably even Spiderman 2 or Ang Lee's Hulk.

So, while Moore and Gibbons weren't totally successful in deconstructing superhero power fantasies for good, Snyder wasn't even successful in deconstructing them for the two hour run time.
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


But no one is going to have to confront Watchmen: The Movie when they want to make a superhero movie.

True. The Incredibles is a more influential superhero movie than Watchmen.
posted by hot_monster at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I wish there were a live action superhero movie with a female protagonist as great as Helen Parr.
posted by straight at 1:20 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, a lot of that was to remake Wolverine into Rorschach's gritty loner style.

I thought that was because, during the 80s, if you let Frank Miller so much as look at a character they'd soon have acquired extensive scarring, a retconned ninja training and a general air of grit.
posted by Grangousier at 3:28 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Say what you want about Snyder's ending, but you've gotta admit his beginning sequence yt is one of the best ever.

Yes, but you've gotta admit that playing The Times They Are A Changin' is about the most obvious, least inspired thing he could have done with that sequence. On the other hand, it's not as WTF as playing Hallelujah over a sex scene.

I don't even dislike the film, but there are so many problems with it.
posted by crossoverman at 5:56 PM on March 4, 2014


"I thought that was because, during the 80s, if you let Frank Miller so much as look at a character they'd soon have acquired extensive scarring, a retconned ninja training and a general air of grit."

Yeah, though Miller got ahold of Wolverine about four years before Watchmen came out (so my timing was off), and had turned Daredevil grimdark. (Which, you know, I'm not totally bagging on — a lot of that work is really good, as is Dark Knight Returns, aside from any time he deals with women ever.) But yeah, Miller is part of what Watchmen was reacting against, and the comics world seems to have shrugged and doubled down on Miller.
posted by klangklangston at 6:16 PM on March 4, 2014


I'll tell you a change, though, that bothered me a LOT worse than the ending: Rorschach's account of his own origin story.

Same here. That was the stupidest change from the source material I've seen in any comic book movie.
posted by homunculus at 12:46 AM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


> "But yeah, Miller is part of what Watchmen was reacting against, and the comics world seems to have shrugged and doubled down on Miller."

In 1986, Scott McCloud did a one-shot called DESTROY!! which was literally nothing but senseless violence from beginning to end.

He did not, at the time, realize that he was successfully predicting the 90's.
posted by kyrademon at 3:39 AM on March 5, 2014


From my standpoint as a martial artist, one thing that kind of bugged me about Snyder's version was the fight scenes. In the movie, they were actually superheroic - dramatic, slow-mo shots of visually impressive flashy moves. This would be appropriate for an adaptation of most superhero comics, but the original Watchmen deliberately subverted that sort of approach. The heroes in the comic utilized a more down-and-dirty practical approach - thumb to the eye, knee to the groin, snatch up an improvised weapon and hit someone with it pre-emptively.

It's a nitpick, but one that reflects Snyder's end result of missing the spirit of the original even while re-creating frame-by-frame shots from the comic.
posted by tdismukes at 5:41 AM on March 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


True. The Incredibles is a more influential superhero movie than Watchmen.

Well yeah, but that's because it's the best superhero movie ever made.
posted by signal at 6:06 AM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure where you think the "blind fanboy rage" is going to come from, since the original ending of Watchmen seems to have been the most controversial part of Moore's version, and Snyder's alteration the least of his. Even John Byrne has said something to the effect that it was great until the rubber monster shows up, and Byrne's former collaborator Chris Claremont supposedly said that it was a good thing (for other comics creators) that Moore couldn't plot very well, otherwise they'd have to kill him. As mediocre notes above, introducing psychic powers is kind of an ass-pull given that the whole premise of the novel is the staggering amount of disruption that a single superpowered person would generate. (This, in turn, makes it more bizarre that Snyder also gave us allegedly non-super-strong superheroes that could punch through several inches of granite countertop, as we saw early on after the opening montage. Of course, that was only one of many problems with the movie.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2014


(This, in turn, makes it more bizarre that Snyder also gave us allegedly non-super-strong superheroes that could punch through several inches of granite countertop, as we saw early on after the opening montage. Of course, that was only one of many problems with the movie.)

Ehh, that was a problem in the book. People who are supposed to be ordinary humans performing blatantly superhuman feats. No, Ozy, you can't catch a bullet.
posted by kafziel at 2:16 PM on March 5, 2014


This reminds me of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun which seems like high fantasy, but you gradually realize all the supposed magic is just advanced technology. But then a miracle happens, which is fine because Wolfe believes in miracles. (Disclaimer: there are no statements one can make about Wolfe's work that are not controversial.)
posted by straight at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2014


No, Ozy, you can't catch a bullet.

I'm waving a hand for handwaving's sake, here, but it's plausible within the world of the story, and specifically of Ozymandias' character, that a missing page would have had him extremely smugly and tediously explaining the non-supernatural mechanism he'd built into his outfit to make bullet-catching a plausibility. Certainly he could predict the possibility that he'd be confronted by armed, desperate former colleagues. A bullet's a big weakness to not account for.
posted by cortex at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2014


The heroes in the comic utilized a more down-and-dirty practical approach - thumb to the eye, knee to the groin, snatch up an improvised weapon and hit someone with it pre-emptively.

I agree with this criticism of the action in the film more than the complaints about punching through walls. Hollywood cinematic magic realism of having baseline humans perform unrealistic acts of strength is easily written off as just being that; movies being movies. It didn't turn the characters into literal superheroes. But portraying the action in a certain light, as heroic, and glorious- that is what would violate the spirit of the comic.

It's ironic that most detractors of the movie are focusing on the letter- "punching through the walls! Humans can't do that!" But I think your criticism of how it was filmed, rather than what was filmed, is more spot-on about the failings of the movie.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:57 PM on March 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Speaking of Frank Miller: Sin City A Dame To Kill For - Trailer.
posted by octothorpe at 4:07 AM on March 7, 2014




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