Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I finally got around to seeing this, when my son's girlfriend gave it to him for his birthday and he insisted on watching it with us. Both he and I enjoy these sorts of movies, but even my wife, who doesn't like these sorts of movies, got sucked in. I have read the graphic novel several times and found the movie to be a good translation, for the most part, although in one crucial aspect I was disappointed.

I have always understood the story to be about Nite Owl and Silk Specter 2, the two normal humans among the group of superheroes known as the Watchmen. Making them into kick-ass super-fighters, as demonstrated in the alley sequence as well as during the prison break, was perhaps a little too much, and I could have lived without the violence. The feeling the GN gave was people out of their depth, literal watch-men, trying to live their lives in a world filled with powers far more powerful and capable, even willing, of destroying everything. The main importance of the pair was that she was the one who convinced the godlike Dr. Manhattan of the value of life. It was something of an improvement that they weren't forced to adopt new identities after they broke Rorschach out of prison. Since no one knew their secret identities why would they have had to give them up?

Rorschach also was a human, but his uncompromising 'moral' stance, and preference for destruction over a world in which evil was allowed to go unpunished, put him on a different level. His role was quite well-played, and I've always preferred his character over all the others. I wonder why they had Rorschach kill the dog-owner with the cleaver rather than burn the house down around him, as he did in the GN. Budget, most likely. I'd also rather have had the space-squid, but that was part of a plot that would have taken far too much time to explain.

One scene I particularly missed was the final scene with Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan. The deliberate sinner looking for justification, if not absolution, from the closest thing to God he knows, and being denied even that. The scene they did show, leaving Ozymandias standing in the ruins of his palace, was evocative, but probably only to someone who'd read the book. Putting Dr. Manhattan's final words in the mouth of a different character in a different scene was no substitute. Especially since the movie also lacked the Black Ship, a metaphor that ran through the entire GN, describing Ozymandias' own self-ruination.

Over all, a good flick that I'd watch again.


Helen Ginger said...

It sounds interesting, but would someone like me, who hasn't a clue what you're talking about, be able to follow it?

Straight From Hel

Author Guy said...

My wife did. She hasn't read the graphic novel either, and she hates it when I discuss the story before she's seen it herself, and she loved the movie as well.

The story originally was a comic book which got combined into a single volume. It has a great many elements that were not included in this movie. The most important of these was a comic book story one of the characters was reading about the Black Ship, which is a vessel crewed entirely by people who have damned themselves. Also, part of the original plot involved the sudden cataclysmic arrival of a creature usually referred to as a Space Squid in the middle of NY, killing millions and setting off psychic shockwaves around the world. This whole plot was replaced, as it would have taken entirely too much backstory to make it clear to movie-goers. But the squid was cool.