Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen movie vs Watchmen Graphic novel - What I did not like in the movie

So I finally watched the movie on IMAX last night and I've to say that I've slightly mixed feelings about it. There were a few things that totally rocked and deserve a few more viewings but there were a few crucial plot elements that were intentionally/unintentionally left out or not portrayed the way actual story had. Below are a few of those things -

1) The portrayal of the possiblity of a nuclear holocaust was rather bland - Yes, somehow there was no sense of urgency or panic about the whole world war 3 and possible end of the world thing. I mean if the world is at the brink of a nuclear war that could end life, then we would expect a state of nationwide panic that goes beyond a little TV interview about rating the WWIII possiblity on a scale from zero to ten! This becomes more important because the whole premise of the movie is that the world is at the brink of extinction and Veidt did actually avoided war and saved humanity. Because why would Veidt go and kill millions if the war was not really imminent? That little detail makes it all pointless and in the movie, that state of panic somehow never sets in because it doesn't show the general public "worrying" about it. It looks as if everyone is cool and oblivious to the fact that the world might end any time. This makes those meetings of Nixon talking about nuclear fallout and going to Defcon3/2 etc look even ridiculous. In a real world scenario, especially after Dr. Manhattan has left, one would expect things like mass rioting, fall out shelter signs all over, people trying to fly out to Australia or whatever, humanitarian activists gathering up before White House, peace protests and what not. And then, Veidt would jump in and "save" the world! That way the movie would have been even more awesome and meaningful.

2) The newspaper vendor was missing - This actually follows from the above point because I think that newspaper vendor plays a crucial role in the book by showing the state of paranoia in general public. The guy is constantly raving about the impending war and where the world is going and how he can see whats going to happen and all that stuff. His character exists to show us how the more paranoid/sensitive American public is reacting to the possibility of nuclear war. He successfully helps visualize the the panic and makes Veidt's actions much more relevant.

3) Overlapping dialogues and scenes missing - Now this is something that makes the graphic novel special and almost a work of art and could've made the movie even more memorable! The graphic novel, chooses dialogues and the pictures very carefully so what is being shown is almost always complementary to what is being said. For example, the scene in which Dan is trying to have sex with Laurie but can't get it up, has TV running in the background in both Watchmen movie and book. But in the book, what is being said on the TV has a direct relevance on that sex scene. To quote one dialogue from the book - "Thank You, I hope you will forgive me while I warm up. I haven't done this in a while" - is said on the TV right when Dan and Laurie start getting "warmed up". It's like the TV broadcast is reflecting whats on Dan's mind. Such things are scattered all over the book and make it a very fun and enjoyable read while movie is sorely lacking them.

4) Dr. Manhattan's portrayal was rather weak - The movie seems to have a confused take on Dr. Manhattan. Sometimes, he is very human and other times he is comparing human life with rocks on Mars! The book is consistant and shows how a human with such meta-human capabilities will eventually allow himself to stray away from humanity and would want to break free of the "tangle of their (others) lives". The transformation of Dr. Manhattan's perspective is very gradual though as he obviously starts out as a human. But then somewhere along the line, things get blurry, human life starts looking more and more pointless and he comes more and more alien. The book shows the transformation beautifully by showing Dr. Manhattan's actions (like killing the criminals, not stopping Comedian from gunning down the asian girl etc) but more so by his thought process. The book shows us the world from Dr. Manhattan's point of view and we read his thoughts, we see him think and know what is happening in his mind. The movie doesn't really do that and Dr. Manhattan looks more like a mysterious character rather then someone we know and understand.

5) Dr. Manhattan's sense of time was not portrayed quite as well - This mainly relates to the chapter IV of the graphic novel, called Watchmaker. It's basically about Dr. Manhattan thinking about his past, present and future. Because of his unique view of time, he can view past, present and future simultaneously and therefore from the perspective of a normal human being, everything is present to him. In other worlds, he sees both past and future as "already happening" right at this moment. Now the Watchmaker chapter does it beautifully by showing us that he is sort of thinking about different events in his life as if they all happened at the same time! The movie shows us the flashbacks and helps us see who he was and how he became a meta human but it totally misses the point of doing it in such a way that we get to visualize his thought process to be able to see his unique sense of time. It doesn't have a huge relvance on the actual plot though but its just one of those things that make you say "wow" and add to the overall experience.

6) Rorschach's capture and release -
This is a minor tidbid but the graphic novel portrays Rorschach as a real life macgyver! He can use the everyday household items to fight well trained tactical assualt SWAT teams! He is so far out of prison because he is way too smart and almost impossible to capture and the only reason they were able to get to him was that he sprained his ankle while jumping off the building! The movie on the other hand, for reasons I can't understand, takes that detail out and shows him simply getting over powered by the police. I think it was not fair to the character as Alan Moore must've wanted him portrayed.

7) Transformation of Dr. Malcolm Long was left out - I think it was a very important part of the story (in the graphic novel) that helps us see the world through Rorschach's eyes and shows that once you see the rotting world in its true form, then there is no turning back from it. Basically, all of us wilfully close our eyes from the reality that the world has gradually become and go on with our lives in a state of chronic intentional ignorance. But Rorschach doesn't. He doesn't blind himself to anything, he doesn't turn away, he doesn't ignore; rather, he fights back. Dr. Malcolm Long, on the other hand, just wants to become the celebrity psychiatrist by "treating" Rorschach and is hoping to discover some new "syndrome" to explain Rorschach's "condition". But as he tries to truly understand Rorschach's personality and motives, he himself gradually turns more and more into Rorschach. Having truly understood Rorschach's motivations, Dr. Malcolm Long can no longer turn away from the reality and goes through this transformation. This was entirely left out of the movie. It doesn't have a direct relevance on the main plot though and probably that is why but the main reason that it exists is to help us understand Rorschach more clearly and empathically.

8) Hollis Mason doesn't die in the movie - Although not too important to the main plot, this one did turn out to be a bit of a disappointment for me. The overall symbolism of Hollis Mason getting killed by his own action figure had an immense significance as it showed exactly how Alan Moore wanted to portray life in general. To me, that particular element of the story itself explains a huge part of the philosophy of Watchmen as a whole. Besides, it is so tragic that it adds to the emotional aspect of the story. A big part of Watchmen is this "What did we achieve?" question. Aside from Rorschach, Comedian and Veidt everyone else feels like a failure and ridiculous about being a superhero and Hollis Mason's murder conceretly depicts the inherent pointlessness of it all. Also, Dan's reaction further points out how even he (and anyone) can become a Rorschach or a Veidt because of such tragedies. But it's such a different tangent that it'd have taken the focus away from the movie, so must've been difficult to include. That said, I did miss it.

Zack Snyder's blunders in Watchmen - What Zack Snyder must've been thinking Part I

What Watchmen movie was missing - What Watchmn Graphic novel had but movie didn't

Read about funkiness involving Dr. Manhattan's transformation - Osterman's funky transformation into Dr. Manhattan


  1. I had a nagging feeling throughout the movie that the they chose the wrong girl for the (younger) Silk Spectre; all the other character choices were perfect tho

  2. I'll have to say that I agree with you there. Malin Akerman is one of the most compelling actresses around to have a role in *Watchmen*!.....that too when her role is not a generic female lead just for the sake of having a female lead...Silk Spectre's character is actually extremely important to the story and deserved some more recognized cast. I think the two actors that were really good fit were Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) and Patric Wilson (Night Owl II)!