Shots Across the Bow

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Why the Watchmen Movie Fails

This review contains spoilers so, be warned.

Short version: Beautifully filmed but deeply flawed adaptation of Moore's masterpiece. Alan Moore was right. The Watchmen cannot be filmed. Zack Snyder did yeoman's work in bringing the central plot of the comic series to the big screen, but when he jettisoned the "Tales of the Black Freighter" comic within the comic, he ripped out the beating heart of the story, the engine that drove it.

Here's what I'm talking about. Who were the heroes in the movie?

The Nite Owl? Dr Manhattan? Adrian Veidt? Silk Spectre? Rorschach? All of them? None of them?

In the comic series, the answer to that question was painfully, tragically clear. In the movie, no such luck. The movie ends with Veidt murdering millions, with the tacit approval and complicity in the cover up of God himself (I think I'll create some life.) Because the carnage he unleashed pulled the world back from the edge of nuclear war, every "hero" decides that since justice will only make things worse, the right answer is to walk away and live happily ever after.

Except for Rorschach, the violent psychopath. He's the only one who refuses to compromise with evil, the only hero, and in the end, his heroism kills him, because our world doesn't want heroes.

Moore carries this message, not through the ambiguities of the main plot line, but through the pirate story. By splitting the stories, he allows the reader to be drawn into the "real world" where compromise and moral relativity lead even those who fight for justice into complicity with absolute evil, while at the same time maintaining an unflinching eye on the real horror, the slow corruption of power turning a hero into the monster he fought to destroy. In the end of the comic, the hero of the pirate tale joins the crew of the Black Freighter, corrupted by his willingness to do anything, no matter how foul and grotesque, in order to protect his home and family. Adrian Veidt takes the same journey through The Watchmen, becoming the monster he once fought to destroy. Like the survivor in "Freighter," he winds up joining the monsters.

Unfortunately, the movie does not reach the same conclusion. Without the sharp clarity of "Freighter," Veidt appears to be a tragic, flawed man, but still a hero, having brought peace to the world. That conclusion is a perversion of Moore's story, and is why the movie fails as an adaptation.

I'm not surprised Moore refused to allow his name to be attached to it.
Posted by Rich
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I disagree. I didn't leave the theater thinking Ozymandias was the hero at all and neither did my wife who has never read the graphic novel. We don't all need to be beat over the head with a point to get it.
Posted by Randy  on  03/09  at  03:57 PM

Did you leave the theater with the knowledge that he had become the monster, or did you see him as a tragically flawed human being?

That's the point Moore made that the movie missed.
Posted by Rich Hailey  on  03/09  at  08:25 PM

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