I'm writing this review in two parts: The first section will be my thoughts about Watchmen before I see Watchmen: The Movie, but after reading the Watchmen comic book several times since 1995; and the second will be my thoughts a day or two after seeing the movie and digesting it as a whole. It's my site, I can do whatever the fuck I want to.
BEFORE THE MOVIE
I'm not a hardcore Watchmen fanatic; I didn't even know about the comic until I was mocked for my ignorance by Chi-Chi in the Fall of 1995. I then went out and got a copy of the the compilation (the "graphic novel" if you will, called so by those pretending that a comic book collection is high art), and read it all in a weekend. Twice. The first time I got through it I remember closing the book and thinking to myself "What the holy fuck was that fucking squid about? That was the gayest thing since gay came to Gay Town.... Really? A fucking alien squid demon?" That's when I picked it up again and re-read it to see if I missed something the first time... Something to warrant Chi-Chi calling it one of the greatest stories ever told. The second time through I think I understood what both writer Alan Moore and comic character Adrian Veidt were doing. The squid, so help me Satan, actually made a sort of sense to me. Then the greatness of Watchmen washed upon me like the unwashed waves of hard-up comic geeks breaking against the stage during a Dawn look-alike contest at Dragoncon. It was indeed a great story.... The greatest though?.... Don't know about that, but still very good.
Years later and I heard that they were trying to make a live-action Watchmen movie — lots of different directors were attached to it at one point or another, including Terry Gilliam if I remember correctly. I was scared. There was no way they'd be able to do it justice; they'd either take it out of the "red scare" 80s I thought, cut way too much material (and ALL of it, every goddamn last panel is actually important to the entire plot), or just do an all around shitty job on everything by making a goofy script, hiring bad actors, and chincing on the special effects. Then I read Sam Hamm's Watchmen script, which for some reason had recently resurfaced on the web at around that time. It was kick-myself-in-the-boysenberries bad. It was a while ago, but if I recall it started off with a botched hostage rescue attempt by "The Watchmen" (Ugh... for you Watchmen virgins out there there IS NOT a team of super heroes actually called "The Watchmen" in this fucking comic, the title is just from the famous quote "Who watches the Watchmen" that punks spray paint all over town during the course of the story.... but whatever) at the Statue of Liberty. The team screws up, the statue gets blown up, and the super hero bill to ban all vigilantism is then put into effect.
From there a good portion of the rest of the Hamm draft was fairly close to the original story, but (and this is a HUGE "but") tons of small, but key elements were left out (like I said, every frame on every page of the comic is important to the big picture in the end), and the ending... Oy vey, the ending. Instead of the big squid, it turns out that Adrian Veidt was building a time-window machine in his Antarctic retreat, and he was going to use it to assassinate Dr. Manhattan before he became Dr. Manhattan (don't worry, I'll get to the characters and main story elements below, don't be such a confused, whining little whore), thusly preventing the perpetual arms race and feelings of anonymity between the USSR and USA in his alternate Earth of the day. Well, just before killing the Doc's prior alter-ego in the past, Manhattan shows up and kills Veidt, realizes what he was trying to do, and then jumps through the time window and saves his past self from getting molecularly ripped apart by the radiation in the machine he was trapped in all those many years ago... Then Dr. Manhattan vanishes (because he was never born at that point, despite the fact that according to Dr. Manhattan's perspective of time THIS WAS THEORETICALLY IMPOSSIBLE), and the "Night Owl" (how Hamm fucking spelled Nite Owl's name throughout his draft), Silk Spectre II (Laurie), and Rorschach are all magically transported from their world's Antarctica to OUR world's New York City, which is all strange and confusing to them (as well as to the reader of the ass-wipingly bad script), and where they're recognized by the black kid reading the pirate comics in their world as "the super heroes of [his world's] comics." Really, I thought, THIS is the best they can do with a Watchmen movie? Triumph the Insult Comic Dog said it best when he once declared "I have worms in my stool who can write better than this." So do I, but I'm seeing a specialist about it next Monday.
Luckily the Hamm screenplay got killed and nothing terrible came of it, but then in 2003 David Hayter was paid to take a crack at it. It was far worse than Hamm's. Hayter's script had a contemporary setting, it actually ADDED material that wasn't in the book while forsaking better storytelling that was, it was a bit too tongue-in-cheek at times, and most importantly the ending was almost JUST as fucked up as Hamm's. Yes, Adrian's ultimate solution is closer to the comic's original plan, but not by much. Still no squid, but in this one Adrian just nukes New York City with a solar powered laser after mailing "mysterious boxes" to the world's leaders, sender unknown. The boxes somehow informed the heads of state that if they don't start playing nice he (the mysterious nuker in question) will take out another city. And then another. Etc... Way to be subtle about the end goals, Hayter. Holy shit... It's like these hacky script monkeys think that they can write a better ending to one of the most revered comics ever printed, lovingly put together by possibly the most talented (and craziest) motherfucker who ever wrote for the medium.
Oh, and that's not the bad part of Hayter's take either. Rorschach does indeed decide not to play nice, and Manhattan does his thing to quiet him, and then Manhattan takes off. Then Nite Owl has a massive change of heart (for Rorschach! Harumph!) and goes off to kill Adrian while he and Laurie are still guests in his icy retreat. Adrian is ready for him though, and tells Nitey that he never did plan to let him go after this, then Nite Owl KILLS Adrian... What the goddamn fuck? The man can catch bullets but not an Owl-a-rang? Uuuuuugh. Then Nite Owl (Dan) and Laurie go back to the rebuilding New York City and have a baby. Then they make up with Laurie's mom and she comes to visit them because she's no longer an annoying mess of a piece of human crap who enjoys getting raped. Happy happy, joy joy. Honestly, no fucking WONDER Alan Moore thought his comic book was unfilmable if THIS was the best that Hollywood could offer his story.
Then the Watchmen property stayed stagnate for a while (and I breathed a sigh of relief). Then in 2007 a man named Zach Snyder directed the most kick-ass, most manly, most "get yourself hyped up to kick some ass yourself" movie of the decade: 300. Then came talk that "Slo-Mo" Snyder was offered the reigns to a theatrical version of Watchmen. Then we heard that he'd been a fan of the comic for half his life, and wanted to do the movie justice by making it as close to the original source material as was humanly possible. Then came the production diaries (which were okay), and THEN came the first trailer attached to The Dark Knight in the summer of '08. THEN we were finally impressed. He seemed to NAIL the visual aspect of the comic — Dr. Manhattan was big, blue and naked, Rorschach's mask functioned just like you always dreamed it would, the Owl Ship (Archie) was flying around like a giant, detached penis head, and it looked like Snyder and company didn't add anything extraneous to the plot that would make fanboys start bashing the film 8 months before seeing it... All in all, it was good, and I started to get really excited.
Then came the wait. It was long and tough to get through, but now, just a day before its release date, we finally made it... But what a difference a few months makes. The buzz for the movie stayed positive for a while, but sometime in December or January the pasty and doughy fanboys started to turn on the film (once again, 3 months before it even came out). The revelation that the giant squid STILL wasn't the focus of the ending was made clear by Snyder himself (claiming that a movie with a timeless, all-knowing, uber, blue, naked man would not be taken seriously by the general public if the squid had stayed), people started making outrageous claims that more plot was actually added into the final product (including the Soviet's side of the goings on of the story), and people were going batshit crazy about a quick scene in the opening titles of the movie in which we see that the Comedian 100% DID kill JFK (something only hinted to in the comic)..... My point being that fanboys have waaaaay too much time on their hands, and way too much money to blow on Fritos and Stuffed-Crust Pizza.
Anyway, the general population started to become very much aware of the movie at the same time, and even my parents started expressing an interest in it... That's when I knew the fanboys would start to blow their (tiny) gaskets. A metric ass-ton of online reviews began coming out two weeks before the actual release (due to early screenings, world premieres, and I'm sure a couple of stolen prints), and while people did their best to bad mouth it (mostly movie and comic geeks), I still noticed that almost each and every one of them made some mention in their diatribes that they most definitely would see it again. It totally reminded me of when the Matrix sequels came out and the fanboys found themselves to be just one stanky sheep in a giant herd who began liking the Wachowski Brothers' (well, brother and half-man/half-beast) fucked up future world (and thusly weren't special anymore) and so they needed to start bashing it months before Reloaded came out in order to "be cool," despite the fact that they will never ever understand just what in the hell actually MAKES somebody cool in the first place (meaning they haven't a clue that living in their mom's basement eating Cheezy-Poofs and drinking root beer all day while whacking-off to furry pr0n is NOT in fact "cool").
And so, it is with that frame of mind that I am heading into Snyder's big screen adaptation of one of the most praised comic book series of all time.
AFTER THE MOVIE
So, did I like it? I'll get to that in a bit, but first I'd like to tell all the n00bs what Watchmen is all about... Yeah, I probably should have done this earlier, but by mixing around my review like this you kind of get the basic idea of how Dr. Manhattan views his life and time in general.
Watchmen takes place in a world like ours, but with one exception: Super heroes have existed in it since at least the 1940s. For the most part, they're mainly just physically fit guys and gals in goofy looking costumes who are just doing their best to clean up the streets when the police can't seem to do enough. They're laughable, and almost all of them have mental issues (honestly, who dresses up like an owl and flies around in an Owl Ship if he doesn't have brain problems?). But then in the late 1950s there's an accident with an "Intrinsic Field Subtractor Flux-Capacitor Generator" and the world's first REAL super hero is born: Dr. Manhattan. Manhattan has super powers coming out of his big blue ass (he can teleport mass from anywhere to anywhere else, he can make anything cease to exist by wishing it, he experiences every point in his life at the same time, and he's just pretty fucking amazing altogether), but he's not what one would call a "people person," or even "somebody who wouldn't screw up any relationship he's ever been in by fucking his girlfriend with two versions of himself while a third completely ignores her in order to look at some sub-atomic particles in the lab." And Dr. M has looooong since given up on the idea of "trousers." Yeaaaaah, he likes to dangle the lil' azure doctor around like it's clubbing baby seals whenever he walks fast or trots down stairs. Fun for the whole family!
So I was saying, Dr. Manhattan (a U.S. citizen) then enters the international fray in the early 60s, and the USSR gets its commie panties in a bunch — the swing of global power has obviously turned to America's favor, but the tension between the two super powers grows ten-fold, as does the Soviet nuclear stockpile. Dr. M pretty much wins 'Nam by his lonesome, and keeps Nixon in the White House for waaaaaay too many terms. And then, in 1985, the Comedian (one of the oldest, still operating "masks," or super heroes) is beaten up and then thrown out of his high rise apartment window in New York City (and into the sidewalk below in a messy, messy display of street pizza) by an unknown assailant. See, the masks all either went into retirement or started working for the government when a law was passed in the late 70s that made it a crime to fight crime while withholding one's identity and without holding a badge... But the Comedian chose to collect a paycheck for his ability to do dirty deeds dirt cheap (and yes, the Comedian is a doozy of a dick) from Uncle Sam instead of fading away into history. This murder mystery (who killed the Comedian?) becomes the focal point of the story as yet another mask (the completely mental Rorschach, who stayed a vigilante all these years despite the cops and crooks now gunning for him) takes it upon himself to find out if somebody's trying to get rid of ex-supers, or if the Comedian just got caught up in some international affairs he shouldn't have, or both... or neither.
After investigating the murder scene, Rorschy then goes around acting schizo and trying to warn all his old comrades whom he used to fight crime with back in the day: The second Nite Owl (Dan Dreiberg), Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt), Silk Spectre II (Laurie Jupiter), and Dr. Manhattan. They all ignore the crazy guy and his crazy plot because of the crazy fuck that he is, but then soon other masks are either targeted for assassination or forced to "take leave.".... Then it gets dark and deep. Everything builds up to an ending that... Well, gets strange. I mean the original comic ending was strange all right, but Snyder's ending is even more so. I'm about to get into MAJOR fucking spoiler territory for you 3 people out there who don't know the original ending to this thing already, so buckle up...
Snyder did a bang-up job of making his movie a very close translation of the original comic book (it took place in the 1980s, the commies were the big threat, and almost every scene that was in the flick was taken straight from the pages of the comic)... Honestly, only the Sin City movie did a more exact page-to-screen adaptation. I absolutely fucking WORSHIPPED the Watchmen flick up until the end: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of the comic, and THE ENTIRE POINT of all 12 issues leading up to it... But no, Snyder knew better than Alan Moore did apparently.... Oh the hubris! So instead of Veidt teleporting a giant, mutant, telepathic squid into downtown Manhattan where it would explode, mentally and physically blowing away half the population in an instant, we get Veidt exploding a dozen or so Dr. Manhattan bombs around the globe in order to get the world powers to stop kicking sand in each other's vaginas and unite to stop a common enemy...
The Manhattan bombs don't work for two reasons. Number one: The entire point of the alien squid was that the "something" that pulled the world together had to be something so completely and utterly outlandish and incredible that nobody could dispute it, and most importantly it had to appear that A THIRD PARTY (other than the US or the USSR) initiated the attack in order for it to be a unifying event in the first place. That's what I originally missed the first time I read the book, but what I understood perfectly well the second time. It had to be a menace NOT birthed by either world power. By making the world think that it was Dr. Manhattan gone rogue Adrian Veidt was taking the chance that the rest of the world would turn against the US for making the blue dude in the first place, and using him like a threatening loaded gun for all those years. It'd be like if some of the US's nukes suddenly malfunctioned and blew the fuck up in America and in North Korea, China, France, and the USSR... Do you think the rest of the world who got burned would give a shit if we accidently got nuked by our own weapons too? Adrian would NEVER take a chance like that. Number two: Dr. Manhattan leaves the Earth behind in the comics because he knows he's lost Laurie to Dan (the Nite Owl). He understands that Dan's who she needs, and that he can't live there anymore without her, his only real anchor to the planet. In Snyder's ending he leaves because it's the only way to make Veidt's plan work; it has nothing to do with Laurie and Dan (he never even knows about the two of them in the movie). That was the KEY point of his character's arc.
Yes, Snyder left out a lot of other things in his flick (like the Hollis murder, the cops coming after Dan, and the flipping backwards and forwards flashbacks of Dr. M [he just shows them all in order for the mongoloid masses to make sense of]), but he didn't really change anything else. He paid such close attention to every small detail of all the panels in the comic, and meticulously recreated them with real sets and fantastic actors. Holy shit, Jackie Earle Haley, the guy who plays Rorschach, is an absolute acting god! And Malin Akerman's ass! I never dreamed that the Silk Spectre would look so fine... Oh wait, there WAS something else that Snyder changed in his version of Watchmen: The Silk Spectre isn't a whiney little hole the entire story. She's actually somebody whom the male audience wants to fuck even if it means sloppy, glowy, bluey seconds. Mmmmmmm, hot Spectre-sex... But I digress. What was my point? Where was I? I think I just wanted to end things up here by saying that Snyder did an admirable job with this movie. Yes, I would have much rather have had the giant squid instead of the Manhattan nukes, but in the end that change was played well enough that it didn't hurt the rest of the movie, and it's still something that I plan to see at least one more time in the theater (hopefully the IMAX in town). And I will be first in line for the director's cut on Blu-ray when it comes out with the animated Black Freighter portions sewn back into it.
Rorschach's Journal. March 6th, 2009. Got in line for the Watchmen movie premiere. Scum of society out in force. Bloated, stinking, and stupid, all of them. Think they'll go out, see movie. They'll forget 5 minutes after lights come back on. Filth worse than the maggots feasting on dead dog carcass I found behind theater.
I sit down in seat. The fat man with body odor that matches the stench of a bubbling cesspool in seat next to mine has both armrests covered with obese rolls of flesh dripping off arms. HURM... Remember him. Drove 1995 grey Honda Accord. Made an impression when I could not figure out how car did not scrape road while he was in it. Will follow him home after movie. He will be made to remember discomfort had to deal with for nearly three hour motion picture.
Movie begins. Comedian dies. Very brutal. Opening credits. HURM... Dylan is a communist, but his song with visuals very peaceful. Poignant. Rorschach appears. He is Rorschach in tone, inflection, brains. Vey pleased.
Wait, movie wrong. Dan did not visit Veidt to warn of mask killer. Veidt warned by Rorschach. HURM... Sloppy. Very sloppy.
Dr. Manhattan's penis, very vulgar on large screen. Pants! Never understood his hatred of pants. Girl two rows back giggles. Can tell she's never seen real penis before. If she ever finds self about to be raped, will wait until she sees rapist's penis before saving.
HURM... Interesting. Dan and Laurie impotence scene in movie. Thought it would be first thing cut. Dream sequence of bomb in movie. I smile. Doom of Soviet destruction not the same feeling in 2009 as 1986, but good attempt to show fear inherent to the time.
Really necessary? Dan and Laurie have sex on camera for 10 minutes. HURM... Girl giggles again. Annoying. I flick Raisenette into open mouth, she chokes, passes out. Movie continues in peace.
Must send actor Jackie Haley card. Rorschach prison and psychiatrist scenes beautiful. Wish I could pound midget over again. Good times remembered. I smile behind my face. Face smiles with me for instant.
Veidt's Antarctic retreat just like in comic. Good production design. Veidt more sympathetic in movie. Not as cold. Still, can't take his side. Never compromise. Communists compromise. Veidt's plan different. No mutant squid. Blame Manhattan? No. NO! Wrong! World would turn on U.S.! WRONG! HURM!... Veidt not that stupid. Blame writers. Did not think through. Results of actions without squid would be vastly different than comic.
Rorschach dies. Fleshy. Chunky. Rorschach test on snow. I smile again. Rorschach journal found. Ending in question. Pleased with that.