1. Watchmen written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons is a story about superheroes in an alternate Cold War reality. Although the story involves a grand investigation by Rorschach (one of the primary heroes within the text) it is ultimately a story about what it means to be human. This emphasis on humanity is expressed not only in the fact that Moore exposes the internal flaws and limitations of his superheroes, but also the “lesser” characters that surround them. The lives of many secondary characters are explored throughout the graphic novel, and when these characters reach their demise by the story’s finale, there is a substantial impact. Furthermore, the decay of society is examined both in the character Rorschach’s perspective on the world as well as in the story’s conclusion (which involves obtaining world peace through great destruction).

2. Zack Snyder’s film adaptation of Watchmen follows the premise of Rorschach’s investigation as its narrative foundation, and abandons the deeper exploration of the characters throughout. Rather than present complex characters, they are simplified and made much more brutal to emphasize the hero’s legitimacy as something more than human. By the film’s conclusion, a primary theme develops: the notion that humanity is obsessed with violence to a point where only mass destruction and the death of millions can prevent complete human annihilation. Throughout, the film question’s society and its ability to refrain from self-destruction.

3. The film is successful—for the most part—in emulating the visual effects created by Dave Gibbons in the original, graphic novel. But as far as story-telling goes, the film deviates substantially. Where the novel is able to go in many different directions: various time-lines, realities (the graphic novel within a graphic novel), and follow the lives of many different characters (for example, the live of Rorschach’s psychologist is examined in the graphic novel), all while forming legitimate connections between the two, the film is incapable of developing a similar smoothness. This rests in the limitations set by the target audience. In order to even attempt a similar level of depth, the film would require substantial length, and in order to be considered a success, it would require an audience that is willing to endure such a lengthy feature (in general, an audience would not be willing to sit through a very lengthy film). Given the limitations of his audience, Snyder was forced to consider what he found most valuable within the story and present that within an “ideal” time-frame; accordingly, the story loses its depth and many characters and scenarios are altered.


Alan Moore talks Watchmen

In this video, Alan Moore discusses what distinguishes his story from other superhero stories. Specifically, he explains how these heroes are giving political, emotional, and sexual contexts that most other heroes are not – he also explains how the graphic novel asks the question, what would it be like if heroes really did live among us? It is a valuable source in thinking about the film because it demonstrates what is lost in the adaptation.

Has Watchmen Killed ‘Comic Book Movies?’

This article provides insight into the potential significance of Watchmen‘s box-office short comings, as well as an explanation for why many studios avoided it (it was too odd and complex for a wide audience).

Watchmen Panel, Comic Con 2008

Interviews with several people involved in the Watchmen film; they discuss their experiences in bringing the graphic novel to life.

5. In the book after Dan and Laurie beat up the muggers in the alley they are remorseful. In the film, they are exultant. Why the change? Did Snyder “sell out” by playing up the violence?

The excessive violence within Snyder’s Watchmen detracts from the overall focus on humanity in the graphic novel. Throughout the film, Snyder presents the superheroes in dangerous situations, where they stylistically dispatch groups of thugs in horribly violent ways – rather than show them simply incapacitate the criminals with their fists (as is done in the graphic novel), the heroes often deal death blows or bone-bursting attacks. This shifts the focus from the heroes reactions to the encounter to a focus on pure action-packed entertainment. Even where the violence is accurate in its brutality, as with the portrayal of the Comedian, the lack of scenes to humanize him make him a one-dimensional killing machine. On the other hand, in the graphic novel, there are scenes, where despite his horrible character, he is shown or described as a very sad man (for example the scene where he encounters his daughter Laurie for the first time). By emphasizing violence, Snyder’s film adaptation loses the graphic novel’s focus on humanity.



2 thoughts on “Watchmen

  1. You’re absolutely right on about the violence in the film. I mean, you can do a lot of violence in a Frank Miller adaptation, but not in a Moore adaptation, especially Watchmen, which has a strong peace message (even if it is ironized: massive death leading to world peace). 10/10. JB.

    BTW, Robert, I appreciate all your contributions to the class, and I really enjoyed reading your blog entries.

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