Your turn, Snyder. Tell me … what do you see?

26Mar09

Before the release of the Watchmen movie, GeekTyrant published a chat with Zack Snyder in which he addresses nine changes from the classic graphic novel to his on-screen adaptation. I didn’t check this out prior to seeing the film, but I did bookmark it to read later. Turns out, the article provides a convenient way for me to discuss some of the changes and my reactions to them—something I couldn’t really do in my official review without going overboard.

The majority of the alterations mentioned in the GeekTyrant article are basically minor—only a nod to the snow globe, the lack of hovercrafts in the Antarctic, Janey’s TV debut, only one flashback interaction between Laurie and the Comedian, the dropped Dr. Malcolm Long subplot—but there is one that sticks out, and it’s the first on the list.

Nite Owl witnesses Rorschach’s ironic death


The Master Inkblot went bloody splat thanks to Dr. Manhattan, but Dan Dreiberg never got a front row viewing to this event in the graphic novel. In fact, he was reenacting a Veidt ad with Laurie (Silk Spectre II) on the edge of Ozymandias’s indoor pool. (That manwhore.)

I actually liked this change, because I agree with Snyder that the “relationship between Rorschach and Nite Owl is a sweet relationship that we establish in the movie. We get a glimpse of what their partnership was like … I thought it was nice [for Dan] to see Rorschach die.” Allthough “nice” is not the word I would use to describe the bloodbath, I liked that added sense of closure—even though I hated what it led to. In the movie, Nite Owl II serves the function Dr. Manhattan does in the book. Instead of Laurie muttering, “I know what Jon would say. He’d say, ‘Nothing ends. Nothing ever ends,'” well, Jon actually says that.

A pre-Rorschach Rorschach

At the end of Moore’s Watchmen, Ozymandias asks Dr. Manhattan, “I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end?” to which Manhattan casually replies before he teleports away, “In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.” As a result, Ozymandias’s face looks like it was hit by a train (or possibly a giant squid): He’s left with a overwhelming sense of uncertainty about his actions, and it’s like he suddenly sees the million-layer coating of blood on his hands.

If Rorschach were alive, I’m sure he’d insert some great lines about scabs and vermin and whatnot—in other words, “Oh, snap!”

I can understand why Snyder might have felt the need to tweak this—as a vehicle to insert his own commentary through Nite Owl, I’m guessing—but I think the film suffers because of it. They could have allowed Nite Owl to witness Rorschach’s death, tell Ozy off, and still have that confrontation with Dr. Manhattan. In fact, it might have been even more potent that way.

Discuss: What changes did you hate? If you can’t believe the Dr. Manhattan set-up isn’t on this list, I’m right there with you (although I liked the anti-squid choice, and they at least gave it a nod acronym-wise). Hollis Mason’s death (also one of the biggest downfalls of the adaptation, in my opinion) will most likely appear in the director’s cut.

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2 Responses to “Your turn, Snyder. Tell me … what do you see?”

  1. Seeing as my blogmates, Mark and Nick, and now you, too, disagree with me, I must be in the minority of those who didn’t like Nite Owl witnessing Rorschach’s death. I prefer Rorschach dying alone, just as he lived. I think it adding Drieberg’s reaction softens Rorschach’s death somewhat, from having the emotionless Manhattan kill him alone in the snow.

    Some other changes I didn’t like:

    – I’m with you on removing the Manhattan/Veidt confrontation from the end. I think it would have been a better scene that what it was changed to, an exchange between two of the weaker performers in the movie, Malin Ackerman and Carla Gugino.

    – Nite Owl beating Adrian up after Rorschach’s death. Again, I thought this made the ending easier on the audience. I prefer how in the book, the ending is a punch to the stomach for the reader. There’s no hero, no happy ending. I think Adrian taking a few punches at least gives the viewer a modicum of relief.

    – Dan hinting at the end that he and Laurie would continue on as superheroes. Isn’t part of the point of the book to show that, in the real world, being a superhero would kind of fuck you up? That it would kind of fuck the world up? That it’s not the glamorous lifestyle commonly portrayed? The movie echoes that, until this scene at the end where it seems like these two will ride off into the sunset breaking arms and stabbing throats, all while humping in Dan’s owl ship. This, obviously, falls in line with my other complaints about the ending.

  2. 2 WITA

    Hmmm, I never thought of it that way, Jason. That’s a good point about Rorschach dying the way he lived—alone. While that’s true, and obviously more faithful to the book, I just enjoyed the expansion on Rorschach and Nite Owl’s relationship, since they’re old friends and partners.

    Oh, I actually liked the ending with Laurie and her mom (although yeah, they are the weaker actors)—the line, “He gave me you” was great in its clarity about the first Silk Spectre and her relationship with the Comedian. I just didn’t like the Nite Owl/Adrian end scene and Laurie line of, “I know what Jon would say.”

    Haha, that’s so true about continuing on as superheroes. I guess I didn’t think too much about that implication, but you’re right—the superhero thing should be over for them.


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