Yesterday,one of the most entertaining comic book retailers Dennis Barger posted on Facebook, that the Watchmen movie was the best thing that director Zack Snyder ever did. It’s an arguable point, certainly, though some will prefer 300, Batman Vs Superman or even Sucker Punch. Barger added “I loved the changes I’ll tell you why for me it’s better tomorrow”.
But before we could get that rationale, Rob Liefeld, creator-but-no-longer-owner of Youngblood, took it one step further, replying “the movie is better than the book. Way better ending.”
Given that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons once said that even my own parody comic Watchmensch (recently republished in Heavy Metal’s Soft Wood with John Higgins colouring) had a better ending than the film, it could be said that this is a controversial view. But as Barger replied to Liefeld, “this is why we get along, we can see what is truth past the hyperbole of “industry gods”“.
Am I an industry god? Heaven forfend.
Rob Liefeld is currently celebrating 28 years of his Levi’s TV ad. Might that also be better than the Watchmen comic book? We wait to find out the judgment of the internet.
Oh… oh go on then, I’ve been provoked, haven’t I? A few reasons I disagree with Rob and Dennis. Or I’ll be here all day.
There’s a lack of distinction between the actions of Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre in the movie. Rorschach is meant to be set apart from them, but the alley fight with hoodlum shows there’s no difference between them, so what’s the point on everyone’s take on him being a special one? All for the sake of some slow-motion broken bodies?
Then there’s saying not showing – or not saying at all. Laurie has to be told that the Comedian is her father, rather than learn it. The psychiatrist talks to Rorschach, that’s how we learn about his past, rather than see it through his eyes. Laurie no longer confronts the Comedian as she did in the comic. It all makes for a more soulless and less relateable experience. However those who have read the comic bring more to watching the movie than those who have not, so it may feel less disassociating. We’ve read the backstory of The Minutemen, so we don’t need to see it. But those who did not, echo a disconnection when watching the movie.
Watchmen the movie had a toyline, So there was no mocking of the Watchmen figures in the movie as there was in the comic. Watchmen critiqued the superhero comic, the movie celebrated the superhero film. The comic made the characters look pathetic, the movie made them look cool. And then shouting NOOOOOOOO to the sky.
But the ending, Manhattan set up as the great destroyer, across the world, rather than a giant psychic squid being summoned to destroy New York, suggesting an alien transdimensional invasion, is much more boring. The squid is meant to be an insane, over the top, arrival that is too ridiculous for anyone to argue with, especially given the millions who died, something so incomprehensible that the only reaction across the world has to be in unity – whereas Manhattan framed as the big bad, with his history across the 20th century, presents something that could be debated with, a known quantity that can be comprehended. And where there is comprehension, there can be contempt.
Also it’s just not as visually impressive. The comic book used the cramped nine-panel grid, to present a series of splash pages showing this destruction, something the cinema screen can’t hope to replicate. Watchmen uses the traditions of comic book storytelling to create an experience that transcends it, the movie remains just that – a movie. We also have the secondary reading experience, the powers of Dr Manhattan, so amazing and transcendent in the Watchmen world, replicate the power of the reader. We can experience the Watchmen story in any order we wish. Stop time, rewind, but never able to change it. Every reader has the same ability as the most powerful character in the comic. And that’s a level of suggestion that the movie can’t ever approach. Who watches the Watchmen? We do.
Anyway, that’s me. God of the industry, dontcha know. But when reading Watchmen, we are all gods. When watching Watchmen, we are far more passive. Until we get on the internet of course…
Maybe the comic should have looked like this?