Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


More Watchmen not for watching

Something I noted about the film version of “Watchmen” was that it was mostly faithful to the comic book — to its detriment. “Watchmen,” let’s remember, was not a “graphic novel” — it was a comic book, delivered in 12 serialized installments. As such, it made much of classic comic-book storytelling construction. Each issue had a strong set piece (Rorschach escaping prison; Nite Owl and Silk Spectre rescuing people from a fire; Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre debating mankind’s future) and a cliffhanger. By transliterating what worked so well in separate chapters released 30 days apart in a literary format, the film is saddled with a start-and-stop structure antithetical to action-adventure movies, which rely upon the classic Aristotleian structure of rising action and catharsis.

So: the comic book was great. The movie has some wonderful things in it (several of the performances, many of the special effects), and one major improvement: the ending. The ending in the comic book was an unintentional swipe from “The Outer Limits,” was utterly unconvincing in uniting humankind, and seemed only tangentially related to most of the comic’s main themes. The movie’s ending, by contrast, is far more plausible because everyone on Earth has already seen Dr. Manhattan’s power, and works better because it ties in with many other plot elements and themes (the ethical responsibilities of heroes; the moral ambivalence of vigilantism; the unintended side effects of employing great power, however well-intentioned). Ironically, against a backdrop the fanboy legion insisting upon apostolic faith to the source material, it is the element of greatest change that succeeds the most.

So then I wondered, what if they had really changed the comic book? Really done a different take on the material? Then I came across this, below, and was reminded of reading the Denny O’Neil issues-oriented era of “Justice League of America” comics, while seeing the antimatter universe version called “Super Friends” on my TV set on Saturdays.

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