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Peeing in Your Shower: Why Watchmen Doesn’t Work

Written by Keb Ellis on Thursday, March 12 2009 and posted in Features

The very first scene of the Watchmen movie happens just like it does in the comic. The mystery man walks in and beats up Edward Blake and throws him out of a window.

No wait! The comic doesn’t happen that way. The comic has flashback panels that tell you what happened to Eddy Blake.

And then one of the detectives says (in the movie) “This is plate glass…” and then all types of flags go off for the hardcore readers of Watchmen.

I said a couple weeks back to a friend of mine: “If anyone can do a great graphic novel adaptation, then it’s got to be Zack Snyder.” And I sat through three hours of his vision of Watchmen and wanted to take every word back. It’s puzzling. My friend who I watched the movie with has never read the book (but perhaps now he’ll go pick up the 21st printing…). He enjoyed what he believed was a superhero film.

And with the words “Superhero” and “Film”, I realize why Watchmen does not work.

The traditional superhero movie features a character that saves the world. Yet, Watchmen, the graphic novel, does not feature anyone like that. When we think of a film, we think of something quiet with great acting and scenes that move mountains through speech. We think of Oscars and actors who convince you that what they’re doing, what they’re saying, is real. We don’t picture a big blue glowing guy talking in a most subdued and soothing voice, making us all feel like our lives are worth something. The hero does not belong in a film. Films are about ordinary people who conquer the struggles of life and love. Superheroes are people who fight evil for hours on end and cause a lot of damage.

I think this is the problem Snyder would have had when working with Watchmen. If you’ve read the comic, you’ll notice the panels rarely ever break away from the “cinematic” storytelling that we see littered all over modern comics. Moore uses a 9-panel layout, where panels don’t overlap and there are no double-page spreads. Some panels are larger, but they all incorporate the same spacing. This notes an enormous detail to the flow of time within the book. For example, the book opens with Rorschach in Blake’s apartment and alternates with flashbacks of Blake’s death. The movie takes the entire scene with Blake and just outright shows how it happens.

Another example of the progression of time: When Dreiberg and Laurie are in the prison springing Rorschach, there is no great fight scene. The two of them just wander the prison. In the movie, we get a highly choreographed stop-motion dance between prison inmates and the two characters that consumes so much time.

The action takes time away from some of the more important elements that exist within the comic. The Tales of the Black Freighter comic was left out completely (and fat chance I’m going to buy the DVD). I believe that pirate comic is more integral to the story than scenes of Richard Nixon. The pirate comic, and the news vendor’s subsequent rants while the little kid reads it, they inform the politics of the story. In this movie, the private conferences of politicians play far too important a role in a story that intends to show how those private conferences affect the way the common man thinks.

The common person is cut off in the Watchmen movie in favor of a horribly-cliché ending. I don’t think the writers could fully grasp that Veidt, the smartest man, creates his giant space-vagina to manipulate the emotional and mental capacity of the common people. Veidt knows that art and science will always triumph over the everyday drudge of common folks and uses it to trick them into world peace. Veidt believes that what he is doing is the right thing, and much like the sailor in Black Freighter, he becomes delusional in doing so.

There’s probably one of the most important moments missing from the movie. Veidt asks Jon “I did the right thing, didn’t I?” and Jon tells him “Nothing ends.” This is probably one of the most stunning dialogues in the superhero genre. It was left out of the movie in favor of a kiss and some super heroics from the common man. I was very disappointed in the heroism of Dan Dreiberg. In the book, he’s the closest we get to the everyday common man, and he is always restrained by his impotence. At the end of the day, the commoner makes the smart guy realize how much he fucked up and then normal humans have the victory.

Between the overdone action scenes, the lack of integral subplots and the clichéd ending, this movie disgraces what some consider the pinnacle of graphic storytelling in the 20th century. I feel let down.


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About the Author - Keb Ellis

Keb Ellis is the Outhouse’s first columnist. He enjoys lying on his bed and reading comics while listening to records, but gets frustrated when he has to get up off the bed to flip the record. In addition to writing Peeing in Your Shower, the Outhouse’s most serious column ever, he serves as an editor for upcoming ace reporters. He will also be hosting a new vinyl review video show for the Outhouse (project tentative). He lives in Toronto and has a taco terrier named Phife. He cannot dunk a basketball ... yet! Beautiful single women between the ages of 20 and 35 can follow him on Twitter, where is he known to make an ass of himself on a regular basis.


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