The streets are extended gutters, and the gutters are full of blood. And when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown....
— Excerpt from Rorschach's Journal, October 12, 1985
Zack Snyder's 2009 adaptation of Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen.After almost 20 years in Development Hell (including a script by David Hayter, AKA Solid Snake, and not one, but two attempts by Terry Gilliam), The Movie is finished and has been released, using a script by Alex Tse which preserves some of Hayter's elements. You can see a trailer here if you want a taste. It's incredibly faithful; but like the film as a whole, whether that decision's perceived as a plus, neutral, or a minus varies wildly.Fox originally held the movie rights and apparently never truly lost them, and so they sued (with the threat of blocking the release), but is instead settling for a cut of the profits from WB. This decision, at least, proved worthwhile for Fox.The plot is almost exactly the same as the comic, with dialogue and scenes lifted almost shot-for-shot at times. That makes it probably the most correct adaptation of an Alan Moore comic (with the possible exception of the Justice League episode "For The Man Who Has Everything"). This in itself has been a point of debate among fans and critics: some like the fidelity; others would have preferred a more Pragmatic Adaptation; others still don't think it's faithful enough. Although it follows the story faithfully, it does not explore the themes and characters in depth, which some claim makes it entirely unfaithful.This page is for movie-only tropes — most will be on the main Watchmen page.
This movie provides examples of:
Accent Relapse: Though it's never mentioned in the film, Matthew Goode decided to play Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias as a German immigrant himself (not just the son of immigrant parents) who has learned to adopt a newscaster-perfect American accent in public but slides back into a relatively light German one in private. It helps to establish that he's just that cunning. Sadly because this was done rather subtly, quite a few viewers saw it as Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping or just plain wondered What The Hell Is That Accent?
There's a video of the actor discussing the role doing the switch very suddenly and for contrast, going from his own British accent to explaining that "Veidt's public peRRsona is veRRy AmeRRican" [in an American accent, hard Rs and all] "bot oo-en hhe iss in pri-vit he bekomms a bit Gehr-mahn" [in a German accent]. Done that quickly, it's jarring.
Adaptational Attractiveness: Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach sans mask is just generally a lot less odd-looking than his graphic novel counterpart. YMMV on the other characters- Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter is far prettier than how the character was drawn, but Sally is also supposed to have been a bombshell when she was younger, so she's arguably an improvement; Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II may not look just like in the graphic novel, but considering Dan was a male version of Beautiful All Along once Laurie pulled off his glasses in the original too, it's hard to see this as a problem; and as far as Matthew Goode as Ozymandias is concerned, the average fan is equally likely to either find him incredibly handsome or complain about his enormous eyes, rather understated chin (in contrast to the graphic novel's Lantern Jaw of Justice), and long neck.
Adaptation Distillation: Cuts out some subplots to make the film flow more smoothly than the book - an the Ultimate Cut version, which includes Tales of the Black Freighter, is over 3 hours long - but retains much of the novel's feel. A significant amount of dialogue (and monologue, in the case of Rorschach's journal) is taken verbatim from the comic, many scenes look identical to ones in the comic, and even songs used in the comic are included in the soundtrack. Some say it ventures into Pragmatic Adaptation territory as the ending is much, much tighter, more logical, and more greatly interwoven into the main plot than "Squidzilla", which involved a random D-plot storyline with characters who appear for perhaps 15 pages at most throughout the entire comic. Specifically, Veidt is shown, throughout the film, to actively be working with Dr. Manhattan on an "unlimited energy source," based on Dr. Manhattan's own energy signature, to replace fossil fuels, which was a big concern in the 1980s due to the oil crisis. His research, business deals with governments, and installations of these energy plants around the world is a big reason why he can't spend time helping Nite Owl and Rorschach look for the "Mask-Killer." The entire plan is to use Dr. Manhattan as the threat the world rallies against, rather than a manmade Eldritch Abomination that had nothing to do with the film plot.
Age Lift: While justified by having the characters in flashbacks between their mid-20s or 40s, with the exception of Rorschach (actor only year older) and Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup was 39 during filming, while Jon Osterman was 30 in the flashbacks), all actors are younger than their roles (Malin Akerman was 29, Laurie is 36; Patrick Wilson was 34, Dan is 41; Matthew Goode was 27, Adrian was 47; 36-year-old Carla Gugino and 42-year-old Jeffrey Dean Morgan play two characters in their sixties during 1986).
Alternate History: All of the U.S. flags in the film have 51 stars, because in the film's alternate history, Vietnam became the 51st state after America won the Vietnam War.
Ambiguously Gay: Veidt, though it's much less ambiguous in the film than it was in the novel, the biggest example being when Dan accesses Veidt's personal computer and a folder entitled "Boys" is visible on the desktop. In the opening montage, they're slightly anvilicious about it: he's also seen going into Studio 54 and shaking hands with someone who looks an awful lot like Ziggy Stardust, who purposely epitomized the drug and sex culture of the 70s (Mick Jagger is next to Bowie). To make it even less ambiguous, the Village People are in that same scene.
And the Adventure Continues: It ends with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre ( now lovers) coming out of retirement to fight crime together. Then there's The Stinger, implying that they may have to deal with the fallout from Rorschach exposing Ozymandias' crimes...
Anti-Villain: Veidt. His intentions might be good, but his means of getting there are evil.
The Artifact: Bubastis, Ozymandias's genetically engineered pet, is only introduced right toward the end, and is only really there long enough to be vaporized. In the graphic novel, she was important in that her existence foreshadowed Ozymandias's genetic engineering and the giant alien squid vagina monster. But since that was taken out, Bubastis has little purpose.
As You Know: Veidt is introduced to the audience via a speech from a reporter outlining his personal history to Veidt himself. Veidt, displaying his Genre Savvy attitude in his first line, interrupts with a slightly annoyed "I'm not hearing a question, Mr. Roth."
Attempted Rape: The Comedian attempts to rape Sally after the first photo shoot of "The Minutemen".
Author Tract: Adrian's Take That speech to a big-shot of the oil industry seems to be this, causing the audience to roll their eyes at yet another superhero movie with a message. Turns out it was just a Red Herring to make the audience not notice him checking his watch or suspect that his solution to the energy crisis isn't something else instead.
Batman Gambit: Ozymandias' plan could only work assuming that the rest of the watchmen, especially John, were able to be manipulated.
Big Bad Friend: Adrian Veidt. Unlike in the graphic novel, he and Dan are close, affectionate friends in this version- Adrian's Germanic depressive tendencies only melt around Dan, and it's highly unlikely Adrian would have taken that penitential beating from anyone else.
Laurie has one when she realizes that the Comedian is her father.
Bittersweet Ending: The ending as it's presented, especially when you consider the possibility that the rag Rorschach sent his journal to might actually publish it, revealing Ozymandias' plan and possibly sending the world back toward nuclear devastation.
Bloodier and Gorier: Oh, yes. Indeed, it is to modern comic book movies what Watchmen was to other comics in its day - brutal and nasty.
Censor Shadow: Amusingly inverted. Dr. Manhattan's region is often obscured (especially in the trailer) by a nimbus of light. Not always, though.
Character Exaggeration: More likely to be cited by those who didn't like it. That said, Rorschach is undeniably more forward with his prejudices in the movie. Rorschach's craziness and morbid personality are a little more scaled back in the movie though. In the book he seemed calmer and creepier in his actions (Laurie says he gave her the creeps, even before he went truly crazy), while in the movie Jackie Earle Haley plays him more like a small terrier, with lots of anger and aggression. His facial expression, blank in the book, is a lot more of a scowl in the movie as well.
Thanks to the Bloodier and Gorier aesthetic, Dan and Laurie end up mutilating and killing criminals (where in the comic they would leave them with non-permanent injuries at most). This brings their methods much closer to Rorschach's and undermines what Moore intended by creating costumed heroes of differing levels of violence and compassion.Then again, the studios wanted this and Zack Snyder objected to this.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Ozymandias. When opposed by an effectively invincible superman? He IMMEDIATELY tries the one thing that can deconstruct him. And let's not forget having the timers on the bombs run out thirty-five mintues before the heroes arrive to stop him. He gives a standard speech about his grand plan, then laughs and mocks them for thinking he'd say all of that before the plan had already succeeded.
Darker and Edgier: The film has way more blood and tits than the book. Of course, the book was considerably darker and edgier than its contemporary comics, so exaggerating it for the film is something of a Pragmatic Adaptation.
Veidt's disk has a folder titled "Boys". Veidt's TV wall is full of easter eggs (Including "300 Spartans", a porn movie, Apple's famous '1984' commercial, a Marvin the Martian cartoon (possible reference to Dr. Manhattan's fate) and a MacGyver episode (the man climbing the parachute, MacGyver possibly referring to Ozy himself).
In the opening sequence, Nite Owl I appears to save the Waynes in front of a wall of Batman posters outside the "Gotham Opera House".
Captain Metropolis and Hooded Justice can be seen staring at each other adoringly in the retirement scene from the intro. It was mentioned in passing in the original comic that those two were secretly lovers.
Veidt's Watchmen toyline is made up of the real life action figures released by DC Direct. However, the ones in the movie are painted in brighter, comic accurate colors.
Also ironically, in the deleted scene where Nite Owl finds out about Hollis Mason's murder, he beats a member of the gang responsible so hard the guy loses teeth... and Rorschach is the one who tells him to stop.
Expy: Minus the long, flowing cape, the one shot of Dollar Bill that we get in the opening credits looks like a stylized version of Golden Age Captain America 's suit.
Fake American: Silk Spectre is played by Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman. An in-Universe example is Ozymandias adopting a very convincing American accent in public and slipping into a German one in private, both provided by English actor Matthew Goode.
Fan Disservice: Partway through the film, there's a lengthy flashback featuring Carla Gugino in a corset. Unfortunately, she's also being raped and brutalized by the Comedian.
Fanservice: The sex scene in the owlship is much more explicit than it was in the book.
Mr. Fanservice: If anything there is A LOT of male nudity in this movie, A LOT!
Foe Tossing Charge: Laurie and Dan's jailbreak starts out like this, a callback to a similar scene in 300.
Foreshadowing: The opening montage includes shots of all the characters, including a young Walter Kovacs watching a man leave his mother's bedroom, and a young Laurie Jupiter watching her parents argue. Both scenes are revisited as important parts of the characters' backstories.
In the scene where the gunman fires at Veidt and the tycoons, the light above the elevator that signals his arrival is the same color as Veidt's suit, hinting at who hired him.
Fun with Acronyms: Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias's device is called the Sub-Quantum Intrinsic Device because it takes the place of the squid-monster at the end of the movie. Also counts as an Easter EggMythology Gag.
Germanic Depressives: Veidt comes off as rather dour and bitter, with an aloof smirk the closest to a smile he seems to actually be capable of (in contrast to his much warmer, more genial comic book counterpart).
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The second Silk Spectre's smoking was absent from the film whereas she was all but a chainsmoker in the comics. The Comedian still smokes cigars in almost all of his appearances.
Used during the prison riot with Rorschach, given what we see people do on screen it is a rather chilling implication of how bad that guy's fate was.
In the intro, there's a brief scene of a bunch of hippies protesting Nixon, facing off against some National Guardsmen pointing guns at them. One of them puts a flower into the barrel of one of the National Guardsmen, and the camera focuses in on the gun so much we can no longer see the hippies. Then all the guns go off...
Heroic BSOD: Dr Manhattan has one when he thinks that he caused the death of many of his old friends and soon his old girlfriend by giving them cancer.
Dr Manhattan: I SAID, LEAVE ME ALONE!
Historical In-Joke: The Comedian killed JFK, Ozymandias went to Studio 54, and many, many more.
The Comedian: "Ain't had this much fun since Woodward and Bernstein." ...Guess that explains how Nixon stuck around.
At The Comedian's funeral, "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel plays over the background. That song was written in the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which, in the Watchmen film universe, was carried out by The Comedian.
A loose example: the pic of Silk Spectre I's retirement looks like a recreation of The Last Supper.
There's National Guardsmen shooting at non-violent protestors through the flowers placed in the barrels of their guns, Norman Rockwell painting the Silk Spectre while Andy Warhol paints Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan on the moon — and that's just the opening credits!
Let's just say the entire opening sequence is one huge Historical In-Joke and leave it at that.
Outside of the opening sequence, former Ford president/Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca is the spokesman for the industrialists who meet with Veidt. He takes the assassin's bullet meant for Veidt, instead of Veidt's assistant.
Hotter and Sexier: Laurie's costume is tighter and much more revealing than it was in the book. The pudgy, homely Dan Dreiberg is played by a good-looking actor. And the sex scene in the owlship is much more explicit than anything Dave Gibbons ever drew.
How We Got Here: The opening sequence showcases just how different their world is from ours as well as the Minutemen's ever-changing lineup.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The man trying to kill Veidt is a horrible shot. Veidt could've probably stood completely still and been perfectly safe, considering his first two shots aren't even close to hitting him while he's standing still.
Made of Iron: Moreso than in the graphic novel. The main characters are all a bit more "super" than in the book.
Meaningful Name: A bit obvious when you're dealing with costumed heroes, but "The Comedian" is bitterly ironic.
Meta Twist: While it's obvious to a modern reader that Veidt is the murderer/guiding force behind the plot of the graphic novel, the book first appeared before comics in general became much Darker and Edgier and it was perfectly reasonable for an audience to assume that Veidt was the honest, caring man he seemed to be. Nowadays, a saintly-seeming character in a work otherwise full of grim antiheroes sticks out really obviously as the villain, so, film!Veidt became a glacial, aloof, rather sneering figure to actually detract the likelihood of his being the culprit from a newcomer's POV- only for it to still be him. But then it's twisted again in the end by how much less at peace he seems than his comic-book counterpart...
Montage: Most of the backstory (the history of the first-generation costumed heroes, and the effects they had on politics and culture) is revealed in a series of Bullet Time or slow motion shots played over the opening credits. It is one of the best treatments of How We Got Here seen in a long time.
Mook Horror Show: The Vitecongs get massacered by the Watchmen when they participate in the Vitnam war, mostly thanks to Dr Manhattan. They personally surrendered to him when they gave up.
In the film, the sharp-eyed viewer can see that the name of the Veidt/Manhattan collaboration has the initials SQUID.
Necessarily Evil: Ozymandias presents himself far more as this in the film than in the graphic novel, down to standing there and letting Dan beat him up. It was only Executive Meddling that saved him- in earlier drafts, he made Dan promise to protect his utopia and then let Dan kill him.
Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for the film made it look like a (relatively) typical superhero movie. Hence the number of parents who mistook it for kid-friendly material.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The Comedian's death. Ozymandias hands Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre their asses near the end of the film.
And then, unlike in the graphic novel, a guilt-ridden Ozymandias allows Nite Owl to return the favor after Rorschach's death, with a resigned, blank expression.
Non-Indicative Name: Even though the Crimebusters have their name changed to prevent confusion, "The Watchmen" are still not the protagonists of the film. They were a proposed superhero team that never actually formed. Practically all of the characters are solo vigilantes.
Offscreen Teleportation: When he's interrogated, Rorschach describes an occasion where he threw two objects through windows, yet is able to get inside the house and stand next to the man he threw it at in about two seconds. Rorschach being Rorschach, he's something of an Unreliable Narrator.
R-Rated Opening: Parents who took their children to the big new superhero movie (and somehow missed the R rating) most likely left the theater after watching an old man being brutally beaten up and thrown out of a skyscraper. If not, the opening montage (which includes among others, two dead women with "LESBIAN WHORES" written on a nearby wall in something red that looks very much like it could be their own blood) could be enough.
Recuts: This movie has two additional cuts, one that adds about a half hour to the run time and a second one that brings the total time to over three and a half hours by adding in Tales of the Black Freighter.
Revised Ending: Long story short, no Giant Squid in this version. Instead, Dr. Manhattan is framed for the destruction of New York, Moscow, and several other major cities around the world. Everything else remains the same.
Rule of Perception: Subverted. In the climax, Veidt says he could tell Manhattan could still feel by watching the microtwitches in his face (actually a real-life technique). There's a cut to Manhattan while Veidt continues to voiceover, and it's still his regular expression, as far as the audience can tell.
Scenery Censor: Very noticeably averted with Doctor Manhattan's nudity.
Serkis Folk: Dr. Manhattan — the director described his costume as pajamas with blinking lights on them.
Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during one of the sex scenes.
Though Snyder did mean to make the sexings seem ridiculous.
Spandex, Latex, or Leather: All three, actually, and more. The 1940s-vintage heroes mostly wore Spandex or its period equivalent (rather amusing are the realistic canvas, silk or cotton home-made costumes, considering that the heroes in question were ordinary people having either a bout of schizophrenia or a surfacing vigilante streak); some of those that didn't - like Silhouette - wore leather. The later Comedian preferred leather body armor, and Silk Spectre II was in latex. (Malin Åkerman famously commented that her costume made her "smell like a giant condom".)
Sphere of Destruction: The ending replaces the giant squid monster with spheres of destruction (the first of which releases energy pulses that resemble tentacles) made from Dr. Manhattan's energy destroying New York, Moscow, and other cities around the world, essentially making Dr. Manhattan as the deterrent for nuclear war. However, there is a subtle Shout Out to the original ending: the system is named S.Q.U.I.D.
Take That: Updated to target a newer President! The editor of the New Frontiersman responds to Ronald Reagan's candidacy by saying "no one wants a cowboy in the White House!" In the book, he responded to Robert Redford's candidacy with "no one wants a cowboy actor in the White House!"
Teeth Flying: Played for Drama in a scene from the director's cut. When Nite Owl learns from a Knot-Top that his mentor Hollis Mason was murdered by other members of that gang, he snaps and punches the man in the face repeatedly, visibly knocking a few teeth loose. The last you see of the guy is him gurgling his own blood which has most of his teeth floating around in it.
This Is Reality: Done in the original comic as well but deserving a mention for being kicked up a notch in a humorous allusion to the original comic by having Veidt's "I'm not a Republic serial villain" line replaced by "I'm not a comic book villain".
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Rarely for a superhero/comicbook movie, completely averted by the heroes. Dr. Manhattan has a habit of exploding everyone from petty crimebosses to Vietcong, Rorschach is...Rorschach, and even Dan and Laurie have no problems jamming knives into peoples' necks during a bit fight scene.
And the Comedian's main weapons are guns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers, but he's not a hero by any definition.
Time-Compression Montage: Snyder shows the golden age of the "heroes", their eventual decline, the rise of the next generation, and the public revolt against "vigilantes", while at the same time throwing in a butt-load of backstory and tidbits from the comic that would have been difficult if not impractical to put into the body of the movie. And sets it to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"
Title Drop: In the graffiti, as in the comic; and in the name of the super-team-that-never-was (which in the comic was called "the Crimebusters").
Trailers Always Lie: "Justice is coming for all of us, no matter what we do." This did show up in the Extended Version though.
Trailers Always Spoil: Several of the trailers show scenes that tip off the reveal for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the characters. The fans of the comic also have no compunction about dropping major plot points. Said fans include a major webcomic. This is because a lot of the comic's power came from the fact that the plot points were stupidly obvious. Like, if you missed the fact that Ozymandias was going to be the main villain you just weren't paying attention. And it worked anyway.
Traitor Shot: Done very subtly. Watch the movie again knowing that Veidt hired his own would-be assassin as part of the plot. Notice that he glances impatiently at his watch right before the gunman arrives, in a very "What's keeping this guy!?" manner.
Treacherous Advisor: Veidt's role in the film is given shades of this that weren't in the comic, due to his and Dan's relationship in this version clearly being affectionate and friendly rather than just the acquaintance of former superheroes.
Turn The Other Cheek: Veidt, of all people, when he willingly allows Dan to beat him until he's bruised, bleary-eyed and bleeding, as an implicit admission of guilt and self-loathing over what he did.
Ungrateful Bastard: In the jail break-in scene with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre beating the crap out of the rioting prison inmates who had an officer pinned in his office. The two heroes practically saved his life, and what does the officer do? He tries to arrest them, but gets knocked out for his trouble.
Villainous BSOD: Ozymandias appears to be going through one of these during the last we see of him. He's shaky, staring into space, and looking like he's about to fall over. Of course, the fact that what he did saved the world could make this just as strongly count as a Heroic BSOD.
Viral Marketing: Veidt Enterprises had the products - Nostalgia and The Veidt Method - appear. Keene Act informational movies are throughout.
Visionary Villain: Ozymandias and his vision of world peace bought at a terrible price.