- Alternative Character Interpretation: Are the masks just self-gratifying vigilantes, or misunderstood heroes who were then prosecuted for keeping the population safe? Or some of each? That is not even starting on Rorschach... or the Comedian...
- Ozymandias. Interpretations of him vary from a mass-murdering psychopath to the savior of the world and its best hope for the future. These depend largely on whether the person interpreting believes his plan would work.
- Rorschach. A psychopathic, alienated, misogynistic killer? Or an intelligent, uncompromising man trying to save humanity from evil and corruption and bring loyalty and morality back into the world? Or maybe he's both.
- Eddie Blake/The Comedian in particular. When he found out about Adrian's plan, he has such a breakdown he asked for forgiveness in front of his old enemy, Moloch, in tears and tried to justify what horrible things he did. But every other time we see him in the comic, he's cheerfully crossing the Moral Event Horizon and keeping on going - murdering a woman carrying his child, attempting to rape the first Silk Spectre and possibly later murdering another of his teammates. We never see him do anything remotely heroic, despite having been on a superhero team. So, is he a really dark antihero?
- Is Doctor Manhattan truly unable to alter the future or is he just so much of a fatalist that he won't even make the effort?
- Angst Aversion: The series is well-known for it's consistently bleak, horrific imagery and morally complex characters. It's a sobering read, to say the least.
- Awesome Art: All of the panels and characters are incredibly well drawn and impressively detailed.
- Base-Breaking Character:
- Dr. Manhattan became this for killing Rorschach.
- The Comedian is either a Jerk Ass Woobie or a sick bastard that deserved to die.
- Broken Base:
- The prequel comics, being made without Moore or even Gibbons's involvement, have been the point of division with many fans. Is this just a pale attempt at making Watchmen a Franchise Zombie, or a good way to reinterpret the story?
- Similarly, because of Watchmen's status as a Sacred Cow, The Reveal in DC Rebirth that Dr. Manhattan's the true cause of the New 52 has split the fandom, with some thinking it's a good idea and a good way to incorporate the series into DC canon and others thinking it's a horrible idea, and a middle finger to Alan Moore and/or even the series itself, and in any case, since it's happening nearly three decades after Watchmen, is way too late for it to have meaning.
- Common Knowledge:
- It is common knowledge that Watchmen only exists because Moore couldn't do the story with Charlton Comics creations. In fact, as Moore pointed out, his original plan involved MLJ Heroes published by Archie Comics, with The Shield slated to be the murder victim that brings the heroes together. Moore turned to Charlton when DC didn't have the rights for the MLJ heroes, and the only reason Moore wanted to adapt previously existing characters was for similar reasons as Miracleman (namely that he wanted the characters, however obscure, to have a history and legacy that would make his treatment of them really tragic). Moore noted that once he started work on Watchmen, he rapidly stepped away from the Charlton-MLJ-related concept.
- Likewise, it is common to assume that Watchmen killed off the goofier, more idealistic Silver Age type stories for some time, nevermind that the Silver Age was over for nearly ten years by that point. As critic Lance Parkin notes, it's actually closer in visual style to the Silver Age era than the Grim Dark books that would follow. Furthermore, as successful as Watchmen was, it was not by any means the great blockbuster that people imagine it. It was outsold by John Byrne's The Man of Steel and not nearly as successful as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Something like A Death in the Family and especially The Death of Superman probably had a bigger cultural and editorial impact on the darkening of comics than Watchmen did.
- Crazy Awesome: Rorschach is this when he's not busy being just plain crazy. Some highlights include hiding in, and then jumping out of, Moloch's fridge, going into random bars and beating the snot out of thugs until he gets answers, and in general being the only superhero with the balls to keep being a superhero when the practice was outlawed.
- Crosses the Line Twice: Rorschach's entries are darkly over the top and provide some badly-needed laughs.
Rorschach's journal, October 12th, 1985: "Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, "Save us!" And I'll look down and whisper, "No"."
Laurie: Whatever happened to him?
- How Rorschach dealt with Captain Carnage, a man who pretended to be a supervillain because he was a masochist.
Dan: Oh...Well, he pulled that on Rorschach, and he dropped him down an elevator shaft.
Laurie: [still laughing] Oh God, that's not even funny.
Dan: Well, it's a little funny.
- Draco in Leather Pants:
- Rorschach is a sympathetic character but not a role model. We are supposed to appreciate him as a human being, Warts and All, but not see him as a superhero since he's not very restrained at his job.
- The Comedian is also subject to this. It's only in his last few days of living that he starts to feel some regret for what he did, if only because of how much worse Adrian's plan is by comparison. His fans tend to think of him as a very, very dark anti-hero, glossing over the fact that he enjoyed every moment of what he did.
- Ozymandias is subject to both this and Ron the Death Eater because he's one of the most morally ambiguous characters in fiction. Fans tend either to regard him as a Card-Carrying Villain with no remorse for his misdeeds, or a Necessarily Evil hero who is treated as unambiguously right.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: The comic has a flock of these in the form of the Minutemen. Also a good deal of the villains that are mentioned offhandedly, most notably the Twilight Lady.
- Fan Myopia: Around the time the movie came out, fans of the comic were openly discussing the ending and other plot points without spoiler tags, assuming anyone interested in the franchise had to have read the comic.
- Fanon Discontinuity: The default attitude by fans to the comics and any part of the lore not written by Alan Moore and/or drawn by Dave Gibbons.
Dave Gibbons: I didn’t have a lot of input in it. To me anything to do with the movies – as far as I’m concerned, what Alan and I did was the Watchmen graphic novel and a couple of illustrations that came out at the same time. Everything else – the movie, the game, the [laugh] prequels – are really not canon. They’re subsidiary. They’re not really Watchmen. They’re just something different.
- This includes the movie adaptation, the prequel comics, the upcoming DC Rebirth where Watchmen is set to be folded over into the main continuity. Moore himself has severe Creator Backlash to how he was treated by DC and promises to "spit venom" on any followups, and while Dave Gibbons is respectful and cordial to the staff and creative team, he has stated that the only canon for the stories is what was written by Moore and drawn by him:
- In many ways, DC themselves have much to blame since after the publication and end of the series, the president of DC, Paul Levitz, and other editors refused to let Watchmen spin-off into other parts of the DC Comics, and this continued until the Zack Snyder film. Many note that if DC had done this earlier, it would have still provoked controversy, but since this was still pre-Internet it wouldn't have had a backlash. In that time, Watchmen has become a canonical work of comics and culture, inspiring other works like Bioshock Infinite and Lost as well as general Pop-Cultural Osmosis, which means that there's an entire generation (not quite old) for whom Watchmen is and always has been a standalone work, a classic on the same merit as Gravity's Rainbow or Taxi Driver and The Godfather and a sequel without the original creative team is about as acceptable as a sequel to any classic without the original team would be.
- Franchise Original Sin: This book, along with V for Vendetta and The Dark Knight Returns kickstarted The Dark Age of Comic Books, showing flawed super heroes and bad guys that actually won. However, many writers seem to lose themselves in trying to copy this book's success by tossing lighthearted characters into Darker and Edgier scenarios and losing them there. It got so bad that DC Rebirth essentially blamed this book for its changes. Literally.
- Genius Bonus: Several. "At play between strangeness and charm", seen in the lab where Osterman worked, is a pun on quantum mechanics, just to say one.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Rorschach is one of the few western comic characters you can find stuff of on Pixiv.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- So, a US-USSR nuclear war is inevitable, Adrian. Admittedly the world of Watchmen had Dr. Manhattan in addition to nukes and greatly escalated the Cold War without any of the trauma of the Vietnam War to spur on detente and other treaties that de-escalated the conflict.
- In one of the text supplements, Ozymandias talks about making a Saturday morning cartoon show.
- Dollar Bill, 1947- revolving door. No capes!
- The line mocking Robert Redford's candidacy. Let's just say he comes damned close in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- Part of Moore's inspiration for the series was criticizing Ronald Reagan (although he ultimately used Nixon instead, so some of his readers wouldn't get offended). Yet in September 1987, right around the time the series was wrapping up, Ronald Reagan himself gave a speech to the UN about how global unity could be achieved if the US and the USSR combined to fight against an invading alien force.
- The "knot top" haircut worn by the eponymous gang has actually gone into style among certain men in the mid 2010s.
- Harsher in Hindsight: When the telepathic squid attacks NY, an airship can be seen crashed into the side of a building that looks startling like the WTC.
- It Was His Sled:
- Ozymandias is the killer. Also, giant squid. This got particularly bad around the time of the movie.
- Edward Blake is Laurie's father.
- Rorschach dies.
- Jerkass Woobie: Rorschach. The Comedian if you think his breakdown makes him sympathetic.
- Magnificent Bastard: Ozymandias, especially after The Reveal.
- Memetic Mutation:
- "RRAAAARRL"/"Hurm", the written sound effects when Rorschach is feeling contemplative.
- "I did it thirty-five minutes ago."
- "Rorschach's journal. Unusual event happened, must investigate further."
- "Adrian Veidt. Possibly homosexual. Must investigate further."
- Misaimed Fandom:
- Some people take Rorschach and The Comedian seriously. Or rather seriously as superheroes which is entirely missing the point of the story.
- They specifically miss the point that neither of them are as infallible as they believe them to be at their job. Rorschach makes Entertainingly Wrong assumptions and it's ultimately Dan Dreiberg's Boring, but Practical basic detective work that even gets them to Ozymandias' Supervillain Lair and Rorschach is not even a match for Ozymandias as a fighter, his street-wise Combat Pragmatist approach no match for Charles Atlas Superpower. Both Rorschach and The Comedian are great characters in the literary sense and are pretty badass but neither are as badass as they want people to think they are, nor are they in a situation where being one is of much help.
- Misblamed: A number of comics fans, and helped initially by Alan Moore's own Self-Deprecation have blamed Watchmen for the Dark Age of Comics, and DC Rebirth uses as a central conceit that Watchmen ruined the DC Universe and made everyone Darker and Edgier:
Dave Gibbons: "Well the way, I mean, the way I understand it is that somehow Watchmen are being blamed for the darkness of the DC Universe, and somehow this latest story thing that DC are doing is a way that the DC Universe breaks free of the lying influence of the Watchmen characters...It was the fact that American writers adopted a particular take, that Alan and I took on superheroes. It’s the blame there, and certainly, we were never saying that this is how superhero comics should be done. In fact, the next thing we would’ve done after Watchmen would’ve been something like Captain Marvel, you know, something really light and mythical.”
- Dave Gibbons has recently argued against this:
- Lance Parkin, Alan Moore's biographer also pointed out that in practical terms, Watchmen was not as influential or impactful as people think it was. While the comic sold well and earned much critical acclaim, it was outsold by John Byrne's The Man of Steel series, and The Death of Superman was a bigger cultural impact and event than Watchmen was, and it would be hard to say that Moore inspired either comics. For one thing, John Byrne, the author of The Man of Steel is not a fan of Moore and has stated that he doesn't care for his works, while The Death of Superman was more or less an editorial improvisation as a result of shenanigans over Lois & Clark and not any Watchmen inspired event (and Moore, as the author of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? had a vastly different attitude to Superman in any case). In terms of what people think of as the worst part of The Dark Age Of Comics i.e. Generic Doomsday Villain, Death is Cheap, more violence and Gorn than usual, the Death of Superman is more representative of the Dark Age and more influential than Watchmen is, considering the number of imitations or Spiritual Successor it has spawned.
- Moral Event Horizon: Curious example, in that many readers think Big Bad Ozymandias's crossing of the Horizon and the greatest crime he commits are two distinct things. Sure he depopulated New York, but he had a damn good reason for doing that (preventing the Cold War from going hot and depopulating the entire planet). But when he gives a dozen innocent people cancer to discredit Dr. Manhattan, cold-bloodedly murders his absolutely loyal refugee servants to prevent them being a loose end, and pulls a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness on his loving pet Bubastis in an attempt to kill Dr. Manhattan, which turns out not to work, it becomes a whole lot harder to sympathize with him. There's pragmatism, then there's being cruel just to prove a point. It's implied that Veidt thinks of the murder of the manservants in particular as his own personal Horizon crossing, since it's the only thing he lies about during his Motive Rant.
- If The Comedian didn't cross it when he tried to rape the first Silk Specter, he definitely did when he murdered his pregnant lover because she gave him a scar. Dr. Manhattan's sheer apathy at witnessing said murder is arguably a Moral Event Horizon crossing for him, as well; The Comedian at least has this opinion. He is also implied to have killed Kennedy and been behind the murders of the Watergate scandal journalists. A lot else is also implied about him.
- Derf and his Knot Tops pals obliterated the line when they assaulted Hollis Mason and after hitting him, Derf crushed his head with his own trophy all because they mistook him for the new Nite Owl.
- Many of the things that Kovacs lived through were brutal and unforgivable enough to madden him into misanthropy. His mother Sylvia, was a prostitute who abused him verbally and physically so badly that he considered it an improvement when he was sent to the orphanage. Also he went there because he attacked two bullies who physically threatened and perhaps even planned to rape him (based on the comments of one of them that they wanted to examine his ass). He didn't meet her again and only learned about her murder at the hands of her pimp, Paterson, who no longer needing Sylvia, forced her to drink Drano cleaning fluid and simply dumped her body in the third example of crossing in his backstory.
- Gerald Anthony Grice butchered a little girl and fed her to his German shepherds. This crime was so horrific that it had the distinction of being what drove Rorschach over the edge and into murderous vigilantism. After that night there was a good chance that Rorschach's victims were people who crossed the Horizon like Harvey Charles Furniss a serial rapist and crime bosses like...
- Big Figure who wanted revenge against Rorschach for imprisoning him and in order to get him he didn't hesitate to threaten a guard's family and butcher his own goon when he accidentaly got in the way. One could argue that getting flushed in the toilet was his rightful place.
- Narm Charm: That giant telepathic squid. As much as Ozymandias denies it, that is a very Republic serial villain move, and he would probably agree. Ozymandias himself described the plot as the "greatest practical joke in human history". The fact that something as fundamentally absurd as that has the effect it does is why the ending is so powerful. No wonder that it disturbed The Comedian.
- Sacred Cow: Watchmen is so beloved by many fans that merely criticizing it is Fandom Heresy in the eyes of some fans. Likewise, doing anything else with the story and its world is seen as blasphemous to many people as a lot of fans condemned the movie even before its release and a main sticking point afterward being replacing the genetically-engineered squid with a plot to frame Dr. Manhattan for the destruction of several cities as the keystone of Veidt's plan to stop the Cold War, Before Watchmen got criticized by a lot of people before its release simply because it revisited the world, Ed Boon got people breathing down his neck for just teasing the idea of Watchmen characters as Guest Fighters in Injustice 2, and as noted under "Broken Base", many people aren't fond of DC trying to tie Watchmen into DC canon with DC Rebirth.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Watchmen influenced a ton of other works. These works fleshed out the tropes Watchmen introduced and put them in the forms that are now extremely familiar to readers. A superhero like Rorschach who goes around killing people was shocking in the 80s, but after several decades of The Punisher, he seems tame and reasonable by comparison. The notion of flawed heros like the Comedian was very fresh in the 80s, but it's par for the course these days. Dr. Manhattan pissing all over the status quo with his superpowers by altering history is far less amazing today than when it was first introduced in an era of Reed Richards Is Useless.
- Squick: Rorschach's backstory. Also, there's just something odd about giving a "Tijuana Bible" of yourself to your daughter's husband.
- Regardless of whether he exists outside of time now, the fact that the 30-year-old-looking Manhattan goes after 16-year-old Laurie is hella creepy.
- Tainted by the Preview: General opinions on the prequel comics? Not very positive.
- Unintentionally Sympathetic: Rorschach comes across far more relatable than many of the other characters, which was not Alan Moore's intention for him. Not only is he pretty dang cool, he's also the one person trying to solve the mystery and figure out what is going on, even if his methods aren't very effective. His actions are what drive the plot forward, and many see him as The Protagonist of the comic. And he is the only one willing to not allow Adrien to get away with his plot, and for that, he has to die, but he goes out with dignity in the end. In short, a classic example of an Anti-Hero.
- "Weird Al" Effect: With the possible exceptions of The Question, Captain Atom & Blue Beetle, hardly anybody remembers the old Charlton characters the cast of Watchmen were based on.
- Awesome Music: Phillip Glass' Prophecies/Pruit Igoe in the trailer. Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-changing in the opening sequence.
- Broken Base: Fans are split on how good or bad of an adaptation this film was.
- Cant Unhear It: Jackie Eal Haley as Rorschach, Patrick Wilson as Nite-Owl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian to name a few.
- Cult Classic: Despite mixed reviews and an underwhelming box office performance, the film seems to have and is continuing to gain a solid fanbase.
- Draco in Leather Pants: Rorschach, Ozymandias. And how.
- Ensemble Darkhorse: Due to being played by the handsome Niall Matter, Mothman has seen a surprising level of attention in the fandom recently, in spite of not really being all that important.
- Fashion-Victim Villain:
- Subverted- like David Bowie in Labyrinth, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias has the uncanny ability to be put in some rather ridiculous outfits (purple suits? Egregious floppy '80s Hair? A supersuit with nipples?) and nevertheless look good enough to make otherwise rational straight women and gay men squee their brains out from all the Perverse Sexual Lust he creates. Then again, he comes dangerously close to a male example of Power Hair.
- And in an enforced example, he has nipples in his costume, referencing the ones atop the WTH, Costuming Department? page.
- Fetish Retardant: The sex scene with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" playing in the background. Zack Snyder claimed that it was deliberate, since the big-wigs wanted a steamy sex scene — they decided to placate them, while turning up the cheese factor Up to 11.
- Fridge Brilliance:
- During the opening credits, it has Neil Armstrong on the moon and says "Good Luck Mr. Gorsky." There's an Urban Legend that his neighbor said the day the neighbor kid went to space is the day his wife would give him oral sex. Since this film takes place in an alternate timeline, it goes from confusing to clever.
- Veidt's fairly obvious computer makes a lot of sense- if he wanted Dan and Rorschach to be able to crack it. The computer even prompts Dan for another word.
- Genius Bonus/Viewers Are Geniuses: The symbol Jon draws on his forehead is a representation of a Hydrogen atom. Hydrogen was the first element to be created and is the single element from which everything else in the universe comes. Which is why it's "something [he] can respect" versus something "the marketing boys" think up. The comic gives a brief explanation; the film puts the scene in but never explains it.
- In Veidt's office, the Narmer Palette can be seen on the wall in his Egyptian artifact alcove. It is a significant piece of archeology and it is propaganda about a ruler's unification of Upper and Lower Egypt with scholars still unsure if it is an actual record of what happened or just a mythologized version.
- He Really Can Act: Even people who dislike the rest of the movie love Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Rorschach. He's still held up to this day as one of the examples of comic book casting that they got exactly right. While in the comics Rorschach was a borderline emotionless sociopath, Haley makes Rorschach into a snarling, ranting, rabid dog of a hero, and oh boy, does it work.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: The businessman's line "'Free' is another word for 'Socialist'" in regards for energy. Right around the time the film was made, people were calling Barack Obama's energy policies such as support for cap and trade just that.
Wally:What I said was 'God Exists, and he's American'. If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you're still sane.
- Wally Weaver's statements on Doctor Manhattan could also count as this.
- Which later got vindicated on how Ozymandias implements his forced peace.
- A reference to Robert Redford in the comic was altered in the film because it was believed people wouldn't know who that was. Redford would see a resurgence in recognizability 5 years later following a major role in another superhero movie.
- Ho Yay:
- Dan and Rorschach get more scenes that can be interpreted as this in the film.
- Veidt around everyone but Rorschach.
- It's the Same, Now It Sucks: While some liked how it stuck to the comic, it's often criticized for that very thing.
- Memetic Mutation:
- Adrian Veidt and his "Boys" folder seems to be getting a certain measure of notoriety, too.
- As is Matthew Goode's profanity-laden OOC statement how people who hated the film can all "line up and suck [his] dick", because he "[doesn't] give a fuck".
- Narm: Having Janie Slater pull off a wig to reveal a slightly thin but otherwise full head of hair was not as dramatic as intended.
- Never Live It Down: Immature viewers seem more focused on Dr. Manhattan's nudity than anything else about the film.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- Arm + Buzzsaw.
- Face + boiling oil.
- Theatrical Cut: bullet + leg. The Director's Cut adds bullet + fingers to the scene.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: Walter/Rorschach and the Comedian have gained a lot more fans of their physical appearance since the film.
- Signature Scene: The opening montage set to "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". Even people who otherwise can't stand this adaptation admit that it's a brilliant sequence.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: One of the two biggest complaints about the movie. (The other being that they DIDN'T change it).
- Uncanny Valley: Dr. Manhattan, though it may be deliberate. The abundance of cg where it's otherwise only minimally used save for Rorschach's mask is a bit too distinct.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: Snyder mentioned in interviews that they used the book as storyboards for the film. It shows.
- Quite a few people who hated the movie still admit that they liked the opening credits sequence.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: It really isn't. The R rating for "strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity, and language" is well earned.
Unproduced Sam Hamm script:
- Hilarious in Hindsight: One particular line - what, you can't see it? Are you dense? Are you retarded or something?
- Memetic Mutation: "Christ Almighty, it's the Goddamned Watchmen!"
- So Bad, It's Good: If this script had been used, the resulting movie could have rivaled Batman & Robin in terms of awfulness, especially considering that it's meant to be taken seriously.
- What The Hell, Casting Agency?: This◊ is the face of Rorschach.
DLC Video Game:
- Just Here for Godzilla: Seriously, who didn't buy this game simply so they could play as Rorschach during his days as a legit costume vigilante?