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Script / Watchmen

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"Christ Almighty, it's the Goddamned Watchmen!"
— An actual line from the opening scene of this script

In 2009, the film version of Watchmen finally made it to the big screen.

This page, however, is not about that adaptation. This page is about the 1989 Sam Hamm rough draft script, which was never produced, but is just so balls-to-the-wall So Bad, It's Good that it gets its very own page here at TV Tropes.

Like the graphic novel it's based on, Hamm's Watchmen is set in an alternate version of late-20th-century America, in which superheroes once thrived but have been outlawed by 1985. When the superhero/government operative the Comedian is murdered, the vigilante Rorschach investigates, reuniting with his former partner Nite Owl and eventually uncovering a conspiracy that extends all the way up to Dr. Manhattan, the only truly superpowered being in the story's universe. That's about where the similarities to the original end, however, outside of the very barest plot outlines. Instead of a deep exploration of the darker side of superheroes, Hamm chose to create a borderline comedic (at least, one can hope he wanted it to be funny...) action-adventure, complete with cackling villain and one hell of a Gainax Ending.

Confusingly, Alan Moore actually liked this script, which either makes him the greatest troll of all time or suggests that he thought it would just prove the inherent unfilmability of his work. Had it been produced, it likely would have starred Robin Williams as Rorschach, Charles Dance as Adrian Veidt (he's never called Ozymandias in this script), Jamie Lee Curtis as Silk Spectre, and Gary Busey as the Comedian.

If you're feeling brave, want to feel your opinion of the actual film adaptation increase hundredfold, or just have a good laugh, the full script can be read here.


  • Batman Cold Open: The script begins with a botched rescue attempt at the Statue of Liberty.
  • Big Applesauce: This version is even heavier on emphasizing the setting than the original.
  • Captain Obvious: During the experiment that killed Jon Osterman, the general present "comes to a belated and painfully obvious realization":
    General: Say, there's a man in there!!
  • Convenient Terminal Illness: Laurie is diagnosed with terminal lymphatic cancer in this version, and given six months to live. Dr. Manhattan points out to her later that she won't actually die of it, though, in light of what's going to happen in the immediate future.
  • Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames: Ozymandias is only known as Adrian Veidt.
  • Dark Mistress: Moloch has a moll named Lucy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It’s hard to tell from the script itself (which makes him read as more camp), but the proposed casting of Charles Dance as Veidt contextualizes pretty much everything he says as this:
    ”Then I’ve been a very bad boy and you’ll have to spank me.”
  • Death by Adaptation: Adrian Veidt, who is notably killed pretty much just for being an asshole. Sure, he still goes about giving people cancer to add credence to his discreditation of Dr. Manhattan a la the original, but that's the extent of his villainy here. His climactic plan? No mass murder, just sniping Jon Osterman through a hole in spacetime before he can become Dr. Manhattan, thus saving the world (it's complicated). Manhattan kills him with a blast of energy for this, and then almost immediately decides the spirit of what Adrian intended was right and saves his alternate/past self from Manhattanization.
  • Death by Irony: In this version of Rorschach's backstory, instead of Rorschach killing the dogs followed by burning the building with their owner still inside, he covers the man in raw hamburger and steer blood and has the dogs eat him. Then he kills the dogs.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Captain Metropolis. In the comic, he’s mentioned to have died in a car crash long before the start of the story; here, he’s abandoned with the hostages in the Statue of Liberty as the other Watchmen flee the time bomb in the cold open.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A conversation between Veidt and Dreiberg makes it sound a lot like Dreiberg is Veidt's kept boy. (Considering it's made obvious that Dreiberg is financially dependent on Veidt in this script, this isn't entirely inaccurate.)
  • Drugs Are Bad: Moloch snorts some blow in a restroom stall at the Gunga Diner. Rorschach does not approve.
    Rorschach: Drug habit. Highly illegal. Hnrrh. In future — just say no.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Rorschach say that two things he hates are street mimes and the use of recreational drugs.
  • Foreshadowing:
    Dr. Manhattan: Time is the key, Laurie. If I can unlock the origins of time, I'll finally be able to reconcile quantum physics and relativity.
  • Fusion Dance: Dr. Manhattan does to his past self, becoming "a solid protective HUSK around [Jon]". This saves Jon from being killed from the particle cannons.
  • Gainax Ending: It ends with the complete destruction of the timeline of the Watchmen universe, causing New York to revert to the real world. This is accomplished via Rorschach, Nite Owl, and Silk Spectre "spinning and tumbling through an other-dimensional funhouse of sound and color" until they land in Times Square, where a kid is reading Watchmen and excitedly shouts that he recognizes them. Then the police arrive. Cut to black.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Dr. Manhattan, saving himself. Well, Jon Osterman. Sort of.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: Dan has three of these. Each time is obvious, as they "take place in a stylized dream-time, midway between flashback and fantasy". Subverted the third time, as the telltale effects eventually fade out, revealing the action as actually happening.
  • In Name Only: To the point that a major reason it's listed on this wiki at all is just how far from the source material it actually is.
  • Meet Cute: Jonathan Osterman and Janey Slater.
  • Magic Pants: Dr. Manhattan has a pair of black trunks that materialize around his body when he shrinks down.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The alternate-universe Vietnam War Memorial is a statue of Dr. Manhattan cradling a dead soldier; the script even references the original by name.
  • Police Are Useless: Lampshaded.
    SWAT Cop: What do we do now?
    SWAT Captain: We sit here with our thumbs up our butts. As usual.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    Night Owl: BABY . . . WE'RE A BLAST FROM THE PAST.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The SWAT Captain angrily mutters "I quit" and turns away to leave as the Statue of Liberty explodes.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance/Left the Background Music On: Daniel and Laurie dance to Fats Waller's "S'posin'", which doubles as the soundtrack for the CTU's ambush on Rorschach.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Rorschach.
  • Temporal Paradox: Dr. Manhattan goes back in time and prevents his own accidental creation, ultimately negating the film's entire timeline.
  • Verbal Tic: Rorschach's trademark "hurm" is replaced with him constantly making bizarre hissing noises and growls.