Then It’s the Bomb that Will Bring Us Together
Watchmen was never the subtlest book on the shelf.


The amount of gore seems to vary based on what would be “cool,” so you end up with a world in which the main difference between an alley fight and a prison riot is that people bleed less in prison. Similarly, the pregnant woman the Comedian murders in Vietnam is basically a person-shaped prop; I think he bleeds more from having his face cut than she bleeds from being shot dead. Similarly, and even worse, the final scenes of destruction in New York are filmed without any sign of human death at all. Ordinary, non-superhero characters rise up in the air in an eerie, balletic scene — and then there are a lot of wrecked buildings. No blood, no mess, no shadows burnt onto the walls: no sense of human individuals having been destroyed.

And that choice goes directly against one of the main themes of both book and movie: the crucial difference between protecting “human life” and protecting individual, unique human lives. And yet Snyder makes many choices that undercut this distinction: the choice to erase any exploration of non-superheroic characters, for example; or the choice to erase virtually every marker of Laurie’s personality (her on-and-off smoking habit, her choice to use the ethnic surname “Juspeczyk” rather than her mother’s assimilationist “Jupiter”).

Both comic and movie are deeply conflicted, and have no ultimate “message” or answer to the frightening questions they raise. But where the comic’s internal conflicts arise because conflicting points of view are given equal time and equal poignancy, the movie’s internal conflicts stem more from a lack of concern with the way visuals can undermine narrative.

 – Eve Tushnet is a writer in Washington, D.C. She blogs here.