Hey guys this is Kat "Comic Uno" and I have a new feature comparing the graphic novel and film of Watchmen. I had to do a ten page paper about Watchmen for a Novel and Film class I took. So, I decided to publish it here on Comic Frontline. Here is the second part of the article. Every week I will release a new part of this feature series.
What could the film provide that the novel didn’t provide to its fullest? The answer to this question is music. This film uses that aspect to its advantage. The graphic novel references lyrics from Bob Dylan’s songs and even based some of its chapters on his songs. (Borsellino, 32) One of the phrases on the Nostalgia perfume ad was “the times they are changing”. The graphic novel could reference music, but it could never have the same effect that the movie would have when it added music into the background of certain scenes.
Bob Dylan’s “The Times are A Changin” is the introduction song to the film. This is a perfect introduction to Watchmen because the past has changed so much because of the involvement of these superheroes. JFK was shot by the Comedian and the American’s won the Vietnam War because of Dr. Manhattan. These are only some of the major changes that were made in history because of these heroes. This song also gives a social commentary of how society has changed over the years. Society has destroyed itself.
When the Comedian dies, a light tone from the 1950’s “Unforgettable” from Nat “King” Cole plays in the background. As the comedian falls to his death and his smiley face button with a mark of blood falls with him the lyrics play “That someone so unforgettable thinks I am unforgettable too.” The Comedian is an unforgettable character and the movie is based on his actions, and how it affected all the heroes’ lives.
During the Comedian’s funeral “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel plays in the background. The song was written in the wake of JFK’s death, and this is ironic because in the Watchmen’s universe the Comedian killed JFK. The twin towers in the background during the Comedian’s funeral also give homage to 9/11 and add even more emotion during this sad toned song. The movie makes reference to 9/11 again in the end of the film when New York City is destroyed. There is an immense hole where Time Square used to be, but this references Ground Zero. (Sanderson, 128) During the funeral there is a close up shot of Dr. Manhattan and the lyrics say, “Silence like a cancer grows”. This will be a foreshadowing of the scandal Dr. Manhattan will face further on in the movie.
Most novels adapted into film don’t have the luxury or problems, depending on the way you look at it, associated with having visuals within the novel. In most novels imagery is left to the reader’s imagination, but since Watchmen is a graphic novel it shares words and images. This is one of the reasons that sound and music played such a big part in the film. It was the one thing that the comic book could not provide.
By watching the film and reading the graphic novel you get the best perspective on the Watchmen. There were minor and major changes in the film that intensified the Watchmen story. The first minor detail that the film added was Sally Jupiter being called Silk Spectre. In the graphic novel she is known as Silk Specter, but mostly referred to as Sally Jupiter. In the movie they call her Silk Spectre on many occasions and this reminds the audience that Laurie doesn’t have a real identity. She doesn’t even have her own superhero name as she is the second Silk Spectre. She will always be living in her mother’s shadow. Laurie never wanted to be the Silk Spectre, but her mother forced Laurie to train. Laurie has a hard time making an identity of her own. I think the minor detail of calling Sally Jupiter Silk Spectre adds more to the fact that Laurie does not have her own identity.
In the graphic novel the theme of identity is also developed even with Dr. Manhattan’s character. His father said that fixing watches was a dying trade. He pushed his son to go into a modern age trade as a scientist. If his father never had pushed him into that direction there would be no Dr. Manhattan. His father, without knowing it, changed Dr. Manhattan’s identity forever and thus the future of the world.
The biggest difference between the film and the graphic novel is the ending. In the graphic novel a giant squid destroys New York City and kills millions of people. In the movie the energy that created Dr. Manhattan destroyed New York City. It is debatable which ending is better because they both have the same result.
I believe that Dr. Manhattan’s energy has a bigger impact for the story than a giant squid destroying New York. It makes it more ironic and directly related to Dr Manhattan’s character. Everyone thinks that it is Dr. Manhattan’s fault. Dr. Manhattan is the person who saved America from the Vietnam War, but in the end he is the very thing that kills millions of Americans. They fear other nations, but never question America’s motives. Americans were paranoid over World War 3 and a nuclear war, but an American is the person who killed them. “God exists, and he is American.” (Snyder, 2009) This is an irony to the general paranoia.
The giant squid ending still has a similar meaning to the film ending. It is less character driven and more socially driven. The giant squid is one of the oldest creatures in the world, and the irony is that this is the creature that kills millions. Everyone is paranoid over nuclear bombs and new science, but surprisingly these are not the things that kill them. People looked to the future, but never thought to look to the past.
Both endings lead to utopia as a result of millions of American’s deaths. Rorschach believes that the people have the right to know who killed the people in New York. Ozymandias believes if the people knew than there was no point in trying to reach peace. There will just be another war and utopia will be lost. After the death in New York there was no more paranoia. The world had united, and this created utopia.
Dr. Manhattan says, “It will never end. Nothing ever ends.” (Moore, Chapter 12 27) Ozymandias believes that with this action he has changed the world and has ended war forever, but with Dr. Manhattan saying this he now has some doubts.
Rorschach’s journal is given to a newspaper outlet. The newspaper outlet doesn’t have any more stories to tell. Rorschach’s journal is in the news hamper. In the graphic novel it is under other papers, but in the movie the journal is on top of the pile. This proves that Rorschach’s journal was the driving force of Watchmen. It began the story and it is most likely will continue the story. Dr. Manhattan says that it will never end. Rorschach’s journal is the only source with the truth of how New York was destroyed. This can create more wars for the future. Utopia would be destroyed. Those deaths would mean nothing. But maybe the red headed boy at the newspaper outlet will not pick up the journal. There is a never-ending amount of possibilities where the Watchman story can continue. The movie and the graphic novel both respect this idea. That is what makes Watchmen unique. Most comic books would continue this story, and most movies of the superhero genre have sequel movies. Watchmen makes you analyze the story for different interpretations. This is why Watchmen is meant to be re-read and re-watched. (Thomson, 103) Richard Benson says in his article Obsolete Models a Specialty: An Introduction, “But in Watchmen, these different viewpoints mean something more than Rorschach blot, if you will, or a chance to play “Choose Your Own Adventure.” The fact that there are so many different possible interpretations is the whole point; it’s not which one you choose that matters, it’s that you have a choice.”