I went to see The Watchmen over the weekend. I did like it overall. The movie successfully captured the visual style and overall atmosphere of the comic, which is no trivial feat.
I read the comic back in college when I was still a lefty and enjoyed it, so I went into the movie understanding that my evolved and matured world-view would make me appreciate the original story less. However, the movie’s needless deviation from the book merely to make contemporary political points showcased just how profoundly leftism contaminates modern film and art. Increasingly, this makes going to the movies a political act in support of leftism.
In general the movie adhered closely, perhaps too closely [h/t Instapundit], to the story line of the original. I was particularly struck by how well the movie captured the book’s accurate depiction of the overall feel of seedy decay that came over America in the period 1973-1985. Back then, the great cities of the American Northeast had collapsed economically and socially due to the accumulation of decades of socialist policies. (The TV show Hillstreet Blues was applauded at the time for grittily capturing that feeling of decay.) Back then, everything, even the beautiful women, seemed covered in a faint layer of oily grime. The Watchmen really captures that atmosphere in everything from Rorschach’s journeys through the back alleys to the upscale restaurants to the dark and claustrophobic townhouse of the wealthy Nite Owl/Dan Dreiberg.
Most of what I did not like about the movie, came from places where the movie needlessly diverted from the book. Nixon in the movie is a bloodthirsty buffoon. In the book, he’s Nixon but he lashes back at G. Gorden Liddy for suggesting a first strike, and we last see him sitting under Cheyenne mountain with his hands on the “football” with the nuclear launch codes, clearly dreading he might have to use them. In the movie, he plans a preemptive strike at a specific hour which sets the clock the heroes must race against.
[Minor spoiler] The other deviation clearly results from the desire of the writers and directors to gratuitously inject present day leftist tropes into the movie for no other reason than political propaganda. In the movie, Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt confronts a group of stereotypical corporate executives (all older white males in business suits) who complain that Veidt’s new energy technology will give away energy for free and thereby disrupt their corporate empires. Veidt castigates them and tells them that he intends to break the world’s “addiction” to oil. Of course, that scene doesn’t occur in the book. Nobody used such a silly metaphor (do we talk about people being addicted to oxygen?) at a time when the energy crisis had just ended.
More tellingly, in the book, there were no more internal combustion cars! In one the most iconic scenes in both the book and the movie, Dan Dreiberg leaves the home of the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason and passes by a sign that says “Obsolete Models a Specialty”. Hollis Mason lives above the auto mechanic shop he used to run and the sign is the sign for his shop. In a later flashback, we see Mason at his retirement party in the early sixties. He tells the super-superhero Dr. Manhattan, that he plans to retire and fix cars, because cars are more simple than people. Dr. Manhattan tells him that cars will be even more simple soon because he is using his power to synthesize elements to create vast amounts of cheap lithium which will make electric cars practical. By the time of the book’s present-day, 1985, no one drives internal-combustion engine cars except antique collectors. In the book, the sign refers to the obsolete internal combustion engines. The sign symbolized that Hollis had been rendered obsolete not only due to the rise of the super-powered heroes who made his mere mortal fisticuffs seem ridiculous, but also by the concomitant shift in technology that made his skills as a mechanic useless.
Hollis is the everyman of the story. When superheroes render him obsolete as both a hero and a mechanic, it shows how they render all other ordinary humans obsolete.
In the movie, no major plot element required the oil “addiction” rant. At best, the writers make a minimal one-line attempt to imply that Veidt is hiding his grander scheme behind an alternative-energy project. So, having Veidt rant about the “addiction” to oil was just a clumsy injection of leftist politics that required tossing out one of the most powerful images of the original book! I winced when I saw this gratuitous and vainglorious mutilation of the original. I knew that Alan Moore was a big lefty, and I expected that the movie would contain the leftist tilt of the book, but I got really disgusted at the gratuitous deviations. They did it for no other reason than the commandment of post-modernist morality to exploit any and all personal power for political ends. They had a captive audience and that created an obligation to engage in a little bit of indoctrination.
I really resented paying someone to rant hysterically at me about technological matters which they clearly don’t understand. I find myself growing more and more resentful of the way that leftist intellectuals use their power over our culture’s stories to glorify themselves and their ideas while smearing everyone else.
I walked out the theater feeling as if I’d paid for an expensive meal but found it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The writers and director of The Watchmen whored themselves out to leftist politicians and their art suffered for it.