Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I am watching the Watchmen

A narrative strand in Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen traces the sociopathology of the character Rorschach to his traumatic childhood. In one scene, Rorschach (when he was still a young boy called Walter Kovacs), is accosted by two bullies. He grabs a cigarette from one and grinds it into the attacker's eye.

The movie version, which I saw this evening, alters the scene. In the film, Kovacs kicks his attacker in the nuts, then bites out a chunk of his face.

What do we learn from this? That in the moral world of 2009, a movie can depict nuclear annihilation, graphic dismemberment, boiling cooking grease flung in a man's face, a pregnant woman shot dead at point-blank range, a man burying a meat cleaver repeatedly in another man's skull, and a blue mutant in full frontal nudity — as long as it does not appear to condone smoking.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

Labels: , , , ,

26 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

Seems about right.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The change was odd in a movie that strives so hard to be visually faithful to its source -- unobtrusive, though a bit silly, really.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Well, smoking kills, doesn't it?

gb

March 17, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I still dont understand the ending to the movie. Also the prison escape scene was changed. No electrocution. And dont get me started on the Pirate Adventure.

I'll tell you two things I did like though: 1) the Comedian didnt die like a punk 2) Silhouette had a good visual gag on VJ Day.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Peter, I love it when you poke fun at political correctness. Lord Ralph Harris of Highcross would have been proud.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha! That's hilarious.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Peter,

What did you think of the movie overall? I've been going back and forth about seeing it.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

I've been debating on whether to see it. Now, most definitely not!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Peter!

Chriest is the v-word, Peter! I can read so many things into that!
Should we sell this post on e-bay? ;)

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, smoking kills, doesn't it?

gb


So do meat cleavers, but I don't see warnings on them.

I'm not a smoker and never have been, but I find American attitudes toward smoking odd. Sure, smoking kills and tobacco companies are scumbags and deceivers on a large scale. But it's also an easy target, a vehicle for facile gestures like the one Watchmen's producers made.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I still dont understand the ending to the movie. Also the prison escape scene was changed. No electrocution. And dont get me started on the Pirate Adventure.

I'll tell you two things I did like though: 1) the Comedian didnt die like a punk 2) Silhouette had a good visual gag on VJ Day.


The Pirate Adventure was not one of my favorite parts of the book, so I can't say I missed it much. The filmmakers probably decided wisely when they dropped it and other motifs and storylines that would have been difficult to cram into a movie. I did enjoy the back-and-forth chat between the news dealer and the kid reading the comic, though, but I can see why it would have been obtrusive in the movie. I did notice the way the movie made passing allusions to it, though.

That visual gag was terrific, a real highlight. It was also a nice way of referring to an incident mentioned only briefly in the book. And I liked the movie's handling of the Mars scenes. Those scenes had not been my favorite part of the book.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Peter, I love it when you poke fun at political correctness. Lord Ralph Harris of Highcross would have been proud."

Loren, Lord Harris apparently "was not convinced that passive smoking was dangerous, publishing and campaigning against the banning of smoking on trains from Brighton to Victoria station in 1995, although he admitted that he was not a frequent rail user himself."

The highlighting is mine, and it gets to the crux of the matter. I'm all for banning smoking in small, confined spaces such as railroad cars, just as I am all for banning cell-phone use in similar spaces. Harris seems ot have been akin to the anti-smokers in his willingness to inflict on others unpleasant conditions that he would not have to experience himself.

I don't exactly feel weird about smoking band for political-correctness reasons. Philadelphia, for example, was at the forefront of the American movement to ban smoking in public places, and I couldn't help noticing that this ban took hold in a city rife with a corruption at a time when public services and, I think, the local economy, were not doing well. It's not that anti-smoking is a false or evil cause. It's too often a distraction from real problems.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sandra, I agree. The scene ought to bring a smile to the face of Watchmen-watchers if they can cool down from their passionate arguments over book vs. movie.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, there's no question: the movie is worth seeing, if only for its extraordinary fidelity to the comic's look.

I also agree with a comment I read elsewhere that the soundtrack selections were not bad, just rather obvious, to say the least.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

PM: Yes, that was a fine v-word, perhaps the cry of those who wake up holding their heads after excessive imbibing over the weekend or tonight.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Have those of you who've not seen it seen the opening credits clip? I've been ambivalent about the movie, but seeing that almost makes me want to go.

March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That was quite an opening-credits sequence. The sequence itself has no analogue in the comic, and several of its elements don't appear to be direct references to the book. But other elements are clever ways of incorporating parts of the book that otherwise would have been difficult or impossible to work into the movie.

March 18, 2009  
Blogger Rafe McGregor said...

To get back to the smoking, you got that right, Peter. Someone recently told me that new movies are (or will be) coming out with "contains scenes of smoking" warnings. Just in case a few minutes of watching my favourite actor or Sherlock Holmes smoke on screen makes me change my lifestyle...

March 18, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

The highlighting is mine, and it gets to the crux of the matter.

Is it bad to admit to a newspaperman that I didn't read this far in the Wikipedia entry?

March 18, 2009  
Blogger marco said...

I believe The Tales of the Black Freighter will be included as a cartoon in the DVD.
The Pirate Adventure is a counterpoint to Adrian (primarily) and Rorschach (secondarily) loss of humanity through their pathologic dedication to their idea of good and willingness to sacrifice everything else for it.
It is Adrian Veidt's Portrait of Dorian Gray.

On smoking, playing Devil's Advocate for a moment
A kid 12-13 years onwards who in the past saw certain films, read a lot of comics or P.I. novels probably wouldn't have started to kill and maim left and right, but surely would have thought that smoking was adult, mature and "the cool thing to do".
Not saying that prohibition or censorship are the solution, but in my time kids were much more inclined to bring their friends the fags they'd stolen from their older brother saying it would have been a good idea if each had a smoke, rather than a meat cleaver to test on somebody else's cranium.

March 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Rafe, good God, what an idea. Where does it end? "This movie contains scenes of high cholesterol consumption that may be unsuitable for children"?

Smoking warnings on movies would make want to loiter in front of theaters and fire up a pack of Marlboros.

My building at work has been a "Non-smoking environment" for several years, which is why I used to be pleased to see piles of cigaraette butts contently on one second-floor staircase.

March 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nah, Loren. I cite articles based on a quick glimpse all the time. I happened to read a little further into this one because I have a mistrust of people who misapply free-market economics to other areas of life.

March 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Marco. I couldn't quite figure out what the pirate sequence added, other than a generalized story of hardship and brutality.

Yeah, I suppose the weight of social pressure is a good way to cut down on smoking. It's just that the individual acts that constitute that pressure can seem pretty silly. It's probably hard for me to suggest sensible social policy on this, though, because I was a child at a time when cigarettes were still advertised heavily, and I sneaked into the woods a time or two to smoke, but that was it. The advertising and all the cool characters smoking on TV and in the movies, but I never took up the habit.

I also have very little experience with meat cleavers except as a peacemaker, and that just once.

March 18, 2009  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

That scene wasn't changed by much. Kovacs may have kicked the man in the balls instead of do the cigarette thing, but in both the comic and the film, he bit the guy's ear off.

What the pirate story adds directly, I'm not sure, but it was written by one of the characters in the comic that was whisked away to the small island to contribute to the mini-plot in the comic that ends up being the basis of the ending.

What didn't you understand about the ending in the film? I will try to explain if I understand it myself.

March 21, 2009  
Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

Oh, ok, I just read Marco's comment.

I don't remember if the meat clever thing was in the comic, I don't think it was, but another thing they changed is that, when Rorschach leaves that house after talking to that guy, he sets it on fire. In the film he did not do this. I wonder why the meat clever thing instead of fire. Perhaps for budget reasons?

March 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I didn't remember the ear-biting from the comic. I did notice the omission of the cigarette because the scene from the comic had done an especially good good job of displaying young Kovacs' wildness and brutality.

March 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I also wondered about the change from fire to cleaver. In the comic, the meat cleaver is just a threat.

I'd guess that the filmmakers thought repeated blows from a meat cleaver were more interesting visually.

March 21, 2009  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home