unpacking the new ending of ‘Watchmen’

After the jump, a spoiler-laden discussion of the new ending of Watchmen that assumes you’ve both read the graphic novel and seen the film.

My spoiler-free review is here.
So all through Watchmen the movie, I’m noticing that one of the major deletions from the graphic novel is this: the whole mysterious subplot about the missing artists is, well, missing. It seemed a reasonable enough edit on the part of director Zack Snyder and writers David Hayter and Alex Tse, but then it makes even more sense when we get to the end of the film and discover how they’ve altered that.

There’s no giant fake alien squid with the cloned brain of a psychic. None whatsoever. Instead, Ozymandias has adapted the alternative, carbon-free, green, unlimited power source he’s been working on with Doctor Manhattan — it’s gonna save humanity! — and turned it into a weapon, which he uses to devastate not only New York City but also London, Paris, and a host of other major global cities.

I like this new ending for a lot of reasons. First, the giant fake alien squid is pretty preposterous, even in the world of Watchmen. And it might have seemed even plausible to audiences today, who’ve seen more than enough realistic-looking alien invasion movies to be fooled by Ozymandias trying to fool the world. And it had never occurred to me before, but mightn’t the fact that only New York gets hit seem suspicious to some people, as if it might be a Soviet trick. You know, with tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.S. so high?

And then there’s this. The prospect of widespread devastation in New York is no longer the stuff of fantasy. I was discussing the film with two fellow critics the day after we all saw it, two people who are not familiar with the graphic novel, and they both expressed disgust for the idea of the destruction of New York being used for “entertainment.” As I explained to them, speading the destruction around to other cities may be a way of mitigating that. Certainly, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center loom over Snyder’s 1985 Manhattan in a way that they did not over Moore and Gibbons in the late 80s. And, notably, the towers are still standing at the end of the film. I think Snyder was well aware of the treacherous ground he was covering here, and was taking steps to address them, if indirectly.

The new ending also strengthens the overall theme of Watchmen: the world now thinks that Doctor Manhattan, a godlike superbeing, has now turned on humanity. Of course, one of the masks, Ozymandias, has turned on humanity — at least from one perspective on the film — but no one knows that. If there’s a lesson about the danger of relying on vigilantes, perhaps it comes to fruition in humanity’s turning, in turn, against Doctor Manhattan, even if the why of it is wrong.

I love the new ending. What do you think?

share and enjoy
notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Fri, Mar 06, 2009 5:38pm

Seeing it tonight, but I surmised if the Squid was missing (as every review has been saying) that the artist subplot (and therefore the pirate ship comic) would be missing as well.

As long as Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre II go incognito to visit Silk Spectre I and Rorschach’s Journal arrives at The New Frontiersman, and Manhattan makes Ozy doubt his final, Comedian-influenced action, I’ll be fine with the ending.

The End
The End
Fri, Mar 06, 2009 6:06pm

I really liked the graphic novel, but the movie was not nearly as good. What it chose to emphasize was a bit different, and it got me thinking about the core of the story (even the graphic novel version), and I’m not sure I like what I saw–


Think about it: we’re left with the message that the REAL catastrophe wasn’t the mass death of millions upon millions of innocent people–no!–the REAL danger is that humanity will learn that the event was faked! THAT would be *BAD*; but the mass death of innocents?–not so much!

So we’re supposed to feel that the truth is too much for humanity to take, and that a conspiracy to kill innocent people is really a heroic deed that is completely justified if the ends justify the means. And I think that’s total BS.

So if the government decides to release a plague or engineer a war in order to kill off millions of humans, don’t worry about it; it’s for the greater good and it was a heroic sacrifice on everybody’s part. Just don’t try to tell the people what REALLY happened, because THAT would be BAD. This is the message that _Watchmen_ leaves me with, and I don’t agree with it one bit.

Maybe I’m mis-reading it, but it sounds like one big excuse/apology for elitist psychopaths who treat people as pawns, but “for their own good.” Yeah right. I’m more of the opinion that the truth & understanding shall set us free, and only elitist sociopaths would have us believe that the truth is a bad thing for society. Secrecy is for scoundrels, not for superheroes!

drew ryce
drew ryce
Fri, Mar 06, 2009 6:11pm

The new ending works much better for a film. It even has a period feeling to it (“Failsafe” where NYC is blown up to even out the accidental torching of Moscow and thereby avert WW3).

Allthough it will no doubt incite the true believers, I think that the multi layer story lines were well left out. Switching back and forth to the cannibal sailor and the news vendor was annoying (to me) in the graphic and I don’t miss it at all.

Odd thing to me was how good the upcoming films looked. I haven’t looked forward to a Star Trek in decades and that Wolverine flick looked like great fun.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 6:13pm

Um I did not like the new ending. And I thought the entire plot of the artists in the comic books should have been mentioned. Along with the fight scene that was taking place before the Giant Squid appreared. You should know. The fight with the Psychologist, and his wife. The fight between the two Lesbian couples, and the News Stand guy and so fourth.

I think the squid should have been in there. It was so much an in your face plot revealed.

van occupanther
van occupanther
Fri, Mar 06, 2009 6:31pm

The Black Freighter sub-plot is said to have been prepared as an extra on the DVD release. Apparently Gerard Butler will star. On the subject of the sacrifice of millions being ok, ithe point is that it’s already been done and undoing it would make it wasteful as well as a catastrophe, but the plan is condemned and it’s effects scrutinised by the characters.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 6:53pm

The squid ending has been criticized for years. In addition to the fact that there’s no reason for the world to assume that the aliens are mad at all humans as opposed to the US specifically, there’s also the problem that humanity has no was to retaliate against the aliens and the “What happens when several years pass and no alien attacks occur?” problem.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 7:01pm

There’s really no reason to put the Pirate Comic back into the movie if the artists aren’t missing.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 8:11pm


Hey, “The End”.
The way I see it, humanity can’t know the truth because then they’ll give up on peace and billions, as oppose to millions will die. But I don’t think that the movie necessarily condones what Ozzy did. It simply shows his point of view, and leaves the audience to decide wheter he did the right think. And I really think they should have showed him crying in the end, as well as his final conversation with the Doc.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 9:44pm

I much prefer the new ending, as regards to making Jon the scapegoat. Besides the plausibility angle, it also makes it more personal – it makes the world hate Jon, and gives him even more reason to disassociate from humanity. Plus, it uses an established element of the story (Jon as a nuclear deterrent) and makes it global, as opposed to introducing a new element (alien invasion) in the last act.

Fri, Mar 06, 2009 11:48pm

Changing the ending changes a lot of the story. Which means there were many subtle nips and tucks many will miss. The story was a bit far fetched but it was all tied in and it worked great. Made it a unmissable classic to its fan base. Changing it was an insult. And anyone who stands behind it is a fool and a drone. Probably the same people who put Beverly hills Chihuahua to the top of the box office. New York was the scene in the movie BIG DEAL ITS A MOVIE. We dropped TWO nuclear bombs no Japan and have devastated many other nations. We get punched back and suddenly you better look around before you mention New York in anything. Screw them don’t show the movie there. FIX THE ENDING OR TOSS IT ALL

Sat, Mar 07, 2009 6:20am

Jesus Christ; it’s a fucking comic book, not Tolstoy.

Here’s a thought: How about going to see what a vagina looks like, for a change.

Sat, Mar 07, 2009 11:14am

Just FYI, bud, that particular putdown’s been obsolete for about ten years now. We have this thing called the Internet? The thing you’re on right now. Yeah.

It’s a weird experience reading the shouty men here – I keep, genuinely, forgetting that that kind of person actually exists. I normally regard them as a hypothetical strawman, a rhetorical touchstone. I suppose I should have had it fresh in my mind, since I went to Iron Man last year and decided “why not see the Nick Fury bit”. As the people filed out, I found myself part of a group that actually was almost exclusively obese male teen/twentysomethings in black T-shirts.

I’ll say it here too – I love Watchmen, and when I first heard about a Watchmen conversion moving forward I hoped they’d change the mechanism of the ending. It’s a genuine weakness in the original work from a pure storytelling perspective. There’s no Chekov’s gun; we see no psychic or psionic effects anywhere else in the universe through the whole story (Jon’s not psychic, he’s there right now), and then in one line Veidt can introduce them and gin them up into his WMD? Even the first time I never bought it. Tying the attack to Jon sounds like a stroke of genius too – I don’t think I would have thought of that.

I am sad to hear that the final reconciliation/mea culpa/ironic warning isn’t there though. That seems important to me. We shall see in a few days, I suppose.

The End
The End
Sat, Mar 07, 2009 2:21pm

Regarding my above post concerning my moral qualms with the film’s message:

The movie’s plot & themes suffer without the “pirate comic”, because the purpose of that side-story was to show a man who, while trying to save humanity from evil, becomes evil himself. This makes a nice commentary particularly on Ozymandias’s conspiracy to save the world by killing people.

But the film version just does away with that sort of moral insight, and just depicts the mass killing as a heroic, brave thing that results in peace & happiness for all! The film spends barely ANY time discussing or mourning those people, they’re just swept under the rug with one cool FX bit. More drama is built up surrounding the fact that Blake is Laurie’s dad!!!–the film gets ALL dramatic about that; to a cheezy extent, even. But that detonation that kills millions is given even less weight.

But what do you expect from the director of an historically inaccurate propaganda film like _300_?

I’m telling you, it’s people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc. who would enjoy a message like that contained in _Watchmen_. Ooooh, the heroes are the brave, ruthless ones who ‘understand’ that you have to lie to the public and kill them off “for their own good.”

That’s the vibe that the film leaves me with. The comic had enough nuance to be more balanced and cautionary a tale. This film just seems to glorify big wars, big fights, mass killings.

Sat, Mar 07, 2009 6:25pm

I come down in favor of the altered ending, for reasons that others have expressed. But you guys objecting so to the artists and the Black Freighter and certain other elements being missing – seriously, think about the length of the movie as it is. How on earth would you have included everything? Cannot happen. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:

[Director] Snyder’s first cut of the film was three hours long. In keeping the film tight, Snyder dubbed himself “the gatekeeper” of the comic’s easter eggs, “while [the studio] conspire to say, ‘No. Length, length, length. Playability.’ […] I’ve lost perspective on that now, because to me, the honest truth is I geek out on little stuff now as much as anybody. Like, people will go, ‘We’ve got to cut. You don’t need that shot of Hollis Mason’s garage sign.’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? Of course you do. Are you crazy? How will people enjoy the movie without shit like that in it?’ So it’s hard for me. “Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov indicated a 145-minute theatrical running time was more likely. Snyder cut the film down to 165 minutes, then 157 when he realized there was a way to further trim the film: the murder of Hollis Mason, the first Nite Owl, which “was easy without destroying the movie”.

You just can’t have everything in life. It works the way it is. Think of all the stuff you want back in – then what would you leave out? (The sex? Um, that was important to me, plotwise. Rohrschach’s journal? Nuh-uh. That’s crucial too. Heigh-ho.) Or we could have a 4-hour film.

Sat, Mar 07, 2009 7:40pm

I figured I should read the comic before watching the movie, but I started getting a weird feeling as I got near the end. Right before the giant squid part, I suddenly realized that I’d actually already read it around ten years ago at the library. It’s an above average comic, but the only thing that stuck with me was the Antarctic dome and the giant squid bit at the end.

I had no idea that it was regarded as some kind of literary masterpiece. All the praise on the back cover was so over-the-top, I thought it was tongue-in-cheek sarcasm similar to the asides found in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books. After a second reading, I still don’t get why it’s so culturally significant even in the world of graphic novels, to say nothing of literature as a whole.

However, I agree that destroying multiple cities is a more reasonable ending (I wish they’d stuck with kooky engineered psychic squid corpses though). It’s arrogant and ethnocentric to suggest that the destruction of New York (even by an “alien” in the alternate cold war of the book) would potentially end human war. I don’t care how nuts Ozymandias is, watching all those tellies surely must have clued him in to the folly of that master plan.

It’s clever how Moore weaves the Black Freighter substory (and a few others) in and out of the plot, but none of the side flourishes really stand on their own or add much meaning to the main story. The coolest things in the book for me were the periodic inspired visual transitions from one panel to the next. I don’t plan on watching the movie for a couple years, but I can’t imagine it being much better (or worse) than the book. A TV miniseries could have easily improved on the book by quite a lot though. It’s a shame they chose the movie route.

C David Dent
Sat, Mar 07, 2009 9:41pm

My problems with the “new” ending are legion. They have nothing to do with any perceived sanctity of the original ending, but they are logical holes.

1) Ozy has developed an unlimited green energy that has now been demonstrably used as a weapon (an O-Bomb). Convincing any nation to use it for solely peaceful purposes is now an impossibility. Plus using the technology at all is going to cast suspicion back on him.

2) “It’ll hold as long as people believe that Dr. Manhattan is watching them.” Which means that in less than 100 years unless Dr.M comes back or Ozy manages to recreate the Osterman Incident we’ll have the same situation using the O-Bombs.

3) Ozy can’t hold it together without turning out tricks to solve greed (Matter Transmutation), Lust (Human Cloning), Laziness (Robots), Gluttony (Genetic manipulation), and Pride (National Borders). On top of that Dr. M has already pointed out that even he can’t change human nature. Ozy will have to have some way to perpetuate his empire or else it crumbles again. (Note: This was partially a flaw in the original Novel)

On another note, I did like that someone (Dan) stood up for Rorschach. I was always a little pissed that he disappears and is unmourned in the original novel. Dreiberg is outraged at the death of his friend and Ozy takes the beating for it (as he should) because he knows he deserves it and it changes nothing.

Other than that I liked the multi-city approach because it makes it feel more plausible to disrupt a world gone mad. In the original I always though that if the Ruskies really thought that there was an interdimensional threat AS WELL AS a capitalist threat that they’d bomb the crap outta us while we were down and then prepare for the interdimensional threat by themselves.

Alex Knapp
Sun, Mar 08, 2009 12:06am

Ozy has developed an unlimited green energy that has now been demonstrably used as a weapon (an O-Bomb). Convincing any nation to use it for solely peaceful purposes is now an impossibility. Plus using the technology at all is going to cast suspicion back on him.

Frankly, that’s the genius of it. Even more so than that graphic novel, this aspect demonstrates one of Watchmen’s deconstruction of superhero tropes–they think that VIOLENCE SOLVES PROBLEMS. Veidt, the smartest man on earth, couldn’t come up with a better solution than killing a bunch of people because being a superhero and worshipping the likes of Alexander and Remeses led him to believe that peace can be achieved only through violence. And of course he’s wrong, which is discussed in both the end of the movie and the end of the original novel. But I think that the movie’s ending demonstrates that even better.

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 2:00am

So does that mean the movie is saying “The smartest man on Earth can’t fix it, so we may as well give up?”

By the way, the smartest man on Earth ought to have a better password. ;)

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 7:49am

In some way, the ending of The Watchmen (movie which I cared about) was similar (perhaps?) to the ending of TDK (movie I didn’t care for at all)–in that, the elite, the few with the power, including the Batman in TDK–are the ones who know the truth. Let the people remain in ignorance, though–“for their own good.” Is it the people in reality who are the real problems? Or is it those in power? Is it absolute power that destroys? At the end of TDK, Batman bows his head, takes the blame and goes into hiding, a hunted man. In The Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan takes the fall, saying that the people can’t know the truth also. The logic in both of these movies seems flawed and involves the same idea that the populace is so “bad” (a very old “theory” of humanity that is proving to be dangerous itself)– that the people can’t handle the truth. The more I think of it, the more I realize a new paradigm is needed and that these superhero stories are myths of another age, giving poor messages for our world today. As said somewhere above, the solution to our problems is not via violence and as long as we (or our leaders) persist in that, the further we’ll get from healthy solutions. Thoughts?

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 9:21am

The password’s supposed to be guessable by Nite Owl – it’s a message from Ozymandias to the Watchmen, to get them down to his sanctum. He’d rather have someone to share his guilt, and the victory and sense of absolution that comes with persuading them to remain silent along with him.

I guess if the movie presented Ozymandias as an unambiguous hero, rather than a highly debatable megalomaniac, that would be a point. Also, in this case it’s not “the people” who are being worked on by the conspiracy – it’s the politicians who have (in the universe of the film) been dragging the world in a downward spiral toward total extinction.

Nemo Utopia
Nemo Utopia
Sun, Mar 08, 2009 1:50pm

Personally, I like the new ending because it is essentially updating the alien-squid IDEA into a very applicable one. That being, there is STILL a threat to humanity as a whole to unite against, and so the very important question is asked, not shoved down throats as right or wrong. This is also a common misconception about the graphic novel [and many other movies and comics that are designed to make the viewer ask questions, not give them an answer]…it’s not saying it is or is not right. It leaves that for you to decide, leaving you with all the questions raised by it.

To pull the obvious comparison: the Dark Knight. All the time you hear political nonsense about how it supporting Bush as a subversive movement, or similar nonsense. Together, both of these movies force us to ask the question: do the ends truly justify the means? The uncomfortable answer is not the black and white answers so many of us want. Neither actually posits that ‘Yes, the good end is all that matters’ or ‘No, the means MUST be good for the end to be good’. Especially when viewed in contrast, they both leave us with the uncomfortable gray answers: “It varies. Sometimes. Maybe.” To those who see in stark contrasts and dualities only, this is unacceptable and naturally must therefore be a condoning of the ‘wrong’ [read: opposing] view. The point is to make you question your own views, come to your own conclusions, and with new strength of conviction be able to answer for yourself.

Nemo Utopia
Nemo Utopia
Sun, Mar 08, 2009 1:56pm

Bah, nearly forgot, I meant to say ‘who see only in contrasts, dualities, and black and white only, *exactly like Rorschach*, end only with frustration. This point is only driven home by how the graphic novel ends, saying rather firmly that absolutes have little or no true place…but this does not make what was done right, and may be part of the reason it could be wrong.

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 3:11pm

Saw it last night. I thought the film was really good despite the few details that were left out (besides, I’ve read somewhere that Zack Snyder actually DID film pieces on the 2 Bernies at the news stand, and when it comes out on DVD, it will have the director’s cut including those scenes and the “Tales of The Black Freighter” movie; that’ll be sweet)

Now the ending.

I agree with some of you that it does tie the movie together, is more applicable and as one fella up top said, made it more personal.

but in my opinion the squid should’ve been left in. Even in the novel when you saw those 2 drawings of it. I bet none of us was really to expect what was to come. That to me made it more horrific. Sure, not really plausible in real life, but that brings us back to the FANTASY element of Watchmen. It added a whole other depth and it made sense to me. Plus you appreciate the buildup of the past 11 chapters a lot more.

Besides, how the hell do we know a thing like that doesn’t exist? Wouldn’t you be sacred shitless if something like THAT was staring you in the face? I would!

Thought the film was great otherwise.

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 5:26pm

The squid ending would have required additional foreshadowing elements that would have only added length to what was already a bloated movie. Snyder’s ending was in the general spirit of the original ending and merits no complaint on my part.

For me, the movie ultimately failed to create the mood of the original comics. The characters were generally well-cast, and many of the memorable elements of the comics were included, but somehow the whole exercise felt a little flat. The threat of impending nuclear war permeates the comics, from the Hiroshima lovers on through to Rorschach’s entries. Although some of these elements appear in the movie, the same sense of dread is never tangible. Perhaps it just reflects the changing times…when I was reading the comics in the 1980s the fear of such an event was ever present. Now, I’m more concerned about financial collapse and peak oil.

The End
The End
Sun, Mar 08, 2009 6:20pm

Sara–I think you’re right on the mark. I had that same weird feeling with _The Dark Knight_ as well, when it depicted wire-tapping as being a good tool used to catch the bad guys.

What BS. I don’t care if it makes me look nuts to some here, but I’ve studied the events of 9/11 enough to know that it was an inside job. Don’t tell me to go read the Popular Mechanics straw-man distraction, etc.–the official story is a lie. So I have little tolerance for this sudden trend of *superheroes* (aka “THE GOOD GUYS”) endorsing secrecy, conspiracy, and propaganda! As you said, “DON’T LET THE PUBLIC KNOW! KEEP UP THE LIE! THE TRUTH IS TOO DANGEROUS!” How convenient for the elitists running things that the public be fed these messages at this point in American history, especially when more & more Americans are suspicious of the events surrounding that infamous date.

It smells like propaganda to me; an apology for the actions of the power-mad elitists who keep us in the dark and then look down on us for not knowing the very things they’ve kept secret.

It’s basically an excuse for conspiracy & mass-murder–keep that message in mind in the following months…

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 7:36pm

Sara, and The End- I understand how you would feel uncomfortable about wire tapping, and genocide as ends justifying the means. However, just because a film presents a concept does not mean it’s condoning, or condeming it. In fact, in both TDK, and Watchmen, the discomfort you felt was the exact response the filmakers were aiming for. Both films are trying to present morally complex dilemmas, and encourage critical thinking in the process. And, in my mind at least, true critical thinking skills are the only weapon society has against mindless propoganda. Taking an iconic persona such as Bruce Wayne, or the idyllic image of superheroes, and turning them on their head is simply a jumping of point for discussing moral dilemmas.

Sun, Mar 08, 2009 7:40pm

I found the ending extremely ironic. The upstanding Ozymandias, the one who has rejected the vigilante path in it’s entirety and is working towards a peaceful humane solution for the future, is revealed as the ultimate vigilante who follows the philosophy of “the ends justify the means”.

Contrast this with Rorschach, who has spent the entire movie declaiming the state of mankind and being shown as a psychopathic violent vigilante. He may fight fire with fire but he does not believe the ends justify the means, he is the truest superhero there. He never compromised.

Nite-Owl sees the inherent hypocrisy of Ozymandias’ stance (sort of reminiscent of Magneto’s in the first x-men movie) but gives in to the futility of fighting it. The action has already happened and the immediate effect is positive. He can’t fight Ozymandias and Dr Manhattan (who by this point has completely lost grip on what it is to be human). His attack on an unresisting Ozymandias is his surrender. He has too much to lose.

Then we look back at Ozymandias again. He compares himself to Alexander the Great, and how he would like to conquer the world. He is as quick to murder as Rorschach and not restricted to criminals. He has cut away his only potential enemy’s reasons to fight and at the same time cast Dr Manhattan as the villain. He has left Nite-Owl and Silk Spectre-II in a position where it is unfeasible to vilify him. And he still has the ultimate weapon which everyone thinks is a clean power source.

When Rorschach is killed, I think we all feel frustrated. Then when the journal is seen in the newspaper inbox we all feel, not happy, but at least a massive surge of satisfaction. We can all see that Ozymandias is not the humanitarian he likes to portray himself as and we are glad that he might not get away with it.

I liked this ending.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 3:39am

I’ve always found Rorschach to be something of a hypocrite, himself. He talks about a lack of compromise, even at the end of the world, but while he balks at the idea of killing innocent people to protect the entire world, he’s entirely comfortable with the idea of brutally injuring innocent people to protect individuals.

Rorschach beats up random people in bars, justifies it because eventually he beat up the right guy and got some useful information, Doctor Manhattan kills a few people ending the riot and justifies it because more might have been hurt had the riot continued, Ozymandias kills half of New York because he believes it will save the entire world, and because they’d likely all be dead inside of a week if he didn’t.

It’s all degrees of the action with the same ‘I know what’s best’ assumption underlying it.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the new ending – not just because it’s less visually interesting, either. Mostly because it has more holes as a plot – no one still alive on earth had the slightest idea the Alien existed, meaning that people would be more likely believe the attack. Although Adrian kills all of his workers in Antarctica, the entire US government (as well as all of corporate America, apparently) knows full well that Adrian was synthesizing Doc’s energy. So you’ve immediately got another suspect.

The biggest problem is that his entire scheme is dependent on Jon going either going along with it, or being killable, neither of which is a certainty. In the alien scheme, Jon is merely a wild card that he needs to sidelined just in case he proves a problem – which he may not. Jon’s unpredictable – making a plan where he’s a tertiary element is understandable. Making a plan that’s entirely dependent on him doing what you want him to? That’s just bad writing for the smartest man in the world.

Also, Veidt was never trying to literally end all conflict on earth – just the nuclear arms race brinksmanship that was going to wind up wiping out the human race before the end of the 80s.

I’ve always felt the very ending was less a statement about how Veidt’s plan was going to fall apart (after all, what’s really in Rorschach’s journal? Crazy accusations about how Veidt’s trying to start world war 3.), but more an ironic flip on the JFK situation. Just as JFK’s assassination was a perfect takeover by the establishment the truth of which is only known as a crazy left-wing conspiracy theory, Veidt’s plan is a perfect takeover from the establishment, the truth of which will only ever be known as a crazy right-wing conspiracy theory.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 3:47am

All that posting and I forgot my biggest problem with the ending: They forgot to change what TV show is playing in the second-last scene.

Outer Limits only makes sense if Adrian’s plan was ripping off ‘The Architects of Fear’.

But his plan in the movie isn’t – it’s ripping off The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Also, if we never see Adrian sitting around, making predictions about the future by watching fifty televisions at the same time, the joke about him getting his idea for saving the world from an old TV show doesn’t really land.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 9:29am

I’m confused. How can “the establishment” “take over”? And actually it’s dozens of conflicting left- and right-wing conspiracy theories, respectively.

Rorschach’s journal makes specific accusations linking Veidt to specific financial transactions and murders that, unlike the deaths in conspiracy theories, are already rather clumsy and suspicious – most especially Blake’s spectacular death. It’s not much, but it’s more than the JBS has.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 3:54pm

The squid is deal breaker for the average non comics fan moviegoer. Watchmen was built to bring an adult comic book deconstruction to the masses. I think the new ending worked, but it did lack some impact. I don’t know if I needed Michael Bay type shots of Paris blowing up, or the pages of dead people from the comic, but I needed something. I imagine the directors cut will address this issue.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 5:04pm

If this whole ‘squid is a dealbreaker’ thing had always been a thing that filmmakers and executives believed about audiences (I.E., that they’re idiots), you know what we never would have had? The Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Is that a world you want to live in?

Oh, and Hypo – I was talking about the book Rorschach, whose journal doesn’t contain any specific accusations against Veidt, just the information that they were going to confront him when they disppeared – also, even if there had been specific accusations, everyone involved is dead, so nothing could ever be proven.

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 8:08pm


I’m not sure what “The End” and I wrote had to do with a lack of understanding the movie’s asking us to consider moral complex dilemmas. Or that we’re being asked/allowed to think. I think we already know that secrecy is not usually a positive thing–it treats the people as if they are incompetent and ignorant and the ones who hold the secrets as the elite. We’ve seen enough “lack of transparency and secrets” to know what the outcome usually is. It leads to greater problems (that’s kind of a given, it seems.) Also, Dr. Manhattan talks about not knowing if there is a god (or thinking there isn’t) and then he’s set up to be a god. And he goes along with that. For what reason? Because people need a god? A god who blows things and people up? Reminds me of a billboard down south I saw once that had a huge hand emerging from the clouds, with a finger pointing downward and a voice that read–“don’t make me come down there.” People must be controlled by either the gov’t, superheroes aka warrior gods or god? Don’t we already know the answer to that?
The shot of Rorschach’s journal at the end suggests the answer–secrets will out and they usually backfire. Just as surely the secrets in TDK will be known at some point and with negative results–and why not? Lack of transparency, basic lying and treating the public like children–how is that ever helpful?

Mon, Mar 09, 2009 9:06pm

Vardulon: A few of your comments seem to be based more on the book than the movie without clearly differentiating. That isn’t helpful.

For instance Rorschach doesn’t kill any innocent people in the movie. He tries to beat up cops but they’re trying to stop him and he’s been framed. The guy in the bar in the movie is directly connected to the pyramid company. Meanwhile, as has been said Voight kills a few people leading up to the ending, and then a whole lot more.

Functionally there is a difference between their actions, one that goes to the core of their vigilantism. Yes Rorschach has been a vigilante the whole movie, and Voight hasn’t. When it comes to the end Rorschach is the one that stands up to him. He isn’t killing criminals, he’s killing everyone. He’s making himself the Wizard of Oz, pulling the strings behind the curtain to make everyone do what “Dr Manhattan” tells them.

Rorschach’s i know whats best is fundamentally different to Voights.

The entire scheme revolving around Dr Manhattan going along with it isn’t that far a stretch. To Manhattan a live person and a dead one are functionally no different. Voight has been working with Manhattan for how long? He sees the emotional interplay where nobody else does and he sees how to force a complete disconnection from humanity. It’s not a stretch, its the proof that he’s the smartest man alive. Manhattan honestly doesn’t care about people anymore, all he sees is a better situation than before and Voight knew thats all he would see.

Tue, Mar 10, 2009 2:47am

Ben – I’m speaking almost exclusively about the comic here – Rorschach’s M.O. in there is to just beat people up until he gets the right guy. This is obviously something the filmmakers thought would be a problem, so the line establishing it was removed to make him more ‘morally pure’.

I don’t have the comic in front of me right now, but it’s something like ‘Sent 14 to the hospital needlessly. 15th gave address…’

Obviously the movie wants to skew things more towards Rorschach being a fully tragic character, which is why all of his extreme right-wing stuff is dropped, as well as his pathetic fantasies about his father – it might have turned audiences off of the character.

Tue, Mar 10, 2009 7:37am

For the record, I was talking about the book too – I plan to see the movie today. I’ve always assumed that Rorschach was writing down the evidence he collected, not just his beat poetry – I mean, he’d have to be insa… well, you know what I mean.

Tue, Mar 10, 2009 8:20am

One thing I really noticed about the ending was what Nite-Owl said to Ozzy about not fixing people, just bending them into what he thinks is better.
That line sounded like a direct comment from the screenwriters as it has no basis in the comic.

Wed, Mar 11, 2009 10:57am

OK, yeah – the movie’s last shot is quite explicit that Rorschach’s narration is contained from the start in the journal. The New Frontiersman is a jarring, hurried afterthought, but that’s a different criticism.

Ironically enough, the movie could have gotten away with the Xenosquid better than the comic because it introduces psionic C-magic early and often in Jon’s little flashback-induction trick. Clone it from one of Jon’s little motes, job done.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Thu, Mar 12, 2009 12:57am


So much for that whole squid thing.