I just saw an early screening of Watchmen. To sum up: This is one of the best movies ever made. And I say that as a huge fan of the graphic novel.
SPOILER WARNING! SPOILER WARNING!
While it’s still fresh in my mind, I’ve flipped through my copy of the book and made what I hope is a fairly comprehensive list of differences — stuff that either got cut or abbreviated for the film. I figure it’d be interesting for Watchmen fans who are wondering what did and didn’t make it in. I will say, though, that nothing felt missing or unceremoniously/arbitrarily changed. The abbreviations were made in the name of pacing, and what works in a comic book doesn’t always work on a movie screen. I’m thankful to the filmmakers for actually realizing this — and once you see the movie, I hope you will be, too.
ONCE AGAIN, SPOILER WARNING! DON’T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE MOVIE!
The following scenes/plot elements from the graphic novel, unless noted otherwise, are not in the film:
- While it’s heavily implied in the graphic novel, the Comedian is explicitly identified as the gunman responsible for JFK’s assassination.
- Rorschach’s first visit to Happy Harry’s.
- Veidt is visited by Dan instead of Rorschach.
- All scenes involving the newsvendor and the various tangential subplots that converge on his street. He does get a couple brief cameos, though.
- Captain Metropolis isn’t present at the Crimebusters meeting (and the group is renamed “Watchmen” here). Ozymandias runs the meeting instead, with the same results.
- Rorschach’s first confrontation with Moloch (both confrontations are abbreviated into a single scene, though Rorschach unfortunately doesn’t drink any raw eggs).
- Janey Slater’s visit to Nova Express (the relevant plot points are shored up by her appearance at Dr. Manhattan’s TV taping).
- All of Hollis Mason’s present-day scenes, save for his initial beer night with Dan. Yes, this includes the scene with the rioters.
- Dan and Laurie’s encounter with the street gang is MUCH more violent.
- Laurie’s return to the military compound, following Dr. Manhattan’s TV appearance.
- The flashback of Jon and his father is shortened to a very brief scene of Jon working on the watch.
- Laurie’s visit to Veidt.
- Dr. Manhattan’s role in the police strike.
- All references to Kovacs’ landlady.
- The detectives’ various investigations; we only see them once, at Blake’s apartment.
- Kovacs’ psychiatric sessions are all rolled into a single scene.
- The entire subplot involving Dr. Long’s home life and gradual breakdown.
- Kovacs does not relate the story about Kitty Genovese and the dress from which he fashions his mask.
- Rorschach’s method of dispatching the kidnapper is different (yet equally effective/disturbing).
- Dan and Laurie’s dialogue aboard Archie is abbreviated significantly.
- Laurie does not smoke in the film.
- The sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre is depicted in much more explicit detail.
- The New Frontiersman newsroom is not seen until the end of the film.
- The various missing artists/scientists are not seen — only alluded to.
- Laurie is only referred to by her Americanized surname (Jupiter) and never by her original Polish surname (Juspeczyk), although her original surname is visible when we see her POV when she tries on Dan’s night-vision goggles.
- The trip to retrieve Rorschach’s spare costume (he recovers his possessions during the prison riot, before meeting up with Nite Owl and Silk Spectre).
- Silk Spectre’s trip to Mars is slimmed down for what is probably a much better pacing (notable omissions: the flashbacks to Laurie’s early training as a teenager, and her confrontation with Blake at the dinner party).
- Rorschach and Nite Owl’s arrival at Karnak is abbreviated.
- Cadence of the interaction between Veidt and his staff at Karnak is quite different, though with the same end result.
- Veidt’s speech is mercifully abbreviated for the sake of pacing. Lots of cool action here, too.
- The alien squid is not used; instead, nuclear bombs bearing Dr. Manhattan’s energy signature do the job — and it’s more far-reaching than just New York. Same result, but better-suited to a movie screen.
- The film does not linger on the gory details of the post-apocalyptic carnage.
- Nite Owl witnesses Dr. Manhattan’s altercation with Rorschach, and then proceeds to take his grief out on Veidt.
- Veidt’s “I did it!” is gone, and his display of vulnerability is a bit less pronounced here (he doesn’t ask Dr. Manhattan whether he “did the right thing”).
- Dr. Manhattan’s departure is handled a little differently.
- The final scene between Dan, Laurie, and Sally is much different.
- Much more frequent swearing overall, particularly from the Comedian and Silk Spectre. Quite a few f-bombs, which weren’t in the book.
- A few weird timeline discrepancies. In the book, Walter Kovacs was born in 1940; in the film, TV news reports identify him as “a 35-year-old male,” which moves his birth date to 1950. This would make him 16 years old at the Crimebusters (“Watchmen”) meeting, which one assumes still occurs in 1966 a la the book. An odd change, considering actor Jackie Earle Haley is 48 years old. Also, Big Figure was imprisoned circa 1965 in the book; in the film, this is changed to 1970.
- All the bookend newspaper articles and book excerpts are obviously gone, though all necessary backstory is aptly conveyed, thanks in large part to a very cool opening credit sequence.
- Tales of the Black Freighter is missing entirely, though it’s getting its own separate DVD release at the end of March.