Saturday, July 26, 2008

I watches the Watchmen

I'd been resisting watching the new Watchmen trailer online, because I'd read in national magazines that the trailer was attached to The Dark Knight. It's not like me to resist temptation that way, and what do I get for going against my spoilery/eat dessert first impulses? Friends who saw the new Batman movie in the theater here have reported no Watchmen-age.

Fine! To YouTube I go, and, whoa. I've been trying not to get my hopes up, but this trailer is awesome: Then I did a little clicking around on the related videos, and found an earlier fan-made teasure trailer that features Rorschach and the doomsday clock, which made me go "Squeee!" even louder.

Watching that got me to thinking about the plot, how Watchmen in general, and the ending in particular, is so much darker than most Hollywood productions get to be in this day and age. (We're going to Dark Knight today, though, so I may have updated opinions). So I looked up a few things about the ending online, speculation about whether the ending would be changed, and to my surprise, I discovered there isn't a lot of consensus out there about how the graphic novel itself ends.

In all these years, it has honestly never occurred to me that anyone could read the ending as ambiguous. In my mind, it's always been very clear.

MAJOR SPOILERS!!: throughout the book, each chapter includes a full-page drawing of the doomsday clock, at so many minutes to midnight. In its alternative present, the Cold War is close to a boiling point, and much of the primary mystery involves an attempt to save the world from nuclear brinksmanship, and midnight represents the moment when...

In each issue, the clock is a minute closer to midnight. Eventually, the plot unravels; the major climax occurs; we follow the aftermath on the characters; and the storyline as such ends with the cranks at the conspiracy theory newspaper reaching for the journal, mailed to them by crazy Rorschach, which includes his part of the comic's narration.

This is described thusly in the Wikipedia, for one: "The ending of Watchmen is ambiguous about the long-term success of Veidt's plan to lead the world to utopia...The final line of the story is that of the editor's superior, indifferent as to which piece from the crank file is selected. He tells his subordinate - who has been established as not particularly bright - "I leave it entirely in your hands." (

I've read a lot of random people, some of whom seem very smart, who think the book ends with the apocalypse averted, albeit with a possibility that the truth will eventually come out and ruin the newfound peace.

But the last page show the clock striking midnight, with the clock face covered in blood, and that just doesn't strike me as terribly open-ended. After all, it's a comic, and the visual image too me is as important, maybe more so, than the end of the storyline per se. Or maybe I just have too much of an apocalyptic temperament...

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