#apocalypchicaswatch #watchmen #9/11 #newyorkcity #worldtradecenter #adaptingculture
In today’s apocalypchicas watch, we explore how the tragic events that happened in New York on September 11th 2001 changed the tone for the entire Watchmen franchise. For New York City, as well as for the rest of the world, these events would come to change something inside all of us: suddenly, our worldview was challenged.
As we already mentioned in our earlier blogpost on The Conflicted Relationship Between the Graphic Novel and the Movie Adaptation, Alan Moore’s comic book was published already in 1986-87, during a time when the uncertainty of the hovering Cold War, which would soon see its end, yet still prevailed in the American culture. But something happened between the release of the comic book and the later movie adaptation (2009) which was to change both the American culture itself as well as the Watchmen franchise. 9/11.
The movie adaptation was not only met by a refusal of being canon by its very own writer, Alan Moore, but it also sparked controversy among the fans of the franchise, as they too thought Snyder’s reimagined ending to be too far away from the comic. Snyder simply omitted the squid monster from the comic book, letting Dr. Manhattan to be the ultimate scapegoat for Veidt’s attack on the City:
And New York City wasn’t the only target for Veidt’s blue atomic explosions in the movie adaptation: several major cities around the world experienced the devastations, earning Snyder not to center the destructionist plot entirely on the citizens of New York, like in the comic book. But he omitted more than that.
Over 12 pages of the comic book were completely left out of the movie adaptation, pages filled with horrific and gory images of the destruction of New York. Images of bloody bodies spread across the streets of the City were suddenly not viewed in the same way as they were immediately after the comic book’s publication. Dave Gibbons even commented on this omission in an interview from 2009:
“It relates to the whole question about violence in the whole thing. I think the consequences of violence should be shown graphically, just to show that violence is unpleasant. It isn’t just [that] you get a little spot of blood, and then you put a band aid on it and you’re all better… I suppose you also have to say that in a way, post 9/11, it’s a very tender area anyway. So I think that might modify how you would treat it, if you were going to do it.” (Dave Gibbons, 2009)
How would you have treated the subject?
Snyder chose, in many ways, to distance his movie adaptation from its original text but also from the events of 9/11 by de-emphasizing New York City as “Ground Zero.” (Rehak 2011) This is apparent from the adaptation’s altered ending and in the many shots of the New York City skyline, shown in the movie, where the Twin Towers are apparent.
While Moore and Gibbon’s work corresponded to their contemporary geopolitical surroundings, Zack Snyder successfully altered his movie to match with the geopolitical consequences that 9/11 had on the US and the rest of the world. The creators of Watchmen, the movie, adapted the franchise to the contemporary American culture – because the geopolitical landscape had changed.
Screenwriter David Hayter also revealed in an interview from 2009:
“The ending of the book shows just piles of corpses, bloody corpses in the middle of Times Square, people hanging out of windows just slaughtered on a massive scale. To do that in a comic book, and release it in 1985, is different from doing it real life, in a movie, and seeing all of these people brutally massacred in the middle of Times Square post 2001. That’s a legitimate concern, and one that I shared.” (Hayter 2009)
On whether he was afraid the audience might not like the new ending:
“I would have liked to have seen the squid. I would have loved to have seen it exactly the way it was in the book – but I also felt the same pain everyone else did living here when [September 11] occurred. My primary years working on it were also 2000 to 2005 and 9/11 was a lot fresher in people’s minds right afterwards. So it wasn’t just the studios. That was something I did for the studios without having to be pushed on it.” (Hayter 2009)
Have you figured out what you would do, if you were to make a movie adaptation of the Watchmen comic that preserved the original feel while still pursuing new cultural forms of resonance and relevance? Send us your ideas!
Gotten you interested? We thought so! Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise.
Rehak, B. 2011. “Adapting Watchmen after 9/11.” Cinema Journal 51 (1): 154-159
Woerner, M. 2009. “How 9/11 Changed Watchmen.” Io9, http://io9.gizmodo.com/5160960/how-911-changed-watchmen/ (Accessed 29-03-16)
“Cold War: A Brief History. The End of the Cold War.” Atomic Archive, http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/coldwar/page22.shtml (Accessed 29-03-16)