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The post in which I write way too much way too late about the ending of "Watchmen"

Back when I was a way douchier person and I wrote my previous blog, Philosophical Appliances, I wrote a long, ranting review of Zack Snyder's Watchmen. That review is hopefully lost to time and I don't really want to rehash it except that I just learned of some totally useless trivia that reminded me of my main complaint.

(For context, my review was actually very middle of the road.  I didn't think it was a bad movie, but I never got very psyched about it and I can't stand anything Snyder does with a camera.  Yo, Zack... just like cookies, slow motion is a "sometimes" snack - not a way of life.)


As I just learned from some random conversation on the Internet, Terry Gilliam was going to direct the movie at one point.  His original idea for the ending was going to be that Dr. Manhattan, realizing how unstable the world was, would go back in time to prevent the accident that created him, which would thus reset the timeline and turn the world of Watchmen into our world.  The other characters would then transform into performance artists in the resulting new/alternate universe.

I'm sure this was brought up in some kind of backhanded or dismissive way, but I've got to be honest: I'd have liked the movie way more if that's how it ended.

My major complaint, which I'll try to keep brief here, is that the movie as is just doesn't really have very much relevance to today's world, and as a result, the ending rings false.

The original comic book was created in the middle of the Cold War at a time when many people, especially the most cynical of us, were convinced that the world was going to end at any moment in nuclear devastation.  The underlying fear was that Americans and Soviets were just too irreconcilably different to ever attain peace.  With that kind of context, the ending of Watchmen makes sense: the only way to get people to stop fighting each other is for Dr. Manhattan to introduce the world to a completely new villain so we can unify against it.

I can appreciate that sentiment from somebody who existed in a time of such uncertainty and paranoia, but world events since Watchmen was created have shown us a much different story.  We know now that not only is it totally possible for cooler heads to prevail, but that they did.  So why do you need to introduce your stupid Mega Villain and kill millions of innocent people?  It's a shocking ending, sure, but it doesn't make sense.  You can't tell me it's "the only way."  I know for a fact that you're wrong because I live in this world, the one where your proposed solution is stupid.

It is deeply disingenuous to tell a story today that uses yesterday's fears.  It's kind of like making a James Bond movie where Bond is still casually racist and punches women in the face, then rapes them while they're unconscious.  That behavior was never acceptable, but when you see it happen in a movie from the '60s, you kinda shrug and say, "Yeah, the world was different back then."  You can still appreciate the movie in the context of its culture and time.  But when you see it in a movie made today?  There's no cultural relativism.  James Bond is just an asshole, and you're an asshole for making that movie in 2015.

So, that was my beef with Watchmen.  (I later found that everybody else who hated it was bitching about really petty shit like the sex scene.  Really?  That's the thing you guys decided was an affront to your tastes?  You guys are weird, man.  Talk about missing the forest for the trees.)

And now, bringing this back to Terry Gilliam: I love his idea for the ending.  It fixes one of the main problems with the movie handily while still preserving the story up to that point.  You would end up taking this unnecessarily cynical message about distrust and vengeance and turning it into a much more meaningful message about frailty and the far-reaching effects of chance.

Is it too late to go back and film it?

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