Sunday, March 15, 2009

(1) Visual genius; (2) plot continuity

Couple more notes on Watchmen:

1. Johnnyripped wrote the other day with one of those awe-inspiring realizations you get about the book every now and then, reminding you of Moore and Gibbons’s meticulous brilliance. We’ll be finding easter eggs in the movie for years — like the “Burroughs St.” sign, or how Zack Snyder actually did sneak in a giant squid — but those seem more like superfluous gags than anything that reflects or illuminates the story.

Johnny writes:

The image of Veidt yelling “I did it!” in issue 12 is the image of the doomsday clock set to about 11:55. Meaning all Veidt has accomplished is pushing back the hands a minuscule amount.

See? Genius that keeps on giving.


2. Thinking about scenes omitted from the film, I began to wonder about the background to the murder that sets the whole story in motion. We don’t get a lot of this in the film, but bread crumbs are scattered throughout the book.

The central question of the whodunit is: Why did Veidt kill the Comedian? The answer, of course, is that he discovered Veidt’s plan to fake an alien invasion and frighten the world into peace. And how did the Comedian find out? In the book, we’re told that he stumbled across the secret island where the whole thing was being set up:

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But elsewhere we get a few clues about the people who worked on this project. In a flashback in Chapter 2, the Comedian told Moloch that “on that island they got writers, scientists and artists,” and later we find out that those include Max Shea, author of the Black Freighter comic, and Hira Manish, a surrealist painter, both of whom had been missing for months.

Thing is, Shea and the others thought they were working on a movie. Even the scientists who cloned a psychic’s brain believed it was for the FX. From the wrap party in Chapter 10, just before they are all blown up:

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So this raises the question: How did the Comedian put two and two together? How did he figure out that this was real, not just for a movie? Did I miss it in there somewhere?

Mr. Ripped and I drew up a few possible scenarios:

  1. Comedian saw them working on the “movie” but didn’t buy it, and investigated the hell out of it. (Unlikely. When Comedian confesses to Moloch — whose house was bugged — he sounds as though he just saw something awful and ran away. Besides, if he had investigated very far, Veidt would have found out long before.)
  2. Perhaps there were Dr. Evil-type goings-on at the island before the “movie” plan got hatched, and this is what Comedian saw. (Also unlikely. Comedian tells Moloch that he saw artists and writers. And it’s clear from the two scenes at the island that things were done on deadline.)
  3. Comedian found further evidence on the island that included the list of people who would get cancer, as part of a plot to frame Dr. Manhattan. As in, “What’s this? [Gasps.] A document titled ‘My Plan to Eliminate Dr. Manhattan and Achieve World Peace by Sacrificing Millions, by Adrian Veidt’?” (Unlikely, since Veidt isn’t this stupid. But it might be the only explanation. For one, this was the pre-Internet ’80s, so information would have to be stored locally on a computer, and we’ve see how sloppy Veidt is about passwords.)
  4. Simple incongruity in the writing. Oopsy daisy.

Other theories/corrections/schoolings? Also, I don’t even remember how Snyder handled this in the film. How did the Comedian figure out the plan? Or is that even why Veidt killed him? Never got around to that partly-for-fun-but-also-partly-for-even-closer-study second screening.

5 comments:

Jason said...

Assuming its still available next week when you get back from TX, we'll make sure that second veiwing happens. Too many questions, Marty.

Jesse said...

I think it must be #1. The Comedian had been working as a government ops agent and he clearly knew how to do his job. He investigated the island and discovered it's purpose. Clearly, Adrian did not do a very good job of covering his tracks: Nite Owl is easily able to guess his password and find the connection to Pyramid Deliveries. The writers, artists, and scientists on the island had no reason to suspect anything, but The Comedian's nature no doubt drove him to find a real motive for the elaborate base he discovered, beyond discovering it was not in connection with any Sadinistas. I assume his tear-filled revelation to Moloch was not an immediate after-effect of him learning about the island, but something that took a while to simmer, and finally break.

B. said...

Jesse, this assumes there actually were clues to be found on the island that would (1) reveal the true plan, and (2) link it to Veidt. Short of a confession (a "my secret plan" document), what could those clues be?

The people there knew there was secrecy, but while working on the project they wouldn't need to conceal their activity. So the Comedian shows up, spies the squid, thinks "What the hell is this?," and "investigates," whatever that means. Wouldn't an investigation indicate simply that a movie was being made? As in, he listens in on conversations ("man, I hope we do better than $55 mil for opening weekend, eh?"), sees evidence (scripts? storyboards?). What might suggest that it wasn't a movie?

Veidt must have done enough to fool the artists and scientists -- how would Comedian have seen through that? Aside from the "well, ordinary people would roll an 8 for intelligence, but Comedian would have a +5 superspy advantage" argument.

I'm almost willing to let it slide for Snyder's movie, but the reason this bugs me so much is that the book is so air-tight in every other way. We know exactly how Veidt was able to trick Dr. Manhattan; how he turned the press against him; how he covered his tracks (killed off accomplices); even how the police were able to track Rorschach to Dreiberg (Sweet Chariot sugar cubes).

The other big plot question I've always had is, Why did Veidt kill Comedian in such a gruesome and obvious way? Why not make it look more like an accident? (I'm willing to let this one go for the sake of good drama, though.)

Jason said...

I think Jesse has a good point. The Comedian does have a +5 superspy bonus. He clearly knows his job. He did, for example, kill off pesky journalists who dug too deep. There was a lot more then the writing going on, too, including cloning. So that at least was more then a guy writing horror scenes. and Blake apparantly did avoid detection by Veidt until Moloch house and its bug.

As for Veidts gruesome murder, I think we need to chalk it up to te fact that Veidt is in fact human. He hates Blake, who beat him up the first time they met. He could have broken in and just shot him, but he wanted to test himself against someone wo was able to best him. Its the Alexander the Great fetish coming out. The fact that he would risk his entire plan and saving to world on the possibility that the Comedian would beat him seems right in line with Adrian's need to test himself against the world.

Jesse said...

Well, the Comedian DID discover the list with Janey Slater's name and Moloch's name, which I assumed he found on the island. What was that doing there, he must have asked? What did it mean? His superspy +5 kicked in right there. Like I pointed out before, Adrian is not the best at covering his tracks. Also, he is not the type to fund this kind of project based on a hunch. I'm guessing he had all sorts of ephemera including graphs, charts, economic projections, all making sure that this was going to work. He probably didn't keep this all pinned on the wall, but he probably didn't burn it and erase it, at least until the very end. The Comedian must have found it.