Is The Watchmen Movie Ending Better Than the Book’s?

Zack Snyder's occasionally maligned Watchmen movie deserves more credit for somehow improving upon an already great ending.

Dr. Manhattan Origin Scene in the Watchmen Movie

We know you miss the squid. We know. Just hear us out for a moment.

Zack Snyder’s Watchmen certainly has its flaws. It follows the comic book a little too faithfully, resulting in a movie that feels like more of a traditional comic book adaptation rather than a fascinating study of how superheroes would operate in the real world.

It has its strengths, however. In addition to a brilliant opening credits sequence, Watchmen the film also improves on the ending of the comic book.

Watch the video below, or keep reading for more!

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In the comic book, Adrian Veidt’s a.k.a. Ozymandias’ grand plan involves kidnapping some artists and having them design an intergalactic giant squid. Then he uses his massive amounts of money and technology to create that squid in the flesh and has it terrorize New York, therefore creating the illusion of a common cosmic enemy for all of humanity rally against.

The movie wisely omits the artist angle entirely as it would take up too much time. Instead of a giant space squid, Ozymandias instead uses some of the power he’s collected from Doctor Manhattan to essentially nuke Manhattan (the city, not the guy). This creates the impression that Doctor Manhattan has turned on humanity.

read more: Watchmen HBO Footage Appears to Confirm Major Character

Making Earth’s common enemy the innocent Doctor Manhattan adds a new level of tragedy and sacrifice to the story that the original ending didn’t have. Whenever possible it’s best for a story to make use of the existing characters that we care about rather than some Macguffin. And despite all Watchmen the comic’s brilliance, that’s all the squid really is – a Macguffin.

In the Watchmen movie ending, Doctor Manhattan takes on a more active role in Ozymandias’ grand plan even if its without his knowledge or consent. Once Ozymandias’ plan is revealed, however, Doctor Manhattan can’t help but seemed a little impressed. This is logical after all. Kill millions to save billions. It’s the exact kind of plan both the smartest man in the world and a budding deity would both get behind.

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By using the specter of Doctor Manhattan as the enemy, the Watchmen movie’s ending is not only more poignant but also helps hammer home one of the big themes of the novel: the many shades of gray to humanity’s conception of morality. The smartest and most godlike of the characters (Ozymandias, Doctor Manhattan) seem OK with this warped version of utilitarianism while the most extremely “human” of characters (Rorshach) will accept no crime in the pursuit of the greater good whatsoever. Then there are the normal Janes and Joes who just want this to be over so they can go home (Nite Owl and Silk Spectre).

Snyder rightfully catches some barbs for missing the ultimate point of Watchmen here and there but his depiction of the ending and the improvements he makes upon it show that he fully understands at least one important aspect from the novel: heroism is hard.