Changing The End Of 'Watchmen': The Great Debate

Dr. ManhattanHe’s enjoyed near-universal acclaim for attempting the seemingly impossible, benefiting from a level of fanboy grace generally unheard of when it comes to one of their most beloved properties. (And if you doubt that, ask Peter Jackson, or Jon Favreau, or Daniel Craig what they remember the word was when they were announced as attached to their respective properties.)

But, with the second trailer for “Watchmen” hitting the 'Net, are chinks finally beginning to show in Zack Snyder’s armor?

Viewers will get a good, long look at the film tonight, when "Spoilers" airs on MTV at 7:30 PM EST, but in the meantime, take a quick trip around the message boards and websites, and people seem generally much more apprehensive and cautious then they did just a few weeks ago -- and that’s being generous. (Some are downright hateful).

At the heart of the most vociferous complaints isn’t just a misplaced line or costume switch either -- but the novel’s stirring climax.

(We’ll be discussing the movie’s ending from here on out – stay away if you wish to remain free from spoilers).

Not long ago, Snyder confirmed that he was changing the ending of the work. No longer would Ozymandias attack Earth with a Lovecraftian giant squid, but with a series of attacks meant to mirror Doctor Manhattan’s powers. The new "Watchmen" trailer seems to include a sequence from that grand finale, including the image pictured below:

'Watchmen' Finale?

Does the ending make sense? Is it better than the novel? Or is it a giant mistake? We argue, you decide.

PRO: [Rick Marshall, Co-Editor, Splash Page] I've read "Watchmen," I've emptied my wallet for the massive "Absolute Edition," and I still remember my first response when turning the page and seeing the full-page illustration of the giant, psychic squid monster. It was something like, "HOLY MOTHER OF... WHAT THE F' IS THAT THING?! Wait... What were the characters saying a little while ago??"

Now, if I lost track of the plot and the philosophical debate that everything up to that point had been building to that easily, how do you think the average member of the movie audience -- comics rookies, many of them -- will react when Ozymandias reveals the grand finale of his diabolical plan to be, well... a big telepathic squid from another dimension? I'm betting that a third of the audience would laugh, a third would be confused and the final third would either be celebrating Snyder's loyalty to fans or complaining that the version of the squid in the comics had more tentacles.

In my mind, leaving the squid in is a far more dangerous gamble than removing it. Taking the squid out and inserting a series of nuclear explosions -- or anything with an equally devastating effect upon the world of "Watchmen," because in the end, their world is intended to draw comparisons to our own -- will make it more likely that the audience will not only grasp the global scope of Ozymandias' plan, but also see the disturbingly rational basis for what he did and hoped to accomplish. Leaving the squid in makes it a very real possibility that one of the greatest stories ever told in comics will have all of its complexities and themes reduced to a single computer-generated effect.

Snyder's decision to forego the squid makes it more likely that audiences will be able to identify, understand and hopefully open up a discussion about the moral dilemma Alan Moore presents in "Watchmen" -- and not just write it off as "that superhero movie with the big squid."

CON: [Shawn Adler, Writer, MTV News] The supposed new ending is major-league dumb. Dumber than nipples on a Batsuit dumb. Dumber than Superman having a kid dumb. How dumb? So dumb it negates the very reason it was supposedly created in the first place.

Look, the giant squid at the end of the graphic novel isn’t a metaphor or a symbol. It’s far-out and weird and bizarre in ways you could never comprehend, but it’s all those things precisely because it HAS to be. Ozymandias wants to unite the governments of the world in a single cause, to force them to lay their petty differences aside and join forces against a greater foe. He wants to make them a team.

The Lovecraft-ian squid achieves that by seeming to come from another dimension – another plane of existence. It’s so beyond comprehension that it absolutely HAS to be a unilateral threat to everyone -- it’s not a U.S. or Russian fear, but a global one. More importantly, it’s not CAUSED by the U.S. or the Russians or the Cubans or whomever. It comes from outside.

Dr. Manhattan, meanwhile, comes from within. Dr. Manhattan is an American. No, he’s more. He’s a TOOL of the American government. Great pains are taken throughout the book to establish this. Any attack that seemed to come from Manhattan, would therefore seem to come from Washington -- to be ordered by the U.S. government itself.

But what if the attacks only happened on American soil? How could the Russians claim Manhattan was working for the government then? They probably couldn’t -- but then why would they help? It would negate Ozy’s goal of joining the world against one common cause, no matter how it was handled.

A mysterious threat from beyond is the only way to unite the world. Dr. Manhattan, unfortunately, fails to meet those requirements. Ozymandias would know that. Does Zack Snyder?

What do you think, readers? Where do you stand? Are you pro-squid? Let us know!

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