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To Squid or Not to Squid?

Ever since news leaked from the Portland screening a few weeks ago, rumors about the ending to Zack Snyder’s film adaptation of Watchmen have been ricocheting around the Net at warp speed.

What’s it all about? Well, the following report is rife with spoilers so read on at your own risk.

The news that Zack Snyder was changing the ending to his version of Watchmen came more than a year ago when leaked drafts of David Hayter’s, and then later Alex Tse’s, screenplays hit the Web. Both scripts had an ending very different from the original comic series where Dr. Manhattan is framed for an energy beam attack on multiple cities around the world killing millions. This event frightens the US and Russia into ceasing the Cold War, and ushers in a new era of global peace — the intended outcome from the party that perpetrated this elaborate hoax.

From day one, fans (and I’m one of them) voiced their opinion that this new ending completely undermined the actual ending Alan Moore so carefully crafted back in 1985. Moore’s ending consisted of an elaborate hoax that would force the world into an era of peace as well, but did not involve Dr. Manhattan. What it did involve was a genetically engineered giant monster that's teleported into New York, instantly dies from the trip, and in it’s death throes broadcasts a psychic wave that kills millions. Fans endearingly call that monster “the squid.”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that on the surface, Moore's ending seems a bit, well, ridiculous. But anyone who has actually read Watchmen and has absorbed all of nuances of character and subtext will tell you - it's freakin’ brilliant. I mean, Watchmen is on the list of Time Magazine's “Top 100 Best English-language novels from 1923 to the present” for crying out loud.

So, what’s wrong with the “Dr. Manhattan/Energy Beam” ending, then? Glad you asked. Here is the biggest problem most fans have with this “new” ending — framing Dr. Manhattan.

The big problem here is that from the moment Dr. Manhattan is introduced in the story, he is shown as being the pawn of the United States government. Doing the bidding of president Nixon in the name of the Stars and Stripes. He even wins the Vietnam War for the US. Would the world really believe that Dr. Manhattan is a universal threat to the world and cause them to cease hostilities against each other? Russia didn’t really trust the US back in 1985, so why would they believe Dr. Manhattan went rogue after years of faithful service to Uncle Sam? If anything, Dr, Manhattan’s attack would either escalate the Cold War or start World War III.

Now, what will make fans happy? Believe it or not it’s not a carbon copy of Moore’s original ending. Most fans understand that with any adaptation, sometimes alterations are needed. Don’t get me wrong, most fans are hoping that Snyder and company can find a way to make the “squid” ending work. In fact, a poll on ComicBookMovie.com shows that fans support a “squid” ending at a ratio of about 3 to 1. But, if the filmmakers just can’t find a way to make that happen, here are the two main aspects fans feel need to be kept intact from Moore’s ending in order to keep the film faithful to the original ending.

First, the “threat” needs to remain alien in nature and scary as hell. Fans tend to agree, the only way humanity could believably stop warring with each other is if they faced a new and menacing extraterrestrial enemy.

Second, the destruction this “threat” causes should include piles and piles of bloodied and battered corpses. Fans feel that audiences need to see at face value the horror of the “solution” the perpetrator of this plan has caused. In early drafts of the script, the victims of this attack get vaporized, leaving only ash — not particularly gruesome. If you look at the opening pages of Watchmen’s final chapter, you’ll understand why fans feel that kind of carnage needs to be shown. A picture is really worth a thousand words.

So where do we stand today as far as the ending is concerned. Are we getting the “squid,” a “framed Dr. Manhattan,” or something in between (whatever that may be)?

Well, if you want to catch up on all of the evidence on both sides of the fence, check out this article where we lay it all on the line, then come back here to see the balance of remaining clues. Ready? Okay.

In an MTV interview with Matthew Goode, who plays Ozymandias in the film, they asked the actor about the creature that appears at the end of the film. A quote from that article reads...

Right up there with the long-running debate over Ozymandias’ sexuality is the more recent question of how Snyder will depict the massive creature that factors into the closing chapters of the story. Although Goode said he had “no idea” how the beastie will appear on-screen, he assured fans it will look “as good as the cast you’ve already seen.”

Some fans claim that he's confirming the “squids” inclusion in the film, others surmise that Goode is being coy and saying that he'll look “as good as good as the cast you’ve already seen” because that beastie will end up being Dr. Manhattan.

Then, in a Film.com interview with Kevin Smith, who has seen the Watchmen movie no less than two times now, the director mentions the film’s ending as well.

It's a little different. While it is a slight departure, it actually makes sense in the context of the story because it brings the characters back into it. It kind of makes the movie more about them by the end of it because of the switch they made.

Again, fans interpret this both ways based on what they feel Kevin Smith might consider a “slight departure.” Although Smith’s answer verifies there has been a change made, it’s hard to tell if that change means no “squid.” In my opinion, leaving out the “squid” is more than a slight departure, but maybe Kevin doesn’t feel that way.

But the “smoking gun” is this quote taken from Zack Snyder at the Q&A session after the LA screening of the 25 minutes of footage to the press. Here’s Snyder's response to a question on how the monster at the end of his movie would look.

Well, that's, uh, uh, I'll save that one. I would say… if anything I would say that that's the, uh, that's the bit of the movie that if you read the David Hayter draft, I don't know if anyone has, that's where we, that's where I guess you could say there's some differences between the graphic novel and the movie.

I don’t know how else you can interpret that one except as a big “no squid” confirmation.

So, is all hope lost my friends? Maybe not. It seems that Rich Johnston, who writes the “Lying in the Gutters” blog on ComicBookResources.com had this to say last week.

There have been repeated reports circulating the net regarding the ending of Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen" movie that the ending has been radically changed from the original. We’re not talking everyone wearing Rorschach’s mask or anything, but the perceived and bizarre extra-world threat of a pan dimensional Cthulhu god alien landing on New York killing millions is gone.

Or has it?

I understand that the ending people have been seeing is just one possible filmed ending. That the movie’s FX farm has already created big squid effects. And that there will be more than one ending of the film tested before general release. Expect to see all of them in the two/three disc DVD.

Then, this week, he followed that bombshell up with this...

Last week's LITG talked about the different "Watchmen" endings that are being tested. And the one ending that's been seen and reported that has a bombed out New York, but no hyperdimensional alien squid.

I'm told that this screening was intentionally leaked to the fan press - with the exact time and place posted online with details of how to evade the security. The intent is to gauge fan reaction to a squidless ending for Watchmen and see what they can get away with, believing it to be more suitable for a more mainstream audience. The FX for the squid has been completed however.

Fan reaction to Johnston’s blog entries have been mixed. Some are calling him a bold faced liar who made up the story to create buzz for his blog, others are breathing a bit easier, confident that multiple endings, one of them with the “squid,” are in play.

What do I think? I think I want an ending that serves Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons's original vision and satisfies the die-hard fans and average movie goers alike. Yes, I think there’s an ending that can fill all of those criteria — I just hope I see that ending on March 6th.

10.28.08 Source: WatchmenComicMovie.com

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