In the graphic novel Watchmen there are two superhero teams. Neither is called The Watchmen. One, from the 1940s, is called The Minutemen. A second, still-born team from the 60s, is called The Crimebusters. I’d have to go back to the book and do a real analysis, but I don’t think the word Watchmen (unless it’s in the job title ‘night watchman’) is spoken by any character in the original. It is spray-painted on walls, though – during the 70s, when the public has turned on the masked vigilantes, ‘Who Watches the Watchmen’ (the English translation of ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’, a quote by the Roman poet Juvenal*).
So with that history lesson in mind, some fans of the comic were perplexed when, at two different points in the latest trailer for the movie version, it sounded like people were referring to ‘Watchmen’ as a group. The dialogue bits in question sound weird, almost like they’re clipped or laid in over real dialogue. Also, I knew that Zack Snyder had wrestled with whether or not to call The Minutemen The Minutemen, but as of the screening of twenty minutes of footage in LA last month, the team bore their original name. Seeking answers, I went right to the man himself. Here’s what he had to say:
The original [team] we called the Minutemen, as per the graphic novel. We never exactly say whether or not in the more modern version we call them the Watchmen/Crimebusters. We loosely called them Watchmen as more of a the symbolic name, more than anything else.
Hrmm, as Rorschach might say. It sounds from that statement like ‘Watchmen’ isn’t really being used in the film, or at least not being used in a big way. At this point, liking so much of what I’ve seen of Snyder’s work on this film – and how generally uncompromising it is – I’m okay with a minor deviation like this (despite feeling that the deviation is actually major in a thematic way) simply because you have to make a concession or two towards the uninitiated audience.
* from his hit single, Get Ya Hustle On