Movie titles tread a fine line. They have to sufficiently capture the movie without giving away too much while providing both an intriguing and marketable moniker. In an innocuous cutaway gag in season 7 episode 12 of Family Guy, Peter Griffin comments on the joy and contrivances of hearing movie titles in the dialogue of the movies themselves. Often it’s perfectly reasonable, but sometimes there’s an interesting story lying beneath the surface. In this ongoing series, we intend to shed some light on these examples.
Zach Snyder’s superficial adaptation of a seminal comic book changed a fair few things from the layered source material. Obviously the most famous is the ending; whereas Alan Moore’s graphic novel ended with a fake tentacled alien psychically destroying New York, Snyder went with the infinitely more believable superhero power strike.
But one more subtle change was the meaning behind the title. In the graphic novel, vandals repeatedly graffiti the originally Latin phrase ‘Who watches the Watchmen?’ on the streets. In invoking Plato’s Republic (although not the origin, the quote is most commonly associated with it), there’s an immediate parallel between the then contemporary heroes and ancient political corruptions, teasing at the plot and tying the key themes together.
The film, which cuts out more than just this subtlety, goes for a more literal take, renaming the two superhero teams, known in the novel as Minutemen. On the face of it, it’s a minor change to give the film more relevance for a blockbuster audience, but it leads to the title being repeatedly thrust in the audience’s face.
Ah They Said It: Thanks to the name change, the title is said throughout the movie. Despite the shoehorned nature, it doesn’t feel overly distracting, but to fans of the graphic novel it grates, a constant reminder of the great source the film only half did justice to.