Adaptation Paper-Watchmen

1. Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen follows a group of former “superheroes” in an alternate 1985 as they uncover a plot to end the Cold War before the conflict heightens any further. That alternate 1985 is one where the superheroes helped the U.S. easily win the Vietnam War, leading Richard Nixon staying in office for over four terms. However, aside from Dr. Manhattan–a god-like energy being created when his human body was torn into atoms by a project he was working on in 1959–none of the superheroes actually have superpowers. Although the graphic novel begins in 1985, featuring a group of washed-up superheroes, it has an extensive backstory that goes back to the late 1930s, when the Minutemen group was formed to fight criminals. That group eventually fought in World War II and reconvened after the war, but the majority of the team was killed and the group disbanded. Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s a new team was made called the Crimebusters, although this group also fell apart after the Keene Act (a reference to the registration acts in Marvel Comics) forced superheroes to either register their identities with the government or retire from crimefighting. This results in the breakup of the group, who almost all go their separate ways.

The graphic novel actually begins in 1985 after the death of Edward Blake, a superhero known as the Comedian who operated covertly for the government, mostly on the orders of Nixon. While Rorschach, an old teammate of Blake’s from the Crimebusters operating as a vigilante tries to investigate Blake’s murder, the doomsday clock that measures the proximity of nuclear war between the U.S. and Soviets inches closer to happening. Rorschach eventually fills in an old teammate of his, Nite Owl, on his concerns over Blake’s murder, and they go to Dr. Manhattan, who is busy working on new energy sources in New York City. Manhattan’s presence has led to an icy truce between the U.S. and the Soviets, who are unable to attack the U.S. thanks to his presence. When he is cornered by accusations that he gave his former coworkers cancer he departs the planet, heading to Mars, which gives the Soviets confidence to ramp up the pressure on the U.S., moving the countries on the brink of nuclear war. Eventually Rorschach and Nite Owl figure out Veidt had framed Manhattan and confront him about it, while the new Silk Spectre attempts to reason with Manhattan. He acquiesces and returns when they find out Blake is her father, despite him having tried to rape her mother while both were in the Minutemen in the 1940s. Veidt reveals his plan to them as they return; he had set up Manhattan to get him to leave the planet so he could set up an attack on New York involving a giant alien squid, which kills millions but unites the U.S. and Soviets against an alien invasion that never comes. Veidt also reveals he killed Blake, who had found out about his plan, to keep it from spreading. Manhattan and Veidt agree that his plan must remain a secret, but when Rorschach tells them Manhattan must kill him for him to keep quiet on the matter, Manhattan vaporizes him. The film ends as New York is in the rebuilding phase, with the graphic novel left open-ended as a newspaper potentially selects Rorschach’s journal–which implicates Veidt and his plan–to put in their “crank file.”

2. The film version follows the same plot as the graphic novel, but is considerably cut down to save time. The film’s opening sequence reflects the graphic novel’s backstory, with the deaths of the early Minutemen marking many of the scenes depicted in the sequence; the song used in the sequence, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a Changin’,” was pulled directly from the source text, as the song is referenced in the source text. The majority of the licensed songs on the soundtrack are referenced in the graphic novel, like Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” or more pivotally, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” which plays as the Comedian is murdered to begin the movie. The film starts with Blake’s death in the same way the comic does, and the film unravels Veidt’s plot in the same manner as the graphic novel, although longer, unnecessary parts like the Tales of the Black Freighter comic and the death of Hollis Mason are cut from the film. The film has a few changes to the material presented in the film, notably the scene where Veidt’s plan is shown in action; instead of a giant alien squid being the cause of the destruction in New York City, energy signatures meant to resemble Doctor Manhattan are the cause of destruction in New York and several other cities, done in Veidt’s words to “kill millions so that we may save billions.” Snyder’s film also has lots of pop culture references fit into the film as well. Manhattan is interviewed by a Ted Koppel lookalike, while famous Ford and Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca is killed by the assassin targeting Veidt. In another scene where Veidt is seen entering Studio 54, two people next to him are meant to be copies of David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Although the credits sequence is meant to wrap up the backstory of the film quickly, it actually functions as an enticing pop culture reference as well, with the Watchmen characters inserted into or mimicking famous events, likely as an easy way to show their impact in this alternate world. The very first scene is meant to be Nite Owl seemingly beating up the murderer of Bruce Wayne’s parents as they exit the theater’s back door, complete with the Batman and Gotham posters behind him to connect the dots. The Miss Jupiter bomber flying back from dropping a nuclear bomb is an exact copy of the Enola Gay bomber; the Silhouette recreates the famous V-J Day kiss in Times Square; Miss Jupiter’s retirement party is meant to be a copy of The Last Supper; the Comedian is shown to be the shooter on the ‘grassy knoll’ in the Kennedy assassination (although that was retconned in the new prequels); and includes the film’s own interpretation of the ‘flower in the gun barrel’ student protest photographs, among others.

3. Of all the films that have been aired over the course of the class, none of them have had a development cycle close to what Watchmen’s was like. The film was long considered unfilmable and was mired in development hell for almost 25 years when it was finally released in 2009. It faced opposition from the graphic novel’s creator, Alan Moore, who likened the idea to adapt the graphic novel to birds being fed regurgitated worms. Moore, long a critic of Hollywood and the moviemaking process, was famously opposed to the film throughout its entire production, which began in 1986 when 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to the graphic novel. Upon their acquisition, the studio commissioned Sam Hamm to condense the graphic novel into a screenplay; Hamm also chose to change the ending of the novel, finding the giant alien squid attack of New York City too unbelievable for a film treatment. That set off a number of script changes over the years to settle on an ending for the film, which constituted one of the bigger problems in the film’s development: deciding how to end the film (Clines). Hamm’s decision was for Veidt to build a time machine and assassinate Osterman before he could become Dr. Manhattan, but Manhattan finds out his plan before he can complete it. Manhattan then chooses to erase himself from existence, setting the timeline straight again. That was changed slightly when Terry Gilliam, who directed surreal classics Brazil and Twelve Monkeys, came onboard for the film; he revised the script to include Rorschach’s narrations again, but dropped out when the producers could only get a quarter of the desired budget thanks to the producers previous films going over budget. Gilliam later called the graphic novel unfilmable as a movie, saying it would be better off as a miniseries. The amount of time the revisions and director changes took a toll as well, as alleviated fears of the Cold War meant that there was less of an interest in a film about Cold War era-impending doom, much less one in a fictional universe. That meant the film struggled to gain support until after 9/11, when some of those fears returned. Length and budget also became a big problem as well. Hamm’s treatment was 128 pages long, condensed from a 300-plus page graphic novel; David Hayter, who was approached in the early 2000s to write the film, wrote a 178-page treatment that updated the comics into a modern-day setting (Jensen). Hayter eventually left the project and was replaced by Darren Aronofsky, who was subsequently replaced by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass was eventually replaced by Zack Snyder, who was fresh off converting graphic novel 300 into a successful film; together with screenwriter Alex Tse the two used Hayter’s drafts to rebuild the Cold War setting and change the ending of the film from the alien invasion to explosions in major cities worldwide, done to better reflect the fears and paranoia over attacks in multiple cities post-9/11 (Rehak).

Just over a year before the film was due out, the movie hit another roadblock–a copyright infringement suit filed by 20th Century Fox against Warner Bros. Fox claimed they were entitled to development costs and part of the receipts for the movie because the film’s production, which began in 2005, from the agreements they set up with producers in 1991 and 1994. Just two months before the film was scheduled to release the studios settled, and Watchmen was released 23 years after its first issue published, in March 2009.

Watchmen did release in 2009, but the changes didn’t end there. Snyder released a director’s cut later in the year that featured several more minutes of footage, boosting the total runtime of the film to just over three hours. That wasn’t the final tinkering of the film, though: an ultimate cut edition came out shortly after the director’s cut. That version included almost all of Snyder’s filmed footage making it into the final cut. It included the integration of the Tales of the Black Freighter animated comic into the live action film, as well as the extension of several dialogue scenes from different parts of the film. The ultimate cut clocked in at nearly three and a half hours long, but was the preferred cut for Snyder since it included the animated comic, which had been cut out of nearly every treatment before his final cut of the film.

Works Cited

Rehak, Bob. “Adapting Watchmen after 9/11.” Cinema journal 51.1 (2011):154.

Jensen, J. (2005). Watchmen: AN ORAL HISTORY. Entertainment Weekly, (847), 44-49.

Clines, P. (2009). Watchmen. Creative Screenwriting, 16(2), 21-23.

Blog Writing Assignment-Watchmen

1. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985, where a group of former superheroes uncover a plot to manufacture an alien invasion for the express purpose to unite the U.S. and Soviet Union, which are on the verge of nuclear war. The graphic novel series features an alternate 1985 where Richard Nixon has been president for several terms. This is apparently caused by the U.S. winning the Vietnam War in weeks thanks to superhero Dr. Manhattan, a former scientist and god-like being that has acted as a nuclear deterrent for the U.S. Manhattan is just one of a handful of superheroes still active, with a host of former superheroes comprising the main cast in the comic.

2. The film version of the graphic novel follows the same plot, as a group of washed-up former superheroes reunite following one of their fellow superhero’s deaths. Together they begin to unravel a massive plot to unite both countries as nuclear war sits on the horizon; eventually they find a fellow former superhero is responsible for engineering the plot, which will frame Manhattan for detonating energy signatures in major cities around the world, uniting the major governments. Manhattan comes to accept responsibility and leaves Earth as a new era of peace dawns on the U.S. and Soviets, despite the millions of innocent lives lost; Veidt accepts them as collateral damage in his attempt to save billions.

3. The film version of the graphic novel makes one major change to the ending of the graphic novel, but aside from that stays pretty faithful to the text. The adaptation is loaded with pop culture nuggets and features a lengthy credits sequence used to give the history of the Watchmen and their predecessors. Once the film gets underway the plot stays mostly true to the course of events in the graphic novel; one Hollywood change made during that course though is Jenny Slater pulling her wig off during Manhattan’s interview to reveal her balding head, caused apparently by cancer he gave her. In the graphic novel, Manhattan never sees her, and is instead assailed with questions from reporters before he teleports them all away.


This analysis of the film looked at the dialogue in the film, which it criticized for staying too “comic-booky” as the film aimed for realism. The author pointed out Rorschach’s one word sentences and fragments as parts of the dialogue and narration that sound ridiculous in the context of the film, but would work on paper. He also pointed to the heavy cutting of the film as a detractor to emotional moments in the film, such as Laurie’s discovery of who her father really is, because of the amount the film condensed meant other scenes that showed her distaste for the Comedian were cut (where in the film, just the comment she makes on the day of his funeral and the attempted rape are shown; just a snippet of the fight Laurie witnesses between her mother and father is shown during the credits).

This points out a bunch of the changes Snyder made in his adaptation; among them was the omission of the snow globe scene I said above, which carries weight when Laurie finds out who her father is. One big change he made came at the end: Nite Owl’s reaction to Rorschach’s death is Snyder’s creation; Nite Owl isn’t there for his death in the graphic novel.

The comic is famous for having easter eggs hidden in lots of panels in the comics, and the film is no exception. This other list has some of the easter eggs found within the movie; while some are obvious, like the Comedian being on the grassy knoll during the Kennedy assassination, others are not, like Dreiberg having a copy of the Watchmen comics sitting on his desk in one scene.

5. The message of Watchmen is what is touched on in the prompt: these are not the type of superheroes you want watching over you. The superheroes of Watchmen are the superheroes that are never shown in comic books: ones who still exist long after their glory has faded, or have been used up by whomever they were serving. All of the superheroes are deeply flawed, which make them all dangerous: Rorschach operates as a vigilante out of the shame of his childhood and the memory of his first kill, a remorseless man who killed a young girl; because of the time that has passed since he became Dr. Manhattan, he is almost completely numb and detached from his previous existence and the feelings of his human friends; and Veidt is coldly logical, believing in his plan to kill millions is for the greater good. Their actions in the film make it clear that those three and the Comedian are not the people you want watching over you, but I think a small change Snyder made in the fight scene involving Laurie and Dreiberg points out that there are still a few noble superheroes left. In the graphic novel they are shown to be remorseful for beating up the thugs, but in the film they are reinvigorated by it. They do it because they are happy when they do it and enjoy doing it, not because they are forced to, and it’s that attitude that makes them noble compared to the others. Dreiberg understands that the Keene Act was necessary to stop the sociopaths like the Comedian and Rorschach, who took justice too far by taking it into their own hands, and he comments about this in the film, even though it came at the cost of him no longer being able to be a superhero anymore.

Blog Writing Assignment-Fantastic Mr. Fox

1. Roald Dahl’s children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox is about a fox named Mr. Fox who steals chickens and food from three farmers named Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The farmers, fed up with Mr. Fox stealing food from them, attempt to dig out the fox’s hole with shovels and bulldozer. They then stand watch over Mr. Fox’s hole, planning to stay there forever, as he has to come out eventually to get food. However, Mr. Fox and the other hungry animals are able to outsmart the farmers, digging tunnels directly to their food sources rather than venturing on land to get it. The book ends as Mr. Fox and friends begin their feast, with the farmers still waiting above, seemingly forever as Mr. Fox has no reason to leave his hole now.

2. In the film Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mr. Fox and his wife are caught in a fox trap in a prologue to the film, causing him to change his ways. From there, the film jumps ahead as Mr. Fox, his wife, and his son live a normal life, with Mr. Fox working as a newspaper columnist instead of scavenging all the time. When Mr. Fox moves into a nearby tree and goes out for food, he is seen and attacked by the three farmers, who destroy the tree and stand ready at the mouth of the foxhole. The animals move to the sewers, from where Mr. Fox’s son leads a daring rescue of his cousin as Mr. Fox tries to surrender to the angry farmers, earning the respect of the animals. Mr. Fox finds a direct route the supermarket owned by the three farmers, opening a way for the animals to get food without getting seen by the farmers at all.

3. The film adaptation of the book gives the film a more adult storyline; in the film a family drama plays out that makes the film more compelling to a wider audience. The film features the same basic plot–Mr. Fox is chased by the farmers, who stand watch to take the fox out; Mr. Fox eventually finds a direct route to a food source and never has to go above ground again to face the angry farmers. However, along the way a much different story takes place. Mr. Fox’s son Ash develops into a courageous, strong character, like his cousin Kristofferson. The animals show an aptitude to fight back against the farmers, something that is never done in the novel. The idea that Mr. Fox makes these decisions for his family is highlighted in the film as well; he takes a job in the beginning of the film and plans to turn himself over, almost certainly facing death, if it means his nephew will be returned.


This lengthy analysis of the film talked about the film showing us an autonomous, insular world the foxes and other small, “normal” animals live in. He points to the fact that Mr. Fox cannot communicate with the wolf in the film as an indicator that the world is insular and is restricted to the small animals Mr. Fox comes in contact with over the course of the film. The author also uses the Whackbat description to show how the fox world is autonomous–the game is described to the viewer via a diagram; the diagram makes no sense to the viewer and audience surrogate Kristofferson in that scene, but makes perfect sense to the coach explaining it.

This Vanity Fair article talked about how Anderson and his team created the stop-motion puppets for the movie, and his big inspiration for them–the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stop-motion films, rather than newer, smoother stop-motion creations.

This review of the film was aimed at parents with young children, so I read it to answer my critical analysis prompt. In her review, she points to the music and the colors used to offset the earth in scenes as vital parts to make the film vibrant.

5.  Fantastic Mr. Fox adapts Roald Dahl’s novel into a film a different way than Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban does: by creating new, older storylines for the film, rather than aging the characters or making the film more violent like Cuaron does. Anderson adds subplots to the film to make the film more of a family drama; Felicity is concerned for the well-being of her husband when the farmers attack, while Ash feels inadequate around his cousin Kristofferson. He also adds commentary on current issues today; the film tackles issues like bullying and appears to include a reference to big box stores or massive supermarkets as evil in the final scene, as the animals rejoice that they are able to steal from the huge store. The film’s introduction of these elements age the film to make it less of a children’s film, although it is done in a way that still makes it age-appropriate for children, as the film is still lighthearted and funny, unlike Harry Potter, which places its protagonists in scary, dark situations to remove that children’s film label.

Blog Writing Assignment-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1. J.K. Rowling’s third Harry Potter novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban starts in the third year of Harry’s schooling at Hogwarts. In the novel, much of the backstory about his parents is revealed, along with his first encounters with Sirius Black and the dementors. Over the course of the novel Harry believes Black was the one to betray his parents, but comes to learn Black is his godfather, was a close friend of his father, and was wrongly imprisoned for killing Peter Pettigrew, who is alive and is the actual traitor. Pettigrew eventually escapes Black and Remus Lupin’s clutches after Lupin turns into a werewolf. This forces Black to remain in hiding because he cannot clear his name, but the book ends on a high note, as Harry is happy he has a wizard family member looking after him and a father figure again.

2. The film version of Rowling’s novel is a condensed version of the book adapted to the screen. It follows the same basic plot of the book–Harry returns to Hogwarts for his third year of school, aware Sirius Black, believed to be the one who betrayed his parents, has escaped wizard prison Azkaban. In the film Harry’s emotional development is sped up thanks to the condensed plot, leaving out some of the romantic development between him and Cho Chang that builds in the next two books.

3. The adaptation maintains the main story of the book, but cuts out most of the excess parts of the book, which was necessary for the book’s length. Certain key parts of the book were also cut out, like Sirius Black’s backstory and his escape from Azkaban, but it does not detract from the   film. The order of some events are also changed, such as when Harry receives the Firebolt; in the novel it comes at Christmas anonymously from Black and is seized by McGonagall on speculation it might be jinxed, while in the film Harry receives it at the end, as a sign of the new relationship between Harry and Sirius. However, some character development is added to the film that wasn’t present in the text. Hints of Ron and Hermione’s romantic relationship in the later films are present in the film, as is Harry’s rage and dark side, which he shows when he is enraged by Black and is readying himself to kill him when they inevitably meet.


This was a pretty fascinating read on the time travel sequence at the end of the film. The author of the analysis says that six separate timelines are necessary to create the sequence in the film, with Harry dying in each of the first three timelines (he is killed by Lupin because no one intervenes in the first timeline, is killed by dementors after Hermione calls Lupin but is unable to intervene further, and is killed again by dementors when he tries to reach the other side of the lake to save Sirius). In the final three timelines, Harry lives, but at a cost in the first one: Sirius gets his soul sucked out because he is not strong enough to intervene (in the second, the time-traveling Harry helps Harry and Sirius, but the author says Harry must go back one final time now armed with the confidence that he will be strong enough to stop the dementors–all this time travel hurts my head). The author says that the film fixed an anomaly in the book that would’ve made Harry’s survival logically impossible–Harry and Hermione travel to the shore of the lake together to find who casted the Patronus, not just Harry himself, as he would’ve been overwhelmed by the dementors on his own.

I didn’t want to use a review here, but I found that first paragraph interesting: Cuaron’s film took the longest book in the series at the time and cut it down into the shortest movie of the first three. The author of the review goes on to say that the first two films were criticized for trying to cram everything from the source text into the film, something Cuaron avoided.

This is a complete listing of all the differences in the book from the film. One I didn’t realize: Cuaron has Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup, something they didn’t do in the first two books and hadn’t done going back seven years in Rowling’s universe.

5. Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban is definitely darker in tone than the two previous films, caused by the more violent, dangerous sequences in the movie. Although the previous films had vital characters that either died before the book or were vanquished by Harry, the books and films don’t explore death fully until the third installment, when the events of James and Lily’s death at the hands of Voldemort start to get explained, and the idea of Sirius Black as a cold-blooded murderer is held almost through the entire film. The characters are darker as well–Lupin is noble but transforms into a werewolf, Sirius’s animagi is a black dog, and at one point an executioner is featured and guillotines a Hippogriff offscreen. The final sequence of the film features Sirius’s “death” at the hands of the dementors, and Harry hearing the final cries of his mother as he is attacked by the dementors. Harry’s emotions are also darker in the book and the film; almost through the entire course of the film he and Ron are distant from Hermione and he readies himself for a showdown with Sirius, who he believes to be completely evil. Cuaron’s “darker” characters give the Patronus Harry casts to save his past self and Sirius a much more poignant moment; it is there that Harry’s transition from young, angry pre-teen to matured, strong leader begins in the series.

Blog Writing Assignment-A Scanner Darkly

1. Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly is about drug addict Bob Arctor, who is living a double life as Agent Fred, an undercover police officer spying on the very house he is living in. The novel’s ideas are supposedly taken from Dick’s life as a drug user in the early 1970s. In the novel, Arctor becomes addicted to new drug Substance D while living in the house, which eventually cripples his mental facilities and forces Donna, a supposed drug dealer he is in love with (but is actually an undercover agent herself) to take him to New Path, a rehab center. There he is assigned to a farming commune owned by the clinic after a serious withdrawal from the substance, but is still able to realize the blue flowers he finds growing are the source of Substance D. As the novel ends Arctor tucks a flower into his shoe to give to his friends when he returns to the clinic–fulfilling his unwitting goal as an undercover agent in the clinic.

2. In the film version of A Scanner Darkly, the setting is updated from a 1970s-style counterculture era to a modern one where the War on Drugs has ended in a failure. In this world Bob Arctor is an undercover agent like in the book, living with his addict friends in a run-down apartment. The film follows the same plot as the book–Arctor, as Fred, is assigned to spy on himself, who police believe to be the ringleader, but are completely unaware it is him in the scramble suit. A combination of spying on himself and his addiction to Substance D lead his mental state to decline rapidly. This seemingly forces Donna to bring him to the rehab center like in the novel, but we later find out the reason is exactly like it was in the book–Arctor is an unwitting undercover agent for Donna and the police.

3. Linklater’s film has been called the most faithful adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. Instead of films like Minority Report or Total Recall, which cannibalize Dick’s story and only uses select parts of it, Linklater sticks to the text as much as he can. The film retains the addicts’ pattern of dialogue and the dry, drug-related humor Dick gives each character in that dialogue. It also uses rotoscoping to effectively show the scramble suit Dick writes about in the book, using the technique to show the suit always cycling through different appearances to give the film a surreal, hallucinogenic feel.


The author of this post had the same idea that I had with the rotoscoping technique: it brought life to the scramble suit Arctor wears in the film. The rotoscoping allows for the suit to quickly and continually morph and change, creating a blurring effect as the features of each part of the suit are cycled. That blurring, the author says, is an important allusion to Arctor’s state, as his continued drug use causes his life to blur to the point where he can’t remember his personal life or function at his job, because it consists of watching himself, something that causes his reality to blur even further.

Since A Scanner Darkly’s film setting is in a world where the U.S. has lost the War on Drugs, the author compares the film world to the real world, comparing the totalitarian techniques (like their manufacture of the debilitating drug) the film world uses and the military actions the real world does (border actions, drug raids, arrests).

The author brings up the idea that the atmosphere of the film, combined with the hallucinations the characters have and the rotoscoping technique, may mean the film is meant to be interpreted that the story all takes place in Arctor’s drug-addled head.

5. A Scanner Darkly is postmodern film because the main character, Bob Arctor, is unable to tell his reality from his delusion after his two separate social constructs begin to merge. In one social construct he is Bob Arctor, living in a run-down house with his friends and addicted to Substance D. In the other he is Agent Fred, an “undercover” narcotics agent spying on users of Substance D for the police. Both of those are completely different social constructs and by extension, two separate realities. Within each reality his other life is the delusion, but Arctor is able to function because the two are separate from each other; once Arctor is told to spy on himself and his two “realities” merge, he becomes unstable and his social constructs decay. A Scanner Darkly is a postmodern film because Arctor, who starts out with distinct social constructs, is unable to tell the distinction between his reality and his delusion by the end of the film; Arctor cannot distinguish the reality from the delusion because his two worlds weren’t meant to collide.

Blog Writing Assignment-No Country for Old Men

1. Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a novel about three characters intertwined by a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican border in 1980. The first, Llewelyn Moss, is hunting antelope when he finds the aftermath of the drug deal, coming across a dead man with a satchel carrying $2.4 million and a man dying of thirst. His remorse gets the better of him and Moss heads back to the site to give him, only to be seen by the cartel, which sets the novel’s events in motion. From there Moss is tracked by Anton Chigurh, a ruthless assassin hired by the cartel to retrieve the satchel, and Ed Tom Bell, a Texas sheriff haunted by his actions during World War II who is piecing the events together. Chigurh kills several people while tracking Moss, including rival assassin Carson Wells, but Moss is killed by the cartel before Chigurh catches up to him, although Chigurh is still able to retrieve the satchel. Bell, unable to save Moss and catch up to Chigurh, retires, and the book ends as he explains strange dreams he had of his father.

2. The film version of the novel, directed by the Coen Brothers, follows the same story as the source text with little alteration. The film version is marked by almost no dialogue, with Chigurh, Moss, and Bell mostly quiet (almost brooding in a way) throughout the movie; the most talkative characters in the film are Moss’s mother-in-law, Bell’s clueless deputy, and rival hitman Carson Wells. Instead, the film uses its setting (the desolate plains of West Texas and the border towns where Moss is chased through) and the actions of the characters to tell the story, whether it be the murders Chigurh carries out or Moss’s actions to hide the money.

3. The film version of No Country for Old Men stays faithful to its source text; only a few changes were made to the film version of the book. The biggest is likely the omission of Bell’s backstory; he is guilt-ridden in the novel for leaving his squad to die in World War II, an action that earned him a Bronze Star, one that he feels is undeserved. That story gives his character understanding in the novel, but is removed from the film entirely. The scene where Carla Jean’s fate is decided is also changed; in the novel Chigurh flips a coin to decide her fate and shoots her based on the flip, but after Carla Jean says the choice is his in the film, whether or not he takes action is left ambiguous (although it appears he does).


Carla Jean’s fate in the film is up for debate since it isn’t clearly shown, but I liked this person’s analysis of the book. He said Chigurh believed Llewelyn and Carla Jean had caused the situation, and their fate at his hands is their fault. When I first watched the film I believed he had let her live, but after reading up on the film and watching it again I changed my mind, particularly because he checks his boots when he leaves her door; in a previous scene he props them up while on the phone to keep them from getting bloody. However, the question of what weapon he uses still complicates matters; he is only shown with the bolt pistol and the silenced shotgun in the film, but is shown carrying neither in that scene.

This writer, a linguist, breaks down the scene between Chigurh and the storeowner to show just how ruthless and intimidating Chigurh really is, focusing on the dialogue between the two; Chigurh’s repeated questions draw the storeowner into a deeper and deeper hole, to the point where he “babbles” out of nervousness before Chigurh maneuvers the conversation into his coin toss.

A theory to the movie that Chigurh is an angel. Apparently the kills he made of people who touched the money were done with the silenced shotgun, while people he was forced to kill but weren’t directly involved were killed with his captive bolt pistol–a humane way to kill the innocent, which they connect to a sheep-Shepherd Bible mythos.

5. If anything, No Country for Old Men represents moral ambiguity than religious dualism. Although Chigurh is killing people without remorse, he does so because it his job to do so; he doesn’t show any expression when he carries out his killings. His deeds aren’t done because he is evil; they are done because his faith lies in chance rather than true religion. Both Bell and Moss don’t what they do because they are good; both are deeply flawed characters in their own right. Bell is troubled by a feeling of inadequacy because of an inability to stop Chigurh and Moss’s death, yet describes the dreams in which he knew everything would be all right. Moss steals the money from the drug deal gone wrong, yet returns to help the dying man when his conscience gets the better of him, despite the fact that the man is connected to an “evil” event–a drug deal. Morally though, Chigurh would be considered an evil character because of his placid nature towards his deeds, while Bell, like Uncle Ellis says, could at least take solace in the fact that he tries to do what’s right in a county stricken by violence–he’s a good character in a bad world, but it’s because of morals more than it is religion.

Blog Writing Assignment-American Splendor

1. Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor was a series of autobiographical comics about Pekar’s life in Cleveland. The comics touched mostly on Pekar’s everyday life–his life with his third wife, Joyce Brabner, and their adopted daughter Danielle, money troubles, and his work as a file clerk at a Veterans Administration hospital in Cleveland. Although the comics were comprised of mostly mundane events, they included Pekar’s thoughts and concerns on the matter, and the events began to encompass things like Pekar’s appearances on the David Letterman Show as it gained popularity. The comic also had several offshoots related to American Splendor like Our Cancer Year, a graphic novel detailing Pekar’s battle with cancer during the mid-1990s.

2. Like its source text, the film version of American Splendor is an autobiographical take on the life of Harvey Pekar. However, the film spans a much larger period of Pekar’s life, with the film starting while Pekar is a child. From there the film develops his life, showing his beginning of the comic through his battle with cancer, ending with his retirement party in 2001 after he left his job as a file clerk. In the film Pekar, played by Paul Giamatti, displays the same concerns and fears that his comic counterpart has in the series.

3. Although the film is an adaption of the comic, which itself is an adaptation of Pekar’s life, it isn’t a true adaptation of the comics. It’s meant to function almost like a docudrama, with commentary from Pekar himself and archival footage from events like his Letterman interviews and other major moments. However, it does its best to include elements of comic books, using thought bubbles to convey the characters’ actual thoughts and comic book panels in transitions between scenes.


This article favorably compares the elements used in American Splendor to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The author compares the narrations by Pekar himself to addresses Allen makes in Annie Hall, and the subtitles that show what Allen and Diane Keaton are thinking to the thought bubbles Pekar uses in the film to convey his thoughts. Annie Hall also uses archival footage of Woody Allen’s stand up routines to provide context; American Splendor uses archival footage of Pekar’s appearances on the Letterman show to construct his relationship with Letterman in the film.

The author cited the film as one of her favorites for its unusual mix of documentary, drama, and comedy; she pointed out Giamatti’s dramatic scenes as some of her favorites, but noted that in Pekar’s narration he points out Giamatti doesn’t look like him.

In a preview interview for the film, Pekar explained his row with Letterman–tired of his shtick over Pekar’s profession and that he was still a clerk but publishing the comic, Pekar read up on GE, NBC’s parent company, and claimed his comments were meant to stir Letterman’s jokes about GE, which eventually led to their spat on the show.

5. The characters as portrayed by themselves were more interesting than the depictions of the characters by actors. Although Paul Giamatti is terrific in his portrayal of Pekar–Giamatti is able to capture the feelings he has for the people around him and his concerns with his life effectively–Pekar’s narration gives us a real insight into what Pekar is like–his thoughts on his career, on people he met along the way, and on the adaptation of his life into a film. The footage of the Letterman show demonstrated how effective using actual footage of him was–although Giamatti is a talented actor, it would’ve been hard to top the emotion in what actually occurred. Giamatti pulls off many of the emotions Pekar felt during his career, but they are understood better and made more compelling through Pekar’s appearances and narration, which made his scenes more interesting.