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.