Adrian Veidt is weird. Wearing a gold costume, he sits alone in his arctic fortress watching a wall of TVs that switch channels every hundred seconds, because “meanings coalesce from semiotic chaos before reverting to incoherence.” Known as “the smartest man in the world,” he has his own action figures, loves to brag, and celebrates like he scored a winning touchdown when his plan prevails at the end. Even after killing half a city, he’s almost precious. And despite attacking New York, his opponents are in “moral checkmate” because it was undeniably for the greater good.
That’s the ambiguous, compelling version of Veidt in the ’80s graphic novel. There are countless ways 2009’s movie adaptation stinks, but let’s focus on what makes it worse than the typical cinematic bastardization of a beloved book. In adapting the un-adaptable, filmmakers twisted Veidt’s gloriously ambitious scheme – deceive and disappear the world’s top artists and scientists; frame or kill all superheroes; put world powers on the brink of nuclear war – into something provably gratuitous. Movie Veidt undermines his inspiration by being both charmless bore and blood-fucking madman. Writer Alan Moore’s book Veidt knows he needs just one phony attack; director Zack Snyder’s superterrorist Veidt destroys the world’s major cities, murdering 15 million. Why kill exponentially more people if it makes no difference plot-wise? It’s, again, provably gratuitous. It’s sick.
Further, it slanders Dr. Manhattan, the god-like nuclear-deterring former physicist who abandons humanity until an argument on Mars with his girlfriend convinces him all life is precious. Manhattan seems content at the end of the book, engaged again, and he deserves it after his hard road. Movie Manhattan (a shallow moper) flees the world as a despised enemy, framed by Veidt because the screenwriters didn’t craft a better ending despite adapting a book with a much better ending.
The flick is grim and shitty – iconic characters disgraced, wearing painted rubber suits (with nipples), their meanings and fates subverted.
Manhattan says he longs to see a thermodynamic miracle, “like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold.” This groundless and fake-looking slow-motion gore-a-thon is the opposite: it turned gold into garbage.