Watchmen and 2010: The Year We Make Contact have quite a bit in common. I didn’t realize that until my eldest brother pointed out some of the connections to me. And then it dawned on me. They both tell the story of averting a nuclear holocaust. Plus, they’re based on famous novels. A graphic novel in one case.
So I credit my brother for this particular Movie Matchup. Having said that, on with the show!
Man Disappears and Reappears with Godlike Powers
Dr. David Bowman disappeared at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey after his space mission to Jupiter aboard the USS Discovery went horribly wrong. No one on Earth knew his fate. But nine years later, he suddenly begins showing up again as a godlike being. First making contact with his mother and wife on Earth, and then appearing to Dr. Heywood Floyd in orbit around Jupiter.
Dr. Jonathan Osterman was ripped apart at the atomic level during an experiment gone wrong. But he manages to put himself back together in pieces. First he appears to random people, and then he makes a grand entrance in the presence of his wife. He returns as a godlike being (nicknamed Dr. Manhattan) possessing powers that are far above those of a mortal man.
The United States and Soviet Union Prepare for World War III
Cold War tensions play a big part in the events of 2010. The United States and Soviet Union form an uneasy alliance for the sake of rescuing the adrift Discovery near Jupiter. But while that mission is underway, peace talks between the two nuclear superpowers break down. This puts the countries on a collision course with World War III.
The Nuclear Doomsday Clock represents how close mankind is to complete global annihilation. Over the course of Watchmen, the clock gets closer and closer to midnight as tensions between the United States and Soviet Union rise. By the time the film reaches its climax, it appears that World War III is inevitable.
Main Characters’ Journal Entries
There’s a nice framing device in both films to keep the audience apprised of major plot details. Floyd sends messages to his wife to let her know about what adventures he and his crew are about to do and what they learn along the way. And his superior in the U.S. government sometimes messages him with information about world events.
In Watchmen, Rorschach sometimes narrates his journal entries to provide details on his investigation into superhero murders. These also provide insights into other characters and larger happenings in the world. Near the end of the film, we find out about major global events via news broadcasts.
Restoring an Emotionless Being’s Faith in Humanity
HAL-9000 went crazy in 2001, and he killed almost his entire human crew. In the second film, however, he reverts to acting like a lost little child after being shut down for the better part of a decade. When given the chance to make the same mistake a second time, he makes the right choice. He volunteers to sacrifice himself in order to protect others.
Dr. Manhattan goes berserk on live television after he’s confronted by several surprising revelations. He then banishes himself to Mars to be away from humans for a time. However, he changes his mind about humanity when he realizes how precious each life is. So he returns to try to help others and winds up leaving to protect the fragile peace they’ve forged.
An Extraordinary Event Is Witnessed by the Entire World
Bowman warns Floyd that he needs to leave Jupiter’s orbit in just two days. Floyd forces his way back onto the Russian ship to get their help to make this possible. They need to use both the Discovery and the Russian spaceship in conjunction to get out of danger. In the end, their plan works, and they escape just before Jupiter gets engulfed by mysterious monoliths, which make it explode into a star. Everyone in the world sees this incredible moment of simultaneous destruction and creation.
Nite Owl breaks Rorschach out of prison, and the two of them finish Rorschach’s investigation of Ozymandias. Then they work together to try to bring down the villain. As it turns out, they leave New York City just in time to avoid being in a giant explosion that engulfs the city and kills everyone inside it. Everyone in the world witnesses the awful destruction of a major American city.
The Heroes Have No Way to Stop the Villain
Two of the American astronauts hatch a plan to shut down the HAL-9000 computer during an emergency. They don’t trust him, so they install a kill switch in him that they can activate at any time with a red calculator. But Dr. Chandra, HAL’s creator, finds that kill switch and removes it without telling them until after the danger has passed.
Two superheroes, Nite Owl and Rorschach, approach Ozymandias, who they believe is behind a string of murders. They want to prevent him from committing mass murder on New York City. But he already anticipated their intercession, so he commits the heinous act several minutes before they arrive and tells them about it afterward.
Peace and Partnership Between World Powers Averts Impending War
The creation of a new star within the Solar System inspires the leaders of the United States and Soviet Union to call off their weapons of war. They establish peace in ways no one had anticipated.
The destruction of New York City by a common enemy unites the warring factions of the United States and Soviet Union. And it ushers in a time of peace unparalleled in world history.
A Timely Message
I’m glad my brother helped me make this comparison because it’s quite timely. I don’t pretend to understand all the intricacies of global politics and war. But there are certainly a lot of wars and rumors of wars going on right now. Russia may not be the superpower it once was when Watchmen and 2010: Odyssey Two were written, but it’s still a formidable force. Hopefully tempers will cool, and peace will prevail.
I trust that this isn’t the end of the world. Because there’s Someone a lot more powerful than David Bowman or Dr. Manhattan who’s in charge of it.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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If you’d like to support the Deja Reviewer, please consider donating a few dollars to keep this site going strong. I’ll even send you an original joke if you do! Try it, and prepare to enjoy a good chuckle.