WATCHMEN - 2009 | This story presentation includes some dialogue.
Before the credits, a mid-60's man in a bathrobe, puffing on a cigar, sits alone in his apartment watching PBS' The McLaughlin Group discuss a potential nuclear war with Russia.
John McLaughlin: On a scale of 0 to 10 - zero being impossible, ten being complete metaphysical certitude - what are the chances the Russians will actually attack the United States? Pat Buchanan.
Pat Buchanan: Zero. The Soviets would never risk going to war when we have a walking nuclear deterrent on our side.
A tall slim figure breaks into the room. After the intruder kicks the door open . . .
Blake: Just a matter of time, I suppose.
The two start to fight. After they trade blows the assailant is clearly getting the upper hand, and he hurls the man in the bathrobe out the window of his high-rise. He is killed when he hits the ground, and a smiley face button soon lands on the pavement next to his body.
The opening credits show historical pictures as Bob Dylan's "Times They are a Changin" plays. Masked, costumed vigilantes fight crime in America. In the 1930s and '40s, the vigilantes formed a group called the Minutemen to "finish what the law couldn't."
The original lineup was heroic and helped catch criminals and win World War II. But they often suffered early and violent deaths in action, or became suicides, or were arrested for breaking the law themselves, or in one case were committed to an asylum. We see a blue, other-worldly man shaking hands with President Kennedy.
Later we see a cigar-puffing man who might be the bathrobed man at the start of the movie (a bit younger) holding a rifle on the "grassy knoll" after Kennedy has been shot. And, in the glass of the helmet of the astronaut on the moon's surface, we do not see an American flag; we see the blue man again with a camera.
Man on Moon: Good luck, Mister Gorsky.
A second generation of heroes has formed, called the Watchmen. We see them being photographed -- as the movie goes on, we will learn that these are the Comedian, a burly guy with a simple mask over his eyes and chomping on a cigar. Laurie Jupiter, the new Silk Spectre.
Dr. Jon Osterman, Doctor Manhattan, the naked blue humanoid, with true superpowers. Adrian Veidt, Ozymandias, whose costume is like that of a Greek god. Daniel Dreiberg, the new Nite Owl, looking somewhat like Batman. And Rorschach, in a trench coat and hat with a knitted mask that completely covers his face and displays constantly changing ink blots.
TV news reports that Nixon has been elected to a third term. By the 1980s, public opinion has turned against costumed heroes, who are considered a dangerous alternative to the police.
Rorschach [reading from journal]: Rorschach's Journal. October 12th, 1985: Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll whisper "no."
Investigating the murder of the man who fell to his death at the start of the movie, who we now know is Eddie Blake, Rorschach enters the crime scene apartment with a sophisticated grappling gun. Searching the apartment, he discovers the uniform, weapons and memorabilia of the Comedian.
Blake was a former member of both the Minutemen and the Watchmen. We hear the voice over of what Rorschach will write in his journal: "Tonight, a comedian died in New York. Somebody knows why." He has to beat up a couple of policemen to get out of the building.
Meanwhile, Daniel Dreiburg is at the home of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. The two have regular meetings and talk about old times. Hollis says that it all started with the gangs. The Minutemen were a masked response to the masked gangs.
Mason: Truth: you were a better Nite Owl than I ever was, Danny boy.
Dreiberg: Hollis, we both know that's bullshit.
Mason: Hey, watch with the language! This was the left hook that took out Captain Axis! Remember?
They discuss the Comedian's death and Rorschach's vigilante activities. Nixon's policies don't allow masked vigilantes, but this hasn't stopped Rorschach. As Daniel leaves, they see a report about Rorschach and the policemen on television.
Daniel leaves in the rain and goes home, where he finds that Rorschach has broken into his home, and is in his kitchen. Rorschach shows Daniel the smiley face button that he found where the Comedian was killed.
Dreiberg [examining blood stained Comedian badge]: Is this bean juice?
Rorschach: Human bean juice. Badge belonged to The Comedian. Blood too...
They go down to the Nite Owl lab, under Daniel's home, where Rorschach speculates that someone is killing the superheroes.
Dreiberg: Maybe this was a political killing?
Rorschach: Maybe. Or maybe someone's picking off costumed heroes.
Dreiberg: Um. Don't you think that's maybe a little paranoid?
Rorschach: That's what they're saying about me now? Paranoid?
Rorschach: How's Hollis Mason? He wrote that book. Said some things about the Comedian in it.
Dreiberg: I don't like what you're implying. I like being followed even less. . . . . Watchmen are over.
Rorschach: Says Tricky Dick.
Dreiberg: Says me.
Daniel says Rorschach could give it up since no one knows who he is.
Dreiberg: At least I'm not the one still hiding behind a mask.
Rorschach: No. You're hiding in plain sight.
Rorschach turns away to leave.
Dreiberg [referring to the exit tunnel]: There's a maintenance hatch that will let you out two blocks north.
Rorschach: I remember. I came here often, when we were partners.
Dreiberg: Those were great times, huh Rorschach? What happened?
Rorschach [as he walks down the tunnel]: You quit.