26 August 2009

No Smoking in the Watchmen Movie

One of the distinctive visual details in the graphic novel Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, is the lollipop-shaped glass pipes that several characters smoke instead of cigarettes. In particular, the female lead, Laurie, used such a pipe.

I missed that detail in the movie. Some of the bad guys smoked: the Comedian and Big Figure had cigars, and Moloch was down to his last cigarette. But none of the heroes did, and the movie lost one of the book's vaguely-out-of-this-world details. (Are these pipes somehow a result of Dr. Manhattan’s molecular manipulation?)

It turns out the pipes vanished because of Warner Bros. executive Alan Horn. Director Zack Snyder told the i09 site:

Alan hates smoking. Alan Horn - the head of the studio - that's his biggest, biggest thing. The Comedian can smoke, because he might be a bad guy, he's the bad guy, but that's it. That was the line that he drew.
Almost everything in the Watchmen novel connects with something else, however, so the loss of those pipes had costs.

In one scene, Laurie and her old heroing comrade Dan fight off some muggers, then engage in what's clearly a parody of post-coital behavior, with her having a smoke. That prefigures their deeper relationship to come, and keeps up a theme of crime-fighting as physical fulfillment. In the movie, the same scene has no such resonances (and a lot more blood).

Later Laurie is in Dan's flying owlship, looking for the lighter so she can have a smoke, and she accidentally turns on the flamethrower. (Don't you hate when that happens?) In the movie, there's no reason for Laurie to hit the red button with a flame on it. The scene just makes her look stupid.

Finally, damienoujia at this Comicvine forum noted another moment where Lori's smoking habit illuminated her character:
Her first meeting with the Comedian and it seems he's hitting on her...he lights what we presume is her first cigarette. Her mom comes in and she [Laurie]'s all embarrassed about being caught smoking. It just changes the dynamic of the scene.
I don’t like tobacco anymore than Alan Horn does, but there's no doubt this no-smoking policy came at an artistic cost.

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