In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: songs from classic movie and T.V. montages.
Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (1964)
I went into the Watchmen movie having not read the comic. I do this often with film adaptations of literature, because I find it is more likely that a film will disappoint. And by waiting to read the novel, comic, or what have you, I have something positive to look forward to. It’s also easier to either keep the film’s visuals intact in my mind, or scrap them out of rage and see what I want to. That said, after finally reading the comic, I didn’t take issue with how the screenwriter rewrote the ending. I was more concerned with how little information on the Minutemen there was, as I had hoped that was something cut from the film for the sake of time. But alas, the most the movie shares about The Minutemen, the premier group of superheroes throughout the 1940s, is Watchmen’s stunning opening, which pairs a standard Bob Dylan track with classic but subverted historical images. For instance, as Dylan sings “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” viewers see a live-action interpretation of the iconic photograph V-J Day In Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, and instead of a sailor dipping and kissing a nurse, The Silhouette (a.k.a. Ursula Zandt), swoops in to make the nurse swoon.
But that is one of the last positive images of a Minutemen member, as the montage soon takes a turn, depicting the downfall of each member. Perhaps most saddening is the death of The Silhouette and her familiar girlfriend, while most disheartening is The Comedian (Eddie Blake)’s assassination of JFK. Spanning decades backed by Dylan’s signature harmonica stylings, this montage brings viewers to an alternate 1985 in which Richard Nixon has been elected president for a fifth term, setting the stage for a movie as mesmerizing and memorable as the opening.