So, okay. I’ve been seeing a lot of excitement and publicity launched over the latest comic book sequential art adaptation, Alan Moore’s instant-classic, Watchmen. The movie debuts this Friday, barring any last minute histrionics on the behalf of 20th Century Fox, and it seems that it is going to do fairly well at the box office. Zack Snyder gets another notch in his belt and all seems well for comic book fans.
Well, not quite. Discounting the rabid fanboys who will hate the film simply because it exists (a sin that I’ve been somewhat guilty of with regards to the Lord of the Rings films, so please, don’t think I’m getting on a high horse!), there are some issues about the forthcoming film that make me more than a little apprehensive about it.
I should also mention that Watchmen star, Matthew Goode, has had some choice words for critical fanboys, giving a new take on the term ‘fan service.’ And honestly? I can agree with him to an extent: it is a movie, and one’s enjoyment of the source material will not be impinged upon because the movie has come out.On the other hand, though, it is also understandable as to why fanboys are up in arms about this movie and that there are legitimate complaints that can be made about the film. Yes, even before anyone has watched the damn thing.
First off, for those of you who aren’t that well informed when it comes to Watchmen, it was a comic book mini-series that was released in 1986. Plot-wise, it focused on the anxiety of nuclear war and mutually assured destruction that was so prevalent during the era of the Cold War, framed within a murder mystery. Writer Alan Moore also went on to deconstruct the superhero and inserted a wealth of material that helped to supplement the plot. It was one of the first books that helped the mainstream to start considering comic books as a serious artform and earned a place on Time’s Best 100 novels list. Okay, now that I’m done cribbing press releases and Wikipedia, let’s move on.
Watchmen is a story that really utilized the strength of the medium it was constructed in and did things that other forms of media can’t. Compare a comic book to a regular book, a film, a piece of art and an audio recording. A book and a piece of art are two forms of media that exist on one ‘level’, one is pure text, the other is a pure image. A film is a mixture of different forms (audio and visual, primarily, although text can be introduced and utilized, usually sparingly), while an audio recording is pure sound, nothing else.
A comic book is the mix of two mediums, text and image. Moore and artist Dave Gibbons utilize both to great effect, drawing them together, as well as using them separately (such as with the book excrepts or scenes that do not have any dialogue.) While few of the things that were done in Watchmen had not been done before in some way or another, the depth that Moore and Gibbons went with their work was a first and, again, went a long way to legitimize comic books as ’srs business’ to people. There are some things that are done in the comic book that simply can’t be replicated in another medium, which should be cause for concern for some folks.
Now, fast forward 20 or so years. Comic book fans are enjoying a sort of cinematic renaissance with the films about their work, cinematic monstrosities such as Shaq’s depiction of Steel or the godawful Batman & Robin have been thankfully forgotten, while films like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman and the first two X-Men films went a long way at showing folks that yes, there can be good super hero movie flicks. Throw in the Christopher Nolan directed Batman flicks as well, and there is some serious noise being made about superhero flicks. Heck, you can even look at the Hellboy films, 300 and Sin City for further evidence of the proliferation of comic book films. Let’s just not talk about Elektra, though, alright?
So, that is the climate we are in with the approaching Watchmen film. People are sitting up and starting to take notice about these strange and mysterious ‘funnybooks’ and see them as something more than fare for children. This Watchmen film has the potential to do the same sort of thing for comic book movies that the Watchmen miniseries did for comic books.
However, a recent clip that’s been making its way around the Internets. It features the jail break scene, with Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre, and is highlighted by some of the most ridiculous looking fight chereography seen this side of a Scott Steiner wrestling match. That’s not what has put me off, though, it’s the little smirk that is shared between the two heroes that’s had me worried about this film. The thing that worries me is that Snyder has been so worried about ‘accurately’ capturing the film is that we’re going to be subjected something that LOOKS very much like the comic book, but comes across as being insincere. I mean, it is one thing to meticulously recreate every scene from the source material, it’s another to convey the emotion that exists within the work.
And that’s what worries me. Amidst all the marketing and trailers I’ve seen, I’m seeing a film that looks very much like the comic book, but is leaving me with doubts as to how authentic a recreation it will be. The trailers and posters and everything else seem to be spinning this film as a typical superhero flick, which is absolutely not what Watchmen is, nor ever will be. There’s more of a sell being made about the action and the ’suspense’ of someone killing off superheroes than it being a ‘complex story’ or anything along those lines.
I’d like for Watchmen to be a dynamic film that challenges viewers and is able to push comic book movies to that ‘next’ level, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
(PS, I made mention for a post showing that Metallica is educational. Unfortunately I cannot recall AT ALL what the hell I had meant by that, so, nothing doing on that front. Them’s the breaks!)