Comic Fodder

Counterpoint: Gimme a Watchmen Movie

Ryan and I agree about so many things, it's scary. We also have this eerie habit of writing about the same topic in parallel at the same time, most of the time without having communicated with each other beforehand. I’ve already lost track of the number of times he posts something right when I’m putting the finishing touches on my piece. I just go back and add an introductory paragraph (like this), and hit “publish.”

I want to see a Watchmen movie. I should know better by now, especially where Alan Moore subjects are concerned, because I groaned my way through V for Vendetta, From Hell, and most loudly through The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But from the first moment that I heard the actual Watchmen movie was finally a go, I felt some excitement. Am I a rat-(censored) for even wanting to see this movie?

I'm mixed, myself. I know the limits of film, so a lot of the depth of the material just cannot be translated onto the big screen. Can anyone imagine a way to film the ‘Fearful Symmetries’ chapter? There’s no way to duplicate that in movie format! But the kid in me is excited at the prospect of seeing a moving Rorschach, and of course the special effects will make for a visual feast that sometimes comics cannot bring fully to life.

As long as I understand this is a movie version of the comic, I will hope for the best, and try to enjoy the effects and the parts they get right, and try not to be too harsh on the elements that they can't squeeze into two hours. I am very wary of the idea of changing the ending, though. (Please, oh please just let it be a nasty rumor!)

The bright light at the end of the tunnel for me is, there are a ton of smart people who read that have not been exposed to the Watchmen before, and even before the movie comes out, the fact that there is a movie has raised awareness, such that on the day the trailer for the movie was released, my comic shop quickly ran out of its standard inventory of Watchmen trades. In the long run, a wide-release movie that is even halfway-close to the root of the spirit of Watchmen will attract intelligent people to the source material, and bring the work to the attention of a wider audience. And when they set the book down and exclaim like so many people behave before about literary works (to the point that they really should know better by now): “Wow! The book was SO much better than the movie!” Then they might be tempted to try other sequential art, and other writers. And that’s what it’s all about. So yeah, I’ll go watch the movie and pray they don’t mess it up too badly, and root for it to be a big success. Because every little bit helps.

A Watchmen movie is both good and bad. Good for exposure for the book, but bad because we know it just can’t capture the entire essence of a great work, and we really have a respect for it that tells us inside, “You need to capture it all or not do any of it.” The adult in me who walks in the real world knows that we can’t have it all, so we have to settle for a translation when it gets converted into movie format. Console yourself with the fact that the trade is getting a lot more sales these days.

But if they screw it up too much, I’m going to be every inch as much of a cranky old man as Ryan, and hurl epithets at Hollywood as I storm out of the theatre.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

I understand why a lot of people compare movie adaptions to the book, but knowing those reasons still doesn't lend validity to them.
I'm glad they made a lot of biblical movies even though I think they all fall short of capturing the essense of the book.
I'm glad MAD does thier adaptions.
I'm glad there have been crappy stage productions of comics.
I dig those old Classics Illustrateds.
I don't think adaptions harm the source material in any way. I do want to enjoy them and sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. But I don't compare the two because, well, it doesn't make sense to me.
As long as the inevitable changes made in all adaptions do not alter the meanings of the story I'm fine with them all.
I once saw a late night showing of the original 1933 FRANKENSTEIN. In order to fit the showing in the time slot they made some cuts. One of the cuts was the scene where Frankenstein was weeping with remorse after discovering that he had accidently killed the little girl. By cutting this scene, all we see is Frankenstein throwing the girl in the water and then running from the torch and pitchfork armed villagers. I root for the villagers in this version, rather than Frankenstein, whom Mary Shelly intended.
As long as that type of change isn't made to an adaption - I'll watch, man.

-- Posted by: Jim Brocius at January 26, 2009 2:36 PM

The greatest issue with adaptations to film is that its how a far, far greater number of eyes will ever see the material than the original source, as long as its the printed page. And when the adaptation falls short, those eyes will seldom conceive that the source matter was any better.

I present exhibits
"From Hell"
"V for Vendetta"
and "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"
as prime examples of comics which did not benefit from poor adaptation. Let alone that while the book will always exist in its original state, I will now always run a mental subroutine comparing and contrasting what I've now seen.

This same effect is why I no longer bother watching the original Star Wars trilogy (and I could still do it even after watching the Holiday Special, which I would give a few fingers to unsee).

And I don't think the one, cut scene in Frankenstein is the only thing vastly different from the novel. We've just had 65 years to appreciate the two for completely different merits, with most folks being familair with a green, grunting monster and learning the book was far, far richer through assigned reading in high school.

-- Posted by: Ryan at January 26, 2009 3:13 PM