August 20, 2008

Watching the Watchers Watch Watchmen

You know, sometimes...I should learn to keep my fingers off the keyboard.

Ever since I submitted my last TV Party column for Comic Related, there's been a huge rush of movie-related news. From a petition to "keep" the movie at three hours (and in all honesty - the movie probably has not been edited yet), to rumors about Fox and Warner Brothers fighting over the rights...it's all much ado about a movie based on a graphic novel/comic mini-series.

Granted, yes, it is Watchmen, and I am beating a dead horse...but I'm underwhelmed.

No, I'm not underwhelmed in the way that Tom Spurgeon might suggest - I personally don't care what Alan Moore likes, and I'm sure Mr. Moore is smirking at the legal shenanigans. I'm underwhelmed because....well, here's a roundabout explanation.

In order to know how to talk or write, you need to understand how things sound. In order to understand mechanical processes, you need to know how each part works. It is easy to make a copy of, say, art by tracing (ask Greg Land); it is much harder to create one's own story.

The same with film making - it is much easier to do a pastiche than to find one's own style. Brian DePalma had borrowed Alfred Hitchcock's visual style so frequenty (and story themes) that...well, the line between homage and plagiarism was often blurred.

When I look at Zach Snyder's IMDB page, I see adaptations...and remakes...but no original story. (Visionary film with no apologies, indeed). I hear a man who loves the graphic novel...but who doesn't seem to see that graphic novels not just "cool books" that can serve as storyboards for movies. I see a guy who wants to bring the graphic novel to the screen...and an audience that is so enraptured around the idea of a Watchmen movie, that they may actually find the movie disappointing because it's "so much like the book".

The book's strength is that it does things that are now cliche in today's comics - ironically juxtaposing text and picture, playing with time, even down to the "caption-as-thought-balloon" trick (as practiced by Brad Meltzer). I'm sure that several comics fans will leave comments about how I'm a "hater" who has to spoil it for everyone...and I am looking forward to it. Let's face it, it's opening on my birthday - how cool is that?

But anyway, I'm not too worried - or enthused - about the Watchmen film, because quite frankly - the best movie is the one that plays in my head every time I reread the comic.

1 comment:

thomwade said...

I am not sure that is a fair assessment of Snyder...most Directors-even really good ones-are not the authors of their stories, they are the interpreter. Coppola, Scorcese, Speilberg, Hawkes, Htchcock, etc all have done adaptions or worked from others writings. Lucas has probably done the most originals vs adaptions...and is he better than the others at telling a story?

I am not bothered that you are underwhelmed...some folks are bound to be. Some of the excited will also be bitterly disappointed. But I have heard this assessment of Snyder before-and I am not sure it is a totally fair way to judge whether he is capable of making a solid film here. The interviews indicate someone who takes his source very reverently-as much more than a cool storyboard. And he has stated that the film is aimed at doing to super-hero movies what the original did to Super-hero comics. I am not ready to write him off is all.