Sunday, March 1, 2009

Five Reasons To Avoid Watchmen

As you may already be aware, the 1980s comic book Watchmen (written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons) has been made into a film, which opens next weekend (I think). I am not going to see it, which would involve paying money to do so, for the following reasons:
1) It's directed by the same guy who was responsible for the loathsome fascist bilgewater tripe 300, a film which I have only seen snippets of (because it was impossible to watch without wanting to hurl heavy objects at the screen). He also stated, in response to Alan Moore's public dismissal of the film adaptation, that: "Worst case scenario - Alan puts the movie on his DVD player on a cold Sunday in London and watches and says, 'Yeah, that doesn't suck too bad.'" Way to set your artistic sights high, dude! This also shows how much research he did, seeing as Alan Moore lives in Northampton, something that anyone with even a basic knowledge of his work would be aware of. (Moore wrote a book entirely about Northampton, Voice of the Fire, the last chapter of which describes him writing it in ... Northampton!) According to Wikipedia: "Moore expressed discontent over the choice of the director, saying that he "had a lot of problems" with the comic book 300 and that, while he had not seen it, he had heard that Snyder's film adaptation was racist, homophobic, and "sublimely stupid"." Which is a pretty accurate summation, in fairness.
2) As mentioned, Alan Moore has publicly stated that he will not be going to see it, and has had his name removed from the project. He said: "I shan't be going to see it. My book is a comic book. Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It's been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee." Let me also point out that previous films of Moore's work have been little short of disastrous: both V For Vendetta and From Hell were travesties of their source material, jettisoning everything that made the books interesting in favour of trendy devices and breathtakingly ridiculous narratives. V For Vendetta, in particular, suffered from the problem of transferring a comic written in the eighties to our contemporary age, a task which the filmmakers botched with startling ineptitude. And the less said about From Hell, the better...
3) As Moore states above, Watchmen was conceived of as a comic book. But not only that: Watchmen is a comic book about comic books, a work in which the form is absolutely integral to the content, and from the outset the creators are continuously drawing your attention to this fact, as well as cramming huge amounts of detail into the narrative (much of which has been removed, I've heard). Remove this and you remove what makes it interesting, and it becomes just another superhero story. So why not simply come up with an original idea, one that's more suited to a filmic treatment? Of course, any producer making this statement in Hollywood today is likely to be on welfare shortly afterwards! (An analogy would be with something like At-Swim-Two-Birds, which can only work fully as a book - transpose it into a different medium and it loses much of what makes it special, without gaining anything to compensate. I'm not claiming that Watchmen is as substantial an achievement on a cultural level, by the way; it isn't.)
4) It's a superhero story which, by the looks of the trailer, suffers from Dark Knight Syndrome: a slight, silly, improbable story taking itself way too seriously (and is gratuitously violent). The comic book was flawed by the same problems to a certain degree, but was saved by its astonishingly structural complexity, its remarkably convincing and detailed world, and Moore's intelligence and storytelling ability, as well as the genuine moral ambiguity and depth of the narrative he creates (which, as stated before, is continually drawing attention to itself as a fictional construct based within a comic-book universe). I simply can't imagine how much of the action from the comic will transfer to the screen (which resembles reality much more than a comic does) and not appear preposterous. I don't have much truck with superhero stories at the best of times, and nothing I've heard about this film makes me think that it will change my mind...
5) Life is short. So why bother wasting it watching a film that, at best, will make you say: "Well, that wasn't too bad..."?
[An addition to the above, written some days after] One of the delights of comment moderation is that it allows you to vet those by friends who are commenting while blind drunk (especially if they e-mail you the following day asking you not to publish the comments, as they can't actually remember what they wrote). But in (one of) the comment(s) from said friend, he asked: "How can you pass judgement on something you haven't seen?" It's a fair question, and I'd like to point out that I'm not actually "passing judgement" on Watchmen the movie. It might be brilliant, and I'm depriving myself of a treat by avoiding it. However, I am making an educated guess that it won't be, based on the facts listed above. Like most people, I do this with every film: I look at the source material, the director's track record, the subject matter, the critical responses, and then make up my mind as to whether the film is actually worth paying money to see in the cinema (rather than waiting for it to appear on TV). I did the same thing with The Simpsons Movie, because I knew it would be a worthless turnip of a film and it would depress me to see such a travesty of what made the cartoon series brilliant (all those years ago). And I don't need to sit through films like Disaster Movie or The Hottie and the Nottie to know they'll be terrible.
I'd like to take this opportunity to say that, while I do have the power to block comments, I will never block any comment solely based on the fact that it disagrees with something I've said! I'll only censor comments if they are pointlessly abusive, incoherent, libellous, or contain too much swearing (especially the C-word, which I strongly disapprove of (and I'm in a minority among Irish bloggers on this one)). But intelligent objections to anything I write are more than welcome!

6 comments:

jams o donnell said...

To be honest I was intrigued to see what a film adaptation of the Watchmen would be like - but in my heart of hearts I know it will be a dog's breakfast.

I can't imagine At Swim Two Birds getting a film treatment. Worse still imagine Hollywood getting its hands on the Third Policeman... Segreanmt Pluck would probably be played by Vin Diesel!

A Doubtful Egg said...

The one positive thing about this film is that at least it brings people back to the source material, and may lead them to Moore's other writings. He's done some very interesting things, like The Birth Caul and Voice of the Fire, that might surprise people who've only read Watchmen!

jams o donnell said...

Or even The Ballad of Halo Jone

A Doubtful Egg said...

I remember reading the first book ofHalo Jones when it came out in 2000AD and thinking it was brilliant! I wish I hadn't lost my copy of it... (I do have a copy of Skizz, which is good, but it's no Halo!)

jams o donnell said...

Interpreter Skizz of the Tau Ceti Imperium? Now there's a character I haven't thought of in a long time!

A Doubtful Egg said...

I had a flip through Skizz last night. It's dated now, but still very likeable. Skizz, "Rahk-See" and Cornelius are great characters. And Moore's ability shines through what is a fairly early effort. Flippi-neck!