Saturday, March 07, 2009

Further Watchmen maunderings

Because I just can't get enough. More SPOILERS, obviously.

Tavis suggests in comments the possibility that Visionary Director Zack Snyderâ„¢ (if you think I'm ever going to stop doing that--well, you may be in for a pleasant surprise!) may well be a closet case--something which hadn't occurred to me, but which probably should have. Thinking of 300 and Watchmen in tandem--well, the evidence does seem pretty strong, and it's a theory with a lot of explanatory power.

There are a lot of people--on the AV Club, for instance--who claim to love both the book AND the movie. This kind of blows my mind. I don't like to cast aspersions on strangers' tastes (okay, I LIKE it, but I'm aware that it's kind of obnoxious, so I try to avoid it), but I don't know what possible explanation there could be for this other than that their reading of the book is very, very shallow. What exactly did you like about the book? It can't have been any of its weighty explorations of power, psychosis, and morality, since all of this is either distorted beyond recognition or actually reversed in the movie. Did you really just like the pretty pictures? Or is it just that you were so stunned that the movie looked so much like the book that you left all of your critical faculties at home?

The more I think about it, the more I dislike the movie's ending. People say it was "true to the book's spirit?" In what sense, People? Certainly not in the sense of the attack being literally inconceivable to people (in the sense that Borges' "Blue Tigers" are inconceivable), which is kinda the whole point. Nor in the sense of having any visceral impact whatsoever, which is extremely necessary. I suppose if the ONLY thing you took away from the book's climax was "a lot of people get killified," then the movie's version wouldn't seem so bad to you. That would certainly fit in with People liking the framework while being indifferent to thematic significance.

Was the script for the movie really co-written by David Hayter? Snake's voice actor in Metal Gear Solid? 'Cause that's just weird.

Not that it's a particular criticism of the movie, since it goes down in both versions, but I have to quibble: The World's Smartest Man is really unable to come up with a way to encrypt his computer such that a random dude can't guess his password and access all his files in two tries? REALLY, now.

Finally, while I think my feelings on the movie are pretty clear, I would nonetheless like to vigorously distance myself from Anthony Lane's painfully stupid review, which is one of the most smug, condescending, and witless things I've ever read. Seriously, that guy's an embarrassment to The New Yorker. Better movie critics, please.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Although I haven't yet seen the film version of Watchmen, I can think of another movie which is a parallel example of what you're talking about:

Starship Troopers.

Now, for anybody who has read Robert Heinlen's excellent novel, they'd be aware that its primarily an excercise in irony, presenting militant fascism under the most positive light possible. Its really quite a clever look into the workings of propaganda and gung-ho group-think. The few science-fiction battle scenes are really only window-dressing to present the much richer socio-political conversations throughout the book.

Then, there's the movie, which features exploding bugs, and most of the thematic content has been stripped... Either Paul Verhooven and/or the audience didn't get it.

I like both. I think its possible to like both when there's a conscious disconnect between the novel and film version. When one casts light on the other, or at least RECOGNISES the original theme, even if it subverts it.

The same SHOULD have been possible for Watchmen.

I suppose the difference would be that Snyder and co don't seem to realise what they've done, nor do they have a strong understanding of the source material (the first clue for me was the ultra-slick costume designs).

I've noticed that of the people who claim to have liked the book AND film, most are the type of fans who "skipped those stupid pirate parts"... Pirates being 'stupid', compared to, say, superheroes.

Everything I'm reading about this film, even the positive reviews, is making me even LESS interested in seeing this film (if that were possible).

12:54 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Interesting. Is Starship Troopers REALLY meant ironically (note that I've not actually read it)? All I know is that a LOT of people seem to have the conception that the book is serious and the movie is parodic (note that I haven't seen the movie either). Not that it's not possible--probable, even for a lot of people to be wrong. Still, I do know that Heinlein's political views as expressed in his work were, oh, erratic, let's say, so I don't know.

Frankly, I think Visionar--oh, forget it Zack Snyder is too dumb to know what he was doing in a conscious way. I guess you could argue that his version of the story was meant to be some sort of ironic comment on the original (if you want to give him what is in my opinion WAY too much credit), but given that the original was already a deconstruction of superhero mythology, the rhetorical purpose behind such a movie would seem confused to say the least.

2:25 AM  
Blogger rewinn pontificated to the effect that...

Put me down as one who liked the movie. The book was ground-breaking but the author took himself too seriously.

Yes, yes deconstructing the super-hero or, as Moore aptly renames it, the Vigilante. That insight alone was worthwhile, and he developed it with extreme skill. But he needed the pirate material, IMO, because the limitations of the sequential art form required an exaggeration of the vigilante dilemma for it for the emotional impact to pierce the sympathy we feel for the main story's characters; the movie doesn't need it because the emotional impact of the main character's madness is sharper.

The movie script tied together a lot of stuff and eliminated an entire unnecessary McGuffin, albeit at the cost of losing the selfindulgent cameos of graphic artists.

The password bit is, today, a laugh line but in 1985 it would've been quite natural; the Smartest Man In The World was arrogant enough to think that no-one would penetrate his office (Nite Owl being retired & Rohrshok in prison.)

I appreciate that Ultimate Fans of the book may, with its author, insist that its most important point is the superhero deconstruction, which the movie rather slights in favor of, uhm, plot and characterization, but I think this is a case in which Moore, like Shakespeare, didn't fully understand what his artwork means to the larger audience.

2:05 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

I wouldn't call myself an "ultimate" fan, but I respectfully disagree with you absolutely (although I'll admit I don't totally understand your point re the Black Freighter business). "The movie favors plot and characterization?" It is to laugh, unless you think that making Dan and Laurie into sadistic, badass superhero types after the manner of Frank Miller rather than Alan Moore represents a step in the right direction.

2:12 AM  

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