i have many thoughts as to the existence of the forthcoming watchmen film... most of which concern its nature as a commodity, its artistic achievement or lack thereof, the line between adaptation and transposition, etc... a lot of questions to which there are no simple answers. i don't doubt for a moment that the experience of seeing the movie is going to be an exhilarating one from start to finish, but... is that necessarily a good thing?
a part of me thinks that the fact that this movie is going to be wildly entertaining is potentially an enormous and increasingly corrosive problem.
what's the point of this whole project? to bring a treasured story to the masses in a more digestible format? selfless and surely a part of it, but hardly the reason that such rabid anticipation abounds from all corners, including this blog and this blogger. it SEEMS as if the fervor over the movie seems to implicitly suggest one medium's hierarchical status as superior to another - people who could draw watchmen by memory are clamoring to see this thing because they want to see their favorite characters brought to life... so it SEEMS as if they want motion pictures to do for this story what still cels could not. whether it be removing what little work the graphic novel format demands of the imagination or tapping into the boundless joy of the cinema of attractions... it can safely be said that if watchmen were originally a movie that was going to be published as a graphic novel on march 6th, it wouldn't have quite the same cultural cache.
but film is not an inherently more capable medium than the graphic novel. it's just different and this is what i fear zack snyder does not understand. *though, for the record, i think the brunt of the truly indelible storytellers, poets, philosophers of the 20th century opted to devote themselves to the former... i'm sorry, and maybe it's just a perceived gravitas, but i can't put stan lee in the same company of a robert bresson - frank miller with abbas kiarostami.
a 12 year-old with the right tools at his disposal could splay the static images of watchmen across three hours worth of motion pictures and wind up with a pretty fun ride. but doesn't watchmen deserve better? i mean, i think i should be more excited to see watchmen than anyone else, because i'm someone who enjoyed the source material but hardly thought it was life-altering, and am excited to re-trace my steps in as concise and eye-popping a fashion as possible. people unfamiliar with the graphic novel are largely going to be apathetic, and the true fanboys and girls... the passionate ones... shouldn't they be pissed? or... anxious? curious, sure. but excited... genuinely excited, convinced of impending greatness... no. watchmen was as much about form and deconstruction as it was about narrative... from elliptical pages to the ransacking of mythos and genre... it was a game-changer told with some serious aplomb.
the irony of taking this particular graphic novel and literally transposing it (save for a few aesthetic details...) is infuriating.
it's infuriating in theory, and if my fears are proven to be validated, it's going to be that much more infuriating in execution as i enjoy the shit out of the movie and then find myself in a tizzy in the lobby afterwards. snyder has not been coy about his approach to the material... in fact he seems to be blithely unaware that the project could have been handled in any other fashion. he seems most proud of how accurately he was able to emulate the source material, as if - given the money and tools of modern movie-making - that's any sort of accomplishment.
what's worse is that the few visual flourishes he's brought to the table - at least so far as i've seen - have been DIRECTLY ANTITHETICAL TO THE ESSENCE OF WATCHMEN. slow-mo? and so much of it? really? but... aren't these physically unexceptional people bringing the business of crime-fighting and the personalities behind it down to a real if not sociopathic level? isn't any sort of gloss or sheen in direct contradiction with the filthy world they inhabit and the filth they inhabit it with? when malin ackerman preternaturally dodges a piece of exploding... whatever during the prison break-in... i want to put my head in my hands and whisper, "no." i felt as if i had to wash my hands with lysol after every chapter of the graphic novel... the clips from the movie give me the same satisfaction of watching the set pieces from ong-bak or casino royale. now... i know that there are probably just 3 or 4 action beats in the movie, and they're naturally being used to sell it... so i'm going to assume positive intent and expect that the other 2:30 hours of the movie capture everything that the clips suggest has been sacrificed... but this all distracts from my main point which is that a story of such complexity... a project rife with such potential... should not be transposed. it should be re-imagined. it should take advantage of the new medium's unique properties to mine the source material for new ideas... to use a new set of tools to explore alan moore's ideas in ways the graphic novel format didn't allow for, even if it means discarding some of dave gibbons' iconic work (actually, it sounds as if the opening credit sequence has done just that... a cause for hope).
fans and their fidelity. sigh.
at the end, it all goes back to herzog... as everything does. zack snyder only seems interested in the accountant's truth. if only watchmen had been helmed by a filmmaker who was more than a cover artist... zack snyder, the glitziest bar singer in america. if only it had been helmed by a filmmaker who was looking for something ecstatic. well, in that case the movie may never have been made... risk is profit's arch-nemesis... but maybe that would have been for the best?
when a filmmaker's ambition is simply to put a graphic novel into motion... he not only does filmgoers a tremendous disservice by ignoring all but the basic functions of the medium, but he re-institutes the hierarchy of arts... by ignoring its unique qualities in order to faithfully present those of another format, he actually makes film subservient to the graphic novel.
bah. even if watchmen is the bestest movie in all the land, i think this topic deserves a lot of thought. a lot more thought than a hastily written pre-gym blog post can offer it, at least. and do remember that this is all just a big WHAT IF... i already have my tickets for the midnight show in imax, and i feel confident that my 16 bucks has bought me an invigorating 3 hours. i hope against hope that i've bought more than that...