Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Long Winded Bitch and Moan Fest about Watchmen

It finally happened. Someone in Hollywood had the cajones to adapt Watchmen into a movie. The question that begs to be answered is: Should Watchmen be a movie?

For those that don't know, Watchmen is one of the most important comics ever written. It's not the best comic ever, but this was the first time a superhero comic was intended for adults. Politics, sex, these weren't topics that were typically addressed in comics. Watchmen changed all of that. Watchmen showed the world that comics could be a legitimate form of literature. Stories have been written since that do the same thing except better, but Watchmen was the first.

It really is surprising it took this long to make it to the big screen. There have been talks about making it into a film for years now. I read once that Terry Gilliam was approached and he said to make it would cost a million dollars per page of the comic. Maybe what he meant was 'to do it right'.

I don't want to be one of those fanboys that shouts "That's not how it happened in the comic!" over and over, but they really changed more then they lead fans to believe when hyping the film. When the Sin City movie was made, it was heralded as a translation rather than an adaptation. That's what I was hoping for with Watchmen, but sadly that wasn't what we got. Instead what fans were handed was a similar plot with more violence, less backstory, a gratuitous sex scene, and a completely different ending. It felt like they wanted to make the story more Hollywood and inject the kind of stuff you find in your run of the mill R rated blockbuster. I'm no prude, I love sex and violence, but the liberties they took with them in this film fit about as much as Steven Hawkins being casting on Dancing with the Stars.

Like most adaptations, there were a handful of minor changes that I could look past. In the comic, there is an on-going story where a young man is reading a comic called Tales of the Black Freighter. The story is about a sailor trying to find his way back home and has to overcome lots of obstacles. Rather than have the character reading the comic in the film, which would have added an hour to the movie, they released it as an animated film, which is due out on DVD later this month.

Minor tweaks to the characters' origins and added sex and violence aside, I think the biggest affront to this story was the dramatic change of the ending. Please keep in mind that if you haven't read the book or seen the movie I'm about to ruin both for you, so if you don't want to ruin the surprise stop reading now.

In the book there is a subplot about a group of people that are considered leaders in their fields; an artist, a writer, scientists, et cetera. We see that they are on an island working on a secret project. It is later revealed that what they're working on would unkowingly be used as Doomsday device for Veidt, only to have their ship home blow up with everyone on it. Veidt puts their plan into motion at the end of the story which includes placing a giant alien squid thinggie in the center of New York City which kills half of the population with it's psychic brain (I'm really oversimplifying it; just go read the damn book already). The idea that the planet was attacked by an alien force convinces the nations to set their differences aside and combine their efforts. Veidt essentially unites the world in one common goal. It's human nature to be at war, but perhaps they could all finally join together to fight the same enemy, even if it wasn't real. And that's exactly what Veidt accomplishes.

The film is similar in the respect that Veidt has scientists working to unwittedly attack New York. He murders them to ensure that no one could reveal his secret. Instead of sending a giant alien squid thinggie to the city, he fabricates an attack and makes it look like it came from Dr. Manhattan. In framing Manhattan (the guy, not the city), he has effectively convinced the world to unite to defend itself from the now crazy Dr. Mantattan and his blue dick of doom.

How retarded. Like any other country wouldn't just say, "Well that sucks for the US, but let's just make sure we're ready in case he comes here!" An alien attack is something that would be a threat to the planet as a whole, and since the attack was partially psychic in the book it effected people all over the globe.

I guess I was expecting too much from the film. It had so much potential. I will admit that it looks gorgeous on the big screen. They really did make the characters come to life. The best part of the film is Rorschach, who despite having one of the most brutal scenes in the film, is the character kept most true to the comic.

I was just hoping that in an industry where a comic book film could be made into art, which is what Christopher Nolan achieved with The Dark Knight, Zack Snyder would take the holiest of comic stories and keep it a bit more true to the book. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Watchmen creator Alan Moore said, "I increasingly fear that nothing good can come of almost any adaptation, and obviously that's sweeping. There are a couple of adaptations that are perhaps as good or better than the original work. But the vast majority of them are pointless." Some would call that statement a bit glib, but after seeing this movie, I'm beginning to agree.

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