|Matthew Daly (matthewdaly) wrote,|
@ 2009-05-01 01:02 pm UTC
One of the most frequent comments I heard going in to the movie was that they did the best job possible of bringing a complicated and non-linear story to the screen, which would have been a difficult task for any director. My response, to borrow Samuel Johnson's wit, is that I wish it had been impossible.
I don't know much about turning books into movies, but I should think that the most critical starting point for a writer and director is to ask what you can show through the cinematic art that wasn't on the page. I mean, the first Harry Potter movie left me with a much greater appreciation of what Quiddich is, plus a greater sympathy for Hermione's character who came across as a concerned older sister instead of just the know-it-all nag that I read in the books. If this is true, then Snyder and Hayter must have thought that their gift of vision to us is that Watchmen readers miss out on how it's all about unspeakable violence, frank and frequent profanity, and long drawn-out sex. True, much of that violence is in the source material, but there is a difference between a single panel in which a character is splashed with copious amounts of blood from something that happened off-panel, and video that directly shows quite a few seconds of a living man's arms being sawed off. This would be interesting if the story were ultimately about a collection of psychotic anti-heroes who wade through corpses of their own devising, but it winds up just being a sophomoric distraction from a story that (to me) is actually about a half-dozen people who all have different notions of what it means to "save the world", and how they are brought into conflict with one another and the final act of the Cold War in the mid-80's. Ironically, when the most devastating violent act is shown, the director pulls back from the impact of the graphic novel by having never introduced us to the people who died. Between the lack of humanization and the desensitization of the previous two hours of video-game gore, the keystone scene of the movie is rendered anti-climactic, and one of the most celebrated quotes in comic book history is nearly swallowed.
So, to make a long story short, save yourself some money. Buy the graphic novel and share it with a friend and you'll enjoy a seminal work of literature that is blemished only by the number of people who have stolen its plot points over the years. But when it comes time to pay tribute to the later generations of superhero deconstruction, the movie version of Watchmen should be far from the top of your honorees.