Kevin’s right, of course.

I wish I could be as determined as Kevin to avoid the film, as Watchmen the comic book is a work I respect tremendously, but between Pete expressing an interest in it, the presence of Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the film, and my own morbid curiosity over just how bad it’s going to be, I’m pretty sure I’m on the hook to see it at some point. Of course, what really fascinates me in that link is the fact that, once again, for stating an opinion Kevin is being raked over the coals by people unable or unwilling to see his point. And that’s funny to me, because Kevin is a hell of a lot more politic about it than I would be.

I mean, let’s all be perfectly honest here: Watchmen the movie is not for comic book fans. It’s for the people who made Paul Blart: Mall Cop the number one film in the country for several weeks. It’s for the people who read The DaVinci Code and patted themselves on the back because they read big, thick books. It’s for people who keep Fox News on the air.

And you can’t blame Kevin, who is in most things a man of taste and discernment, for not wanting to subject himself to a film crafted for that audience. Which begs the question: why would anyone take Watchmen, one of the most important texts in the history of comic books, and turn it into a film aimed squarely at the lowest common denominators of the American public? And that’s when we get to the tragic truth…

Most people didn’t read Watchmen and come away with an indictment of the fetishization of nostalgia. They didn’t read it and find a critique of authoritarian power structures in global politics and how that is mirrored in popular entertainment vigilante fantasies. They didn’t find an examination of the limits of that whole “power and responsibility” thing and how that absolutist notion of morality falls apart when faced with reality. Nor did they find an amazing example of story-telling structure that fully exploits the idiosyncratic nature of the comic book medium to tell a mature story that is, quite literally, only possible within the comic book medium.

No, they found a cynical super-hero beat-’em-up comic with sex and swearing. They skipped the text pieces. They skipped the “boring stuff with the pirate comic.” And they found that if they threw the word “deconstruction” around when discussing the comic, they sounded smart.

And that’s the movie Zack Snyder is giving us:  that shallow, superficial reading of the comic translated to film. I mean, honestly, what else did anyone expect?

10 Responses to “In Which I Am Joyless and Pretentious”
  1. Chad says:

    I’ve always thought that the only way a “Watchmen” film could work was if the filmmakers distanced themselves from the source material as much as reasonably possible and worked toward making a good film rather than an adaptation. Unfortunately, that’s obviously not what we’re getting.

    Ah well. At least I’ll have my fantasies of what Terry Gilliam’s version would have been like.

  2. Steven H says:

    I’ve always kinda had an inkling that Watchmen wasn’t fully grasped by a lot of people by the frequency it’s mentioned in the same breath as The Dark Knight Returns and held up as a forerunner of “grittier, darker” superhero comics.

  3. Sallyp says:

    What…no pirates in the movie? Well, the heck with that!

  4. I still think you’re being too harsh. While I agree about everything you said of lowest common denominators (unavoidable when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake), I’d like to hold at least a tiny sliver of hope in my heart that Snyder and the rest at least tried as hard as possible to keep as many of the subversive elements fresh and to the fore.

    Yeah, I know, I want a Unicorn too. But at the end of the day, unless some WB exec discovers time travel, we’ll always have the original text anyway, so gives a shit?

  5. Matt Maxwell says:

    But the Terry Gilliam version would have had that Sam Hamm screenplay due to the timing of the thing. You sure you really want that?

  6. Mark says:

    You claim that most people skipped the text pieces? What is this based on, the need to feel like you are part of a minority that “gets it”?

  7. Dorian says:

    Mark–I base that claim on the many conversations I’ve had with customers about the book when I worked in a comic book store. I base that claim on the discussions of the comic I’ve seen online over the years. I base that claim on the number of basic errors of fact and interpretation I see whenever the book comes up, errors that clearly indicate that the person making them did not read the text pieces.

  8. jim says:

    I love it when you get joyless and pretentious! Even if you ended up bashing Paul Blart: Mall Cop!

  9. Martin Wisse says:

    I have some hope for this movie, since V for Vendetta turned out to be pretty good and is certainly as complex a story as Watchmen. If the movie turns out to be crap, the comic still exists.

  10. Bill D. says:

    “No, they found a cynical super-hero beat-’em-up comic with sex and swearing.”

    I’m not defending that audience, but I do think it needs pointing out that that’s what a lot of the comic book industry took away from Watchmen, too, sadly.

    I’m definitely curious to see it, though as I’m in the middle of re-reading the book, I’m confident a lot (if not all) of the subtext and subtlety will be lost in favor of a surface-only approach to the material. But at least the surface story is interesting, so I’m hoping to at least be entertained, even if “meaning” is tossed out the window.

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