Now that mishegoss over the release of the WATCHMEN movie has been resolved, the film will open without a hitch and I'm kind of surprised to find that I don't really care all that much.
Not too long ago I was excited to see that WATCHMEN, hailed by many as the greatest graphic novel of all time, was getting made into an A-list Hollywood production, especially in a time when special effects can handle the story's epic scope and the visuals to bring the awe-inspiring Dr. Manhattan to believable life. I was psyched to hear its content would not be watered down to avoid an R rating. I was intrigued by the casting of Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach and loved the look of the Owlship as it took flight out of the water off NYC in the trailer's footage. But now, the more I see of the film in new trailers, magazine and internet coverage and such just doesn't turn me on. It looks like another "video game movie" with that strangely disconnected look/feel to it, and I'm frankly tired of movies whose environments appear so...fabricated.
Yeah, I know movies are just that, fabrications assembled for our amusement, but there was more going on than just simple entertainment when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons literally rewrote the book on superhero stories, and I'd say the graphic novel's enduring popularity speaks to that. When WATCHMEN first hit (was it really over twenty years ago?), many of its thematic elements had not been seen in American comics before and now the "realism" and examination and deconstruction of the superhero as an archetype found in its pages have become a part of the four-color lexicon, for better or worse. With that in mind, what does a movie of WATCHMEN really offer other than seeing the vision of Moore and Gibbons played out in live action across the screens of the nation's multiplexes, nearly twenty-five years after its ideas have been assimilated? What was eye-opening abut WATCHMEN in the first place is hardly such now, and those who would never read a comic book will probably skip the graphic novel without giving a damn and proceed to the movie based on the fun they had with last year's IRON MAN and THE DARK KNIGHT, and I also wouldn't be surprised if after those two box office juggernauts the average audience member exited WATCHMEN wondering what the big deal was.
If anything, I hope interest in the movie spurs the general public to actually read the source novel and absorb one of the tightest pieces of graphic novel craftsmanship in history. Moore's now-immortal characters read unlike just about any others within the comic book medium, especially Rorschach and my vote for the most underrated of the story's heroes, Daniel Dreiberg (aka Nite-Owl), and Moore's script would more than likely not have borne the gravitas that it did if not for the stunning visual contribution of illustrator Dave Gibbons. For nearly every one of the people who read it when it was serialized in monthly chapters back in the 1980's and for those who've discovered it in recent years, WATCHMEN stands as a monolithic achievement and that rarest of comics that successfully crosses over from the four-color ghetto to be deservedly hailed as a straight-up novel of great merit, and that is what separates it from the graphic novel herd.
Now bear in mind that while I do like it I emphatically do not consider WATCHMEN to be the greatest of all graphic novels — largely due to the inclusion of all that "Tales of the Black Freighter" horseshit and "the Squid" — nor Moore's best work, but the majority of readers, both comics fans and not, hail it as such and the grousing of one lone blogging idiot will do less than nothing to turn that tide of popular opinion so I'm not even going to make the attempt. I'm just curious to see if after all the hype, coupled with the book's lofty reputation, the movie will have even one tenth the presence the novel possesses. More often than not, books lose much of their juice when translated to the screen and the artistically successful book-to-movie translations are few and far between, ROSEMARY'S BABY and LITTLE BIG MAN serving as examples of just how the right director and a great script can generate a classic.
But WATCHMEN does not have a Roman Polanski or an Arthur Penn at its helm. Instead it has Zack Snyder in the driver's seat, the guy who gave the world the unnecessary, mediocre DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and the vastly overrated and simultaneously overwrought and utterly artificial 300, a bit of information that only serves to lower my expectations. Yet you know and I know that I'll see WATCHMEN as soon as possible, if for no reason other than to be able to review it here on The Vault and just to be able to say that I saw it, no matter how it pans out as a work of cinematic entertainment, so that's all I have to say on the subject until whenever I sit my beige ass down in some movie theater's indoor twilight and watch Rorschach cause grievous bodily harm to assorted creeps.
NOTE: it's anyone's guess as to when I'll actually get to see WATCHMEN. Last week some of my co-workers attempted to get tickets for the 10PM Imax showing on opening night and discovered that all showings for opening weekend were sold out and had been for a few weeks. I'm sure the story will be much the same at standard venues, but I will try to see it anyway and won't be surprised if I end up having to wait for a few days. In other words, if you're looking to this blog for an ASAP review, I advise you to consult the major reviewers instead.