Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

One of the newer movies coming out that I'm really looking forward to is The Watchmen. It's based of a 1986 graphic novel (that's fancy terminology for a comic book these days). I read it back when it first came out, and it was really like nothing that had been done in comics up until that time. It really deconstructed the whole idea of what superheroes are and a more realistic view of what would happen were there superheroes in the real world. And it's not always pretty in that most of the characters aren't what you would consider noble nor do they represent "Truth, Justice and the American Way". In fact, when Alan Moore originally wrote the pitch, it was to contain the comic book characters DC had just acquired from Charlton Comics. The problem was that after Moore's story none of the characters would be viable or usable as a property, and since DC had just shelled out some serious cash for these characters they had reservations about where the story would leave them. So Moore changed the characters into analogues of the Charlton characters.

The way Watchmen was written, with it's broad themes and it's jarring transitions, it was the first time I had ever seen the comic book genre producing something that I felt had true literary merit. Now, I'm completely prepared to admit that I was young back then and that probably has done a lot to cloud my ability to objectively look at this work (I mean, I still look back with fondness on such TV shows as Airwolf, Wonder Woman and things like the BJ and The Bear). Even discounting my nostalgia for the title, I still believe it was truly ground breaking.

Since I hold this work to be in such high regard, I do admit to being more than a bit worried about what will be done to it in the translation onto the large screen. Part of me just doesn't believe it will work (given how some sequences of the comic had various frames occurring at different time periods juxtaposed to present a message). And the fact that Alan Moore (who I think is probably the premiere comic book writer) doesn't have his name associated with the project isn't filling me with confidence. He had his name removed from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film also, and that movie was so far removed from the actual work it was hard to to see how they had anything to do with one another other than sharing the name and concept. And he had his name removed from V For Vendette also, although in that case I thought it was at least a bit closer to the original work. Given that it's hard for me to tell how this one is going to turn out. Everything I've seen shows Watchmen to be fairly faithful to the original source material. So this could go either way.

And there's currently so much hype for the movie that it's almost unavoidable at this point. I've been literally bombarded with advertising and promotions for this film (in fact, I've seen so many ways to acquire free tickets by purchasing other items I'm wondering how the movie itself is going to make any money from ticket sales). The advertising is everywhere. Commercials are in all the shows I watch. Does it deserve the hype? I don't know. But you can know one thing for sure, I'll be watching the Watchmen soon enough.

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