Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Watch Watchmen -- Read It

The Watchmen is coming to a theater near you.  But you can get the real story right now.  (Note:  an animated series exists.  I don't know a thing about it.  I have no data on it.  This piece does not address it.)

The trailer promises a film from the "visionary director of '300'".  If you want an idea what kind of visions those are -- 
... seriously, Dr. Manhattan, who lacks even a corporeal body, with a love scene?  In the what-happened-to-my-body love story Ghost at least there was a spiritual medium's body to borrow.  And since when was Manhattan interested in women? The whole point of his character works against the motives 300's director ascribes to him. 
-- look no further than The Jaded Consumer's excoriation of 300.  300's director may have "vision" but it's certainly not good vision.  It's a fun-house vision that distorts beauty queens into homely freaks.  Don't be fooled.

Buy the graphic novel.  It's a hell of a story.  It's a tragedy in the original sense of the word, whose self-unmade noble is cast from the mold of a savagery so pure it approaches sainthood, or madness.  The genius of the tale isn't its special effects extravaganza.  Christopher Nolan's Batman flicks are wonderful in large part because of the exotic techniques (disguise, martial arts, poison, high-tech gizmos, complex interpersonal manipulations, etc.) the various characters employ to achieve their objectives.  Even as characters in the Batman universe are complex, deep, and broken humans for whom we easily care, the thrill of the tale comes in large part from the exotic elements brought to bear by the bat-billionaire and his enemies.  The Watchmen, by contrast, is a largely low-rent assemblage of mostly not-really-super-heroes whose attractiveness results from their purely personal decisions to decide who is worth saving and when.  The irony of the story is part of its genius:  the character with the moral high ground is the most ruthless, vicious, and spiritually worthless of the lot.  Acquiring real power doesn't mean acquiring real judgment, we learn.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The Watchmen -- the real one, the graphic novel -- is genius.  The work deserves better, and it's clear that graphic novels can be translated effectively to film.  If you rent the flick, make sure you know what the real deal is first.  Don't be taken by the director and his mad lust to "amp" graphic novels by adding gratuitous nitwittery.  If his defilement of Watchmen is anything like his abysmal treatment of the graphic novel 300, you won't want to get close enough to the resulting tripe (or ill-cooked kidney pie, take your pick) to see or smell it.

No comments: