Friday, February 20, 2009

Giving Watchmen a BJ, and Forgetting Steve Ditko's Contribution to Spider-Man

Entertainment Weekly, a magazine that is part of the Time Warner megaconglomerate has six- count em six ('Watchmen' Exclusive! Six EW Covers!)- covers commemorating the Time Warner movie "Watchmen," which will be opening in a few weeks. There's also a cover story that reads like it could have been written by the Time Warner film promotion department.

Adapted faithfully, if not completely, from the celebrated 1986 comic-book series, Snyder's film is visually and intellectually ambitious, filled with heady ruminations about savior figures, pop culture, and the politics of fear.

Watchmen's financial backers are clearly hoping the success of The Dark Knight has primed the market for sophisticated superhero films.

There is an interesting bit of information regarding the version of the film that Paul Greengrass was working on:

The Greengrass iteration, for example, updated everything and swapped out the Cold War context for the war on terror.

Which would have been a totally bizarre and unnecessary change. One point of the book is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example the Keene Act could clearly stand in for the Patriot Act, or FISA or almost anything that our politicians have been doing to fight "the war on terror" anyway. Not sure how swapping out the Cold war context for the war on terror would have helped. What's wrong with being subtle?

Then there's this:

At a time when superhero stories are commonplace and our shaken country is pinning its recovery on an idealistic new president, Watchmen's director believes his movie can serve as a bracing blast of healthy skepticism. ''Someone asked me if I thought that because Barack Obama had been elected president, the movie was no longer relevant. I said, 'Wow, that's a very optimistic view of the future!''' says Snyder. ''The movie, like the comic, says, 'These superhero stories you've been feasting on? What if we took them seriously? What if we thought through the consequences? Where do they get us?' That's the fun.''

If Zack Snyder really hopes his movie can serve as "a bracing blast of healthy skepticism," then more power to him. For some reason, people seem to think that skepticism in the motives of the government are no longer relevant now that Obama is in office. (See here for a ridiculous article about Battlestar Galactica in that context. Only someone who hasn't been paying attention could think that Obama is very much different from Bush.) Maybe Snyder really is the "visionary" that the commercials say he is:

But the Entertainment Weekly article is downright Murrow-esque, or at least Couric-esque, compared to the BJ the Watchmen were given at the Time magazine blog "Nerdworld".

There is a press blackout on reviewing the Watchmen movie until March 6. However, I've seen the movie, and I'm not press. Don't worry, I'm not going to write a review of Watchmen. What I am going to write about is the emotional experience of seeing a piece of literature with which I have an intense personal connection LITERALLY COME TO LIFE. It's a serious freak-out.

(It's funny that the author mentions the press blackout, then violates the press blackout all the while asserting that he is not violating the press blackout. And on a Time Warner blog, no less.)

I've never understood this desire that some people have to have their appreciation for something- especially, it seems, comic books- validated by some outside force. Particularly movie adaptations. If you love something, as this writer seems to love the original Watchmen comic book, isn't that in itself enough? The effect that it has on you, the reader, is what matters. What do you care what anyone else thinks of it, and why is it so important that a movie be made about it? Didn't the piece of literature with which he has (note the present tense) an intense personal connection LITERALLY COME TO LIFE in his mind, while he was reading it? Didn't it seem to just leap off the page?

Anyway, the blogger (a "Simpsons" producer, by the way) loves the movie so much because

I'm not allowed to talk details, but let's just say it is astounding how much of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel is in this movie.

(Seriously- how is this not a review?)

He then goes on to make a statement that I found irksome, although I realize I'll be in the minority about this:

Really, the absence of Alan Moore's name on this is like Stan Lee's being missing from Spider-Man, because 95 percent of the words and ideas in this movie are all Moore.

Is he suggesting that Spider-Man is 95% Stan Lee's creation? Has this guy, who claims to be such a huge comic book fan, ever heard of Steve Ditko? Is Steve Ditko- who designed the Spider-Man costume, gave Peter Parker his own personality traits, designed the wrist web shooters for crying out loud, who at the very least co-plotted the first 38 issues of the original Amazing Spider-Man comic- only responsible for 5% of Spider-Man's "words and ideas"?

(Was Steve Ditko's name on the Spider-Man movies?)

That's rather ironic, given the fact that Ditko has stood on principle for decades- leaving Spider-Man after a dispute with Lee about the direction of the comic book and ownership of the character, and Alan Moore left DC comics and has had his name removed from all filmed adaptations of his works because of his own principled stands against the treatment of artists and control of their works. Ironic also considering Watchmen is loosely based on the Charlton characters, many of whom Steve Ditko either created (The Question/Rorschach) or re-created (Blue Beetle/Nite Owl).

The big question is, "Is Watchmen a good movie?"

What will people who've never read Watchmen even think of this film? What will it be like for them to sit through these crazy, violent, colorful three hours and not recognize almost every line – almost every image? Will they be utterly baffled, bored, or totally love it? Is Watchmen even a good or bad movie? I have no idea. I stand powerless before the Gods I once worshiped in my attic bedroom, now moving and talking and fighting and loving on a giant screen. And I find myself unable to judge them.

Well then why even bother writing the post?

The only way to know for sure is to actually see the film for myself, I guess, but I still haven't changed my mind about boycotting the film, despite the fact that the litigation between Fox and Time Warner regarding "ownership" of the film has been cleared up.

I guess I'll never know.

(By the way: I found the links to the "Nerdworld" blog from this entertaining site and this equally entertaining one.)

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