Monday, July 21, 2008

Ready to Watch The Watchmen?

I must confess that although it's a ground breaking comic, and one of the most enjoyable series I've read, I haven't re-read Watchmen since I bought the original 12 issue Limited Series back in the 1980s! Which basically means I've only ever read it as a monthly comic and never as a graphic novel. (Sorry Dave! - and apologies to Alan too if you're out there.)

However I intend to remedy that this summer now I've bought Absolute Watchmen, a fantastically luxurious hardbacked, slipcased, remastered-coloured version of the story. That should keep me occupied for quite some time.

The reason I'm coming back to Watchmen is of course to refresh my memory of the saga in time for when the movie debuts next year. The jury's still out on whether it can be transfered to screen convincingly, - or even if it should be adapted into a movie. Most other comic book movies haven't been enhanced by Hollywood and the public notion that a comic movie is somehow more socially acceptable than the original comic is increasingly annoying.

Daredevil? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Elektra? Judge Dredd? All failed to capture the spirit and intelligence of their original comics, and as good as Spider-Man was would you trade your Ditko and Romita comics for the DVD? However, I keep hearing that Watchmen may do justice to its source material. I certainly hope so, and will be going to see it with an open mind. The film doesn't open until next year but the hype has already started. An exclusive trailer was on the Empire website until recently and Entertainment Weekly is releasing a Comic-Con special:

Click here to visit the Entertainment Weekly website to read the feature and see images from the film:,,20213273,00.html


Tad Suiter said...

I'm deeply skeptical. The source material is just too long and complex-- I think it could be put on the screen well, but as a mini-series. The mini-series is a neglected artform. Mostly, they're kind of crap, but once in a while you get something like "Roots" or (even better) "Scenes From a Marriage."

I just don't think it'll translate well into a two-hour film.

You add to that the fact that it sometimes seems like Alan Moore somehow sabotages the Hollywood adaptations of his films-- I'm sorry, you can't take something as good as LoEG or From Hell and end up with such bad adaptations without EFFORT!-- and the project seems doomed.

That said, I'll be there opening night. Because I'm a geek that way.

Ken Davidson said...

I think we comics fans are being entirely unrealistic when we expect comic adaptations to be 'faithful' or 'as good as' the original material. These are wholly different media, with completely different delivery mechanisms. Time allocated to a normal movie is one difference - 2 hours is scant time to develop subplots or characters.

Scathing criticism of these movies is often firstly based on if it matches the original comic, rather than first asking, "did it entertain?". I for one enjoyed watching V for Vendetta, From Hell, and LXG - while still being aware of their failings.

This debate reminds of the discussion regarding Phil Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep being made into Bladerunner. I don't think the name change was for trivial box-office reasons. Ridley Scott quite deliberately veered away from Phil's vision in many areas - and before his untimely death Mr Dick was apparently content that both works stood on their own two feet. A far cry from Mr Moore's attitude I contend. Okay, we're talking about comics to movies; rather than novels to movies - but the same sentiment should apply: we should approach the movie versions as standalone pieces, and appraise them on their own entertainment and artistic merits.

I think the phrase is "movie *inspired* by" or "based upon" - not "intended to be a moving comic book"!

Lew Stringer said...

I see your point, but my concern is "Do these movies do comics any favours"? The public assume the film accurately reflects the source, which it rarely does.

Having said that, I found the X-Men movies far more enjoyable than I ever found X-Men comics to be, and for some unfathomable reason I really liked the Ghost Rider movie. I suppose the more simplistic the comic is, the less Hollywood can damage it, but anything more sophisticated gets diluted.

Ken Davidson said...

Agreed there have been some dire movies, but examine them closely and I think they'd be dire without the comics connection ;)

The great unwashed already have a dim view of tight-wearing comic stories, I doubt any movie so far has changed that position for the worse!

GhostRider - I thought, "what? Nic Cage?" but thank the lord he seemed to play it for laughs.

Iron Man - excellent example of a comic movie being a great ambassador for the source material, continuity stalwarts' opinions to one side.

Your point about more sophisticated works: perhaps, then, Watchmen should be a mini-series? Or a full-blown 22-episode arc - there's certainly enough material.

Lew Stringer said...

Perhaps Hollywood could just come up with their own ideas?

Iron Man was great fun, thanks to Downey Jr, but IMHO the comic hasn't been on form since 1968 so anything would be an improvement. :-)

I'm intrigued to see how Watchmen turns out. The comic was fine on its own merits but I'm pleased that Dave will benefit from it.

Piley said...

Hi Lew, great post. I've been having a similar mini-rant over on my blog this week on the very same subject.

My beef is that when a naff film is released (your example of TLOEG is the same one i used!), it somehow also taints my enjoyment of the comic. I can never delete my memory of that awful film (no matter how hard i try!)

pop by my blog if you get a moment.


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