Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Having watched the Watchmen trailer a few times, finding it to be awful, a grungy cover band version of visuals gutted from a terrific story, working with weightless dull effects taken from images that had touching, simple, wonderous sci-fi beauty on the page, I reread the Alan Moore graphic novel.

From reading Watchmen again I don't think a film of this, on an insane budget, can be successful with the layers involved within the tale. Watchman is essentially a complex arthouse set-up, has stories within stories, that leaves the ending in a very ambiguous moral mess. It could be adapted by Antonioni, with its stories floating into one other to show theme in mood rather than narrative drive, ambiguous, lost characters floating through a world they once understood, that crumbles as they try to walk within it, feeling absurd about the costumes and attitudes they once embraced. Its great moments are meditations on time, of people reading, thinking while alone, much of the beauty in the internal monologues that will be lost in the macho-ness of so many dulled images suggested in the trailer. So much of the twisted sexuality in the situation, expressed in bright visuals, looks lost within the mainstreamed idea of lots of leather and dark photography, (some costumes look very Joel Schumacher batman, a horrible element to add) the romances involved within the bizarre repression within character seeming to be ignored as too disturbing. This is also a story that has age as a concern, is against the ideas of people looking like models, many characters being old, are people who were once great but are now left to rot. Characters have middle-age spreads, cannot perform.

It's a story not made for the guy who directed the appallingly stupid 300, a film which had good actors acting like models. Nothing in these images shown suggest that these are losers touchingly out of date, that they have costumes and attitudes that are seen in various contexts, many of which are absurd. The villain has a strange, hopeful plan that is also insanely violent, requires a lot of time to set-up in mood, as do most events in the story. If rushed they become plot. This story, like a lot of art, does not rely on plot, is weak in that area, is more concerned with the meaning of various types of inner monologues and outer landscapes, how they interact and create meaning.

The ambiguity of the end is so adult that there's no way it'll be faced at the level intended, even if the film simply follows plot beats. My guess is that it'll stick to the same plot as the source, roughen it up, change the meaning. A lot of people will fall for it if its competent as a thriller as the central focus is so solid, of superheroes over time. But the trailers and images released have gotten so much wrong, have gone for dark pulp rather than a beautiful take on twisted fifties nostalgia gone to eighties Reaganism, that I see subtle betrayal. Yet the footage has been embraced, making me wonder if those who read the original story are so into stupid pulp brutality that they're forgetting the the watchmen story is a lefty attack on this very thoughtlessness. It just seems, from what I've seen so far, like so many other adaptations, to be a waste of what could be.

Hopefully I'm wrong.

On the plus side, I have been enjoying the great Futurama films. Now this is classy stuff. Both films, Bender's Big Score and Beast With A Billion Backs, are hilarious, both have terrific odd moments of sci-fi concepts and visuals, are far more imaginative than most self-serious sci-fi. At the moment I slightly prefer Beast but its close. Bender Big Score has a better plot and a greater, more moving ending but Beast is funnier for me, has more interesting odd character bits, plus has a lot of Kif and Zap Brannigan, which will always give it an edge. So that can cheer me up when I look at Watchman and wonder why? Just think of Bender saying Hasta La Vista Meatbag.

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