Graeme McMillan of i09.com makes some important points here about Zach Snyder’s film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, scheduled to be released next March.
…the sheer bizarre weight of excitement and expectation about the movie is overwhelming and offputting. The sheer fangasm that followed the release of the first trailer, with website after website putting up panel-to-frame comparisons to show just how faithful the movie is to the comic was insane; I don’t care how faithful the movie looks to the comic, it’ll still be unable to be replicate the level of depth of writing and experience of the comic, even with the already-announced spin-off DVD of Tales Of The Black Freighter filling in the gaps that they’re creating by only focusing on the shiny shiny superhero stories…
…There’s a level of worship that surrounds Watchmen (the comic), some kind of lack of critical perspective brought on by its historical importance, that tends to make people realize that, for all of its successes (On a technical level, it’s almost perfect, and still unmatched in its ambition to use the medium, for example), it’s not actually as perfect as many people think it is. If Snyder really stays as faithful to the source material as he claims, how will modern audiences react to the suspect gender-politics, heavy-handed party-politics or ridiculous ending that seemed so daring two decades ago, but now seem clunky and awkward next to Chris Nolan’s more complex (if ultimately as unsatisfying) Batmovie?
The comments thread on this post reminds me of the several times I’ve taught Watchmen in my literature courses over the years, as I’ve made a lot of those same points myself during class discussions about translating Alan Moore’s writing to film. I’ll teach the graphic novel at least one more time before the film comes out next spring, and I’m coming to think of it as probably the last time my students will have a mostly textual relationship with the source material. Once Snyder’s film rolls out, future readers of Watchmen will inevitably suffer from what I’ve come to call The Ed Norton Complex (named, natch, after Mr. Norton’s portrayal of “Jack” in David Fincher’s adapation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club, in which the narrator is essentially erased and unnamed), where the film version of a book skews a reader’s first encounter with the source text. For the large part I have absolutely no problem with this skewing, and I even think this skewing is helpful in appreciating how much we really do read in a consumer culture that–strangely enough–is always telling us that we aren’t reading; Fincher smears the line between his film and Palahniuk’s novel to great effect, and Norton’s voice-overs in the film are lovingly appropriated from the source text.
But Zach Snyder is no David Fincher, and as I’ve noted before here on this humble blog, Snyder seems to revere Watchmen as much as he does filming a Miller Lite commercial. Furthermore, I’ve said it plenty of times before in both class and casual conversation: if Terry freakin’ Gilliam says Moore’s Watchmen is freakin’ unfilmable, well sir, the freakin’ story is freakin’ unfilmable.