March 7th, 2009


birthday evening, thoughts on *Watchmen*

yesterday was my birthday.

I went to work, but I didn't really get much work done -- I noodled on my haikubot system for a while (it works! penelopesque, I've tested it against some of your latest!); this will eventually be a functional twitterbot at ohaihaiku, but the bot part isn't working yet, mostly because I don't know where to host it yet).

I came home a bit early, and boobirdsfly had gotten me lovely flowers and a present (the graphic novel form of Waltz with Bashir). She said "I'm taking you out for a night on the town for your birthday. Get ready to go."

I showered and changed and we headed out on Max (D's scooter) to Le Charm for dinner: in a word, yum.

Then we went on to the Metreon, to see the Watchmen movie. I had twenty minutes of apprehension; Watchmen was a real eye-opener as a comic, both formally and in its critique of the Cold War, superheroes, and the fundamental danger of humans with power, and I suspected that Zack Snyder had found only the prurient parts. I almost asked for us to see Coraline instead, but I changed my mind back at the last minute.

I am glad I did. Hey, for those of you who care about this sort of thing, I am going to discuss the Watchmen movie. If you care about "spoilers" -- and frankly, the book's been out for what, twenty years? -- then stop now.

Watchmen was as good an adaptation as I might have hoped. Snyder cut some of the most unfilmable bits, like Under the Hood excerpts and the entirety of The Black Freighter and adjusts the Big Twist to require one less superheroic suspension-of-disbelief (and arguably tie a loose end more closely to the main plot thread). A few other scenes are cut -- it would be hours longer if it also included Hollis Mason's death, all the "Rorschach's psychologist" subplot, the newsstand men, or more than a single snapshot of the New Frontiersman office politics. A few more minor details are tweaked -- "Watchmen" is the actual name of the non-starter group in the '70s, not "Crimebusters"; Veidt is its organizer, not Captain Metropolis. (These last two changes make it tighter WRT a movie, by tying more ends into the main plot; the original made more sense as a twelve-issue sprawling miniseries).

What still disturbs me a little about the movie is the audience. A lot of our audience laughed at Rorschach killing people. Honestly, I realized later, these concerns are there in the original comic: I know fanboys who think that Rorschach is the badass secret hero; of course, these people also not-so-secretly still want to be Wolverine, even after they turned fifteen. But Snyder's Watchmen is actually faithful to the material, in that these readings are legitimate in the original. In my readings of the original, there are no heroes: there are things to admire and to fear in each of the characters, including the "villains" (and which ones would you classify as which? Moloch, for example, is really now just a frightened old man with a bad past -- not worse than any character from Waltz with Bashir, really.)

Watchmen is suddenly a massively pop phenomenon. check out the following:
Debbie Schussel froths like a real-life New Frontiersman columnist about how horrible this movie is -- it has sex! and violence! and it's for KIDZ! (from nihilistic_kid via yendi
Saturday Morning Watchmen: an absolutely awesome parody of what might have happened if this movie had been made before Batman Begins
and finally Entrance points to the Watchmen is Tom Spurgeon's truly excellent enumeration of the formal ways to approach the comic: excellent reading for those who've read it -- and I think most of them apply to the movie, which speaks to Snyder's good work in matching them up.