Do not disappoint us, Zack Snyder

typed for your pleasure on 5 March 2009, at 12.49 am

Sdtrk: ‘Le 4ème titre’ by Christine Delaroche

It’s finally March! This means two highly-anticipated things are on their way: the glorious return of McDonald’s Shamrock shakes, and the premiere of Watchmen in theatres nationwide. Obviously one of these comes round once a year, while the other doesn’t. Also, one is a beverage.

Directed by Zack Snyder (Dawn of the dead, 300), this would be the big screen adaptation of the graphic novel created by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, released in 1986. Largely considered to be unfilmable due to its use of metafiction and large portions of in-universe backstory material to bolster the narrative, the main story of the twelve issues takes place in an alternate-universe New York City round October 1985. The Cold War is still going, Richard Nixon is in his third term as President of the United States, and with the exception of two, the few superheroes that exist have been made illegal by the government in an attempt to curb masked vigilantism. After years of forced retirement, they reunite when one of their own has been brutally murdered. However, that murder soon turns out to be just the tip of the iceberg…
How’s that for some compelling ad copy? Try reading that in the voice of Don LaFontaine, for best results.

I’m not a fan of traditional comics, although I do happen to dabble — namely, I borrow from my friends’ libraries — but something as intricate as Watchmen goes beyond bog-standard comics, and that’s due to the deranged and meticulous mind of Alan Moore. I’ll not go overboard with praise for him, but I’ll simply say this: HE IS NOT A GOD AMONGST MEN, HE IS A GOD THAT THE GODS WORSHIP. See? Very restrained.
Alan Moore, if you’ve somehow never heard his godlike name before, wrote the stories for ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘From Hell’, as well as a handful of story arcs for various comicbook titles, and is working on a new volume of my favourite of his works, ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’. His writing is characterised by deep character development, complex backstories, near-obsessive attention to detail, and an overall sardonic tone throughout. All the above titles were made into films, without, I may note, the blessing or consultation of Mr Moore. The film for ‘League…’ is something I will only watch under pain of death, for instance, as it takes awful to a stunning new level. The main issue is that Alan has been screwed over by both the comics industry and the film industry on several occasions. I’ll not get into that here, as there are a multitude of other places where you can catch yourself up on the various sordid tales, as that’s not what this post is about! I’m just giving you some background, here.

As of this writing (me sitting in my car Wed afternoon, waiting for my workshift to start), I’ve not yet seen Watchmen. I’d love to see it opening night, which is a phrase I’ve not uttered in years, but I’m 90% geeked over this film, as you’ve probably sussed by now. However, there’s that 10% which I’m fearful of. That 10% is due to what I call ‘the Tank Girl effect’ (TGE).
Flashback to 1993, where I was reading and enjoying the living hell out of Jamie Hewlett & Alan Martin’s post-apocalyptic lager-swilling anti-hero Tank Girl. Flash a wee bit more forward to 1994, where I learned that there’d be a film adaptation of the series, and picture me gettin’ all happy about it. Flash forward some more to my best friends Sean, Monti, and I seeing ‘Tank Girl’ at Star Theatres in 1995. Now, when the film was playing, we all thought it was really ace. You had Jet Girl (rrrRowr), Booga actually resembled a kangaroo, etc etc. Now flash forward one more time, to the three of us driving home post-film. It slowly and insidiously dawned on me that what we just saw was a steaming pile of shite. It was actually really terrible. It didn’t make any sense, the director took sweeping liberties with characters and storylines, and we’d pretty much wasted 100 minutes of our lives. Hence, TGE: elation that a literary vehicle you love has been made into a film, followed by crushing depression when you realise the film version is absolute spunk. Incidentally, even Hewlett & Martin have admitted that they were blinded by the glitz of Hollywood, and the movie adaptation of their character was rubbish. They even parodied the whole Hollowwood experience with the Tank Girl miniseries from late 1995, ‘The Odyssey’.
Now, I managed to avoid the Tank Girl effect with ‘League…’ — sorry, ‘LXG’ — cos I’d heard various horror stories about it months before it came out. Like I’d said, so far, everything I’ve read about Watchmen sounds like it parallels the book — except for the climax at the end, but I’m led to understand that it’s a change for the better — and the related in-universe ephemera on the website for The New Frontiersman alone is rather impressive, so at the very least, they’ve got the look down. With a story as fucked-up dystopian as Watchmen, though, the look is only part of it…

So I’m remaining uncharacteristically optimistic regarding a film from Hollywood. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but as it’s Hollywood, I’m trying to keep my expectations low


You keep littering like that, pal, they’ll catch you and throw you in prison

EDIT (22 March 09): I, ah never did mention that I finally saw it, did I? You can read my half-arsed review in the comments here

Technorati tags: Watchmen, Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Zack Snyder, Don LaFontaine, Tank Girl, Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

Machines 2, Fleshlings 0, or, Please have kidney bowl ready on June 12th, 2005

Annoyed beyond reason and politeness on October 27th, 2005

14 have spoken to “Do not disappoint us, Zack Snyder”

  1. Jamie writes:

    Well, dang! You make me want to go out and watch Watchmen! They should hire you for their advertising team! I actually liked Tank Girl when I was a teen, I even had a cool Tank Girl T-Shirt! It’s been so many years I don’t remember much about it.

    Did you see Sin City? I really like that movie.

  2. Davecat writes:

    Surprisingly enough, I’ve not seen Sin city yet. I haven’t even read the graphic novel! That’s on the List of Films I’ve Yet to See, which, at the time of this writing, is one astronomical unit (about 93 million miles) long. Which is nice, as I’ve actually managed to shorten the list!…

    I still have a Tank Girl t-shirt! It’s the Teenage lobotomy one, where TG and Booga have their heads together in a portrait-style shot. Have you read the recent TG graphic novel, ‘The Gifting‘? The Hewll is no longer doing the artwork anymore, as he’s too busy with Gorillaz, but someone named Ashley Wood is doing a fine job of it. Lovely stuff. 🙂

  3. PBShelley writes:

    Great post, thanks! As if I needed any further enflaming of my desire to catch this flick IN THEATRES :-O And I haven’t done so since LotR3 (or whatever the acronym is).

    Yeah, I don’t get out much :-p

    But THIS…

    I’m probably going to have to be eBaying all of my comics, with the notable exceptions of anything by Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, or Frank Miller.

    Moore’s work on Swamp Thing totally re-envisioned the whole series and exposed me to the possibilities of what comic book (ahem… *sequential art* or whatever) writing could do, and the effect it could have on a Reader given the severely shortened forms of word-work. His writing inspired me to try my then-unborn concept of Lily’s novel in graphic novel form. Until I read Gaiman’s work. THEN I figured I needed to think up some other format as NG’s work on The Sandman totally blew me away LOL

    Moore, took what is essentially the story of a character made of… well, Swamp, and turned it into a something that is nothing like anything else! And that’s a lot of things 😀

    Immensely talented man. Watchmen, which I collected as they came out (including some infuriating delays IIRC), is another series of his unlike-any-other stories. It left me drained, in fact, once I re-read them all at once. Not to be left unmentioned is the crisp artwork by Dave Gibbons, who brought these maladjusted ex-superheroes to life, and the rancid environments they were forced to exist in.

    We’re looking forward to your review!

    *breath bates*

  4. Veach writes:

    Enjoyed your post phantastique-ly. I, both, bless and hate the book for a single one-in-the-same reason: It set the bar so high, I can’t read any graphic novel without—now—looking heavenward and whishpering to it, “see up there, waaay up above you, little book? THAT is how good YOU could have been if your author knew what he was doing…but alas, he was just an ordinary piker wasn’t he?”

    One book rustlpered back: “Tolkien didn’t ruin the future artistic-landscape for Hebert, Card, or Wolfe…why would Moore do so for me?”

    I tossed it back on the shelf and muttered: because they are all trees in the same forest… Tolkien the Giant Sequoia providing shade to the Oak, Elm, Pine and Willow. Moore is that Oak. You, poor little book, are always going to be a Dandilion. That little guy next to you, he’s a rosebush; two shelves down I see a sunflower; I know, I know, you aallll wanted to be trees—there is but one of you that actually is a tree. And, a strong tree at that.

  5. PBShelley writes:

    For your considerable consideration, Peter Travers’ review and stuffs regarding Watchmen:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/blogs/traverstake/?utm_source=weekly-newsletter&utm_medium=email

    YMMV 😉

  6. acrylicfox writes:

    I can’t wait for this! loved the comic.

    Hey, I just wanted to say I’m new to your site and having a great time,

    best wishes

  7. Davecat writes:

    P.B. Shell E. (and girls) –
    Don’t worry too much about not getting out much! Prior to seeing Watchmen, I was musing aloud amongst friends as to what the last film I saw in the theatres was… more than likely, it was probably Lars and the Real Girl (2007). If they could just get rid of all those people at the theatres, I might leave my place to see them more! Maybe.

    Alan Moore (god among gods) goes out of his way to excel at writing. I know you’ve read at least one of the volumes of ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, right? Please say Yes.
    One of the things I like about ol’ Al is the staggering amount of detail he crams into his work, and ‘League…’ is a fine example. Since he draws from many sources to provide the story’s meta-history, there have been specific websites and companion books pointing out nearly each and every reference he’s made per issue, per panel. For three volumes. How does he do it? Obviously, either 1) mastery of Time Itself, or 2) he hasn’t slept since secondary school. Either way, keep on keepin’ on, Alan!

    Veach –
    You’re absolutely right. Not only has Alan (god that the gods worship) raised the bar, he’s built a series of poles where the raised bar used to be, so that he can remove the bar from its already-lofty position, and raise the bar even further. Plans are already in place to put the bar in geosynchronous orbit over the Earth’s surface.

    There are a few comic authors out there that go the distance — Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison, to name two — but Alan Moore: gods, bar, oak, etc. You know. 🙂

    acrylicfox –
    Hey there, and Well Combe to ‘Shouting etc etc’! Please have wallet ready. 😉 Glad to hear you like what you see! Stick around for… err, more of the same!

  8. Laura writes:

    I’ve yet to catch this, but I picked up free tickets tonight 😀

  9. Mahtek writes:

    I didn’t read the graphic novel, but this is a great movie. It’s definately worth seeing again.

  10. Davecat writes:

    Lauraaaagghh –
    So have you seen it? What did you think? Please compile a detailed report and have it on my desk by the end of the week. And please refrain from replacing all the vowels with the letter Q, like you’d done on your last report. That was hallucinatory.

    Mahtek –
    Glad to hear you liked it! Now you can read the graphic novel, and exclaim (loudly) ‘Ohhh, that thing!!’ at varying intervals. 🙂
    Don’t worry, though; there’s loose, scandalous talk of the inevitable DVD coming out with extra footage that should be even more like the graphic novel. Woo!

  11. Davecat writes:

    IN LIEU OF A DECENT POST:
    So did I see it? What did I think of it? Well, I saw it with SafeT and goshou the Saturday night after it premiered, and we all thought it went quite well. Derek and I had been big fans of the graphic novel, and we thought the film hewed close to the original work, and while Joe had never read it, he’d enjoyed it as well. I did have a couple of issues with it, though:

    1) The group of crimefighters was referred to as ‘Watchmen’ in the film. BZZZT WRONG The original group from the Forties were the Minutemen, and the revised version from the Sixties were going to be called the Crimebusters. ‘Watchmen’ was a derogatory term used for the remaining masked vigilantes of the story.

    2) No squid at the end! But the way they wrote the denoument at the end of the story, it still worked.

    3) I kinda thought the actor who played Veidt/Ozymandias was too young. They didn’t get into it in depth in the film version, but at the time of the main narrative, Veidt was in his forties. Good actor, though. Rather sinister.

    4) As a film, it moved pretty quickly — it didn’t feel like 2.5 hours. But I have to say that if they got rid of some of that slo-mo, they probably would’ve shortened it by half an hour.

    5) Personally, I think it would’ve been even better if they had, instead of making it into a feature film, if they’d turned it into perhaps a four- or five-part miniseries. An hour apiece, bam, everything’s covered.
    And speaking of covered,

    6) Blue todger.

    Overall, I give ‘Watchmen’ two thumbs up!

  12. PBShelley writes:

    Thanks for your mini review, DC; I was wondering how it went over. And didyouknow that the originator of “two thumbs up” (or at least one half of them so I guess one thumb) also gave it a very good review? Roger Ebert recently wrote it up and was very happy with it :-O

    (Not too-surprisingly, he also gave an enthusiastic review of Grave of the Fireflies so his grounding in graphic novels and anime seem to be quite solid.)

    I’ll be buying this movie for sure 😉

    Oh. And “YES”, as per your request 😛

  13. Davecat writes:

    I knew I forgot to do something after I finally saw ‘Watchmen’, and that was to mention that I’d seen it in the first place. Durr hey! 🙂

    Sometimes, Ebert actually has good taste in fillums. Although as impressive as it is, I really can’t say that ‘Grave of the fireflies’ is something that you ‘enjoy’. It’s all you can do to not drive to the nearest Japanese consulate after seeing it, apologise for an hour between loud and sloppy sobbing, and then disembowel yourself right there in the lobby. I mean, honestly.

    And speaking of buyin’ DVDs (pronounced ‘davids’), you know about the animated version of Tales of the Black Freighter, right? I might wait on that, to see if they include that in the inevitable HOLIDAY QUARTER SUPER DELUXE BOX SET. You know how it is with these things…

  14. PBShelley writes:

    Ah yes, I sussed that Grave of the Fireflies wasn’t exactly going to be all sweetness ‘n’ light. All I ask of an anime (or anything related, really, whether graphic novel, film, or book) is that it provides The Best Entertainment Value, in whatever story it tells. (Or even if it doesn’t tell a story.) Staggering depression can work wonders, you know LOL

    If I might venture an opinion… the best Art-Work is that which successfully connects with the Recipient in such a way that their Feelings, Emotions, and/or Soul are tapped in any way, causing an empathic reaction drawing them outside of themselves and into the grasp/embrace/clutches of the Artist. (Hm; am I reminded of a doc called “Who Gets to Call it Art?” or something? I think yes, but I’ve forgot 🙁 )

    I did hear about Tales of the Black Freighter and have already been tempted by numerous ads related to it. Or more to the point, related to MAKING ME WANT TO BUY IT DAMMIT. Since I am conventiently broke at the time I will wait for the Super Deluxe and Limited Collector’s Edition Holiday Special Box Set Omnibus no doubt due out for Christmas ’09.

    It seems that there are two of these “supplemental” Watchmen DVDs to be released, is that right? (I can’t bear to look at any sites that will tempt me to spend money ‘cos I’m weak-willed that way 😛 )

Leave a charming reply