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Watchmen movie - thoughts

I've been a fan of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's Watchmen graphic novel since its publication. I remember being hooked by the horrible, hilarious gag on the last page of the first issue. And from there it went. More than twenty years on and it's still the finest comic ever written.

So like most fans I've been wanting to see a screen adaptation of the story for decades. In some ways it seems tailor-made for the screen; after all, as (I think) Terry Gilliam once said - it's already storyboarded!

So I participated in the "dream cast" threads that appeared on the net over the years, found and downloaded the Sam Hamm script from the early 90s (decent given the restrictions imposed by compressing a 300-plus page comic into a 120-page script, but with a totally cop-out ending) and got excited when the movie was finally greenlit.

(Although my dream form has always been a six-part mini series, each episode running for 90-120 minutes. The comic was structured so that the action/plot issues alternated with the character/backstory issues so by pairing up the instalments it would allow a good mix of both every episode.)

Director Paul Greengrass has given a quite decent interview.

He makes a point that I've also made in the past (not claiming any particular brilliance mind you, it's a fairly logical extrapolation): that the Cold War nuclear armageddon fear permeating the book - written, as it was, in the mid-80s - should be replaced by the fear of terrorist armageddon so prevalent and relevant today. The zeitgeist has moved on, but haunts us still:

What's interesting to me is that Watchmen, when it came out, reflected late Cold War paranoia, and what was really interesting about it is that it was an incredibly bold kind of allusive, allegorical, dense, rich story that involved the collision of two elements: a real world running towards Armageddon - which is something at that time we thought was liable to happen, with the great arms race of the 1980s - so you have at the back of Watchmen this ticking clock, which is these footsteps to Armageddon, which is really a Cold War formulation. [...] And yoked together with that was this murder mystery involving generations of caped crusaders. It was the collision of those two elements that created the really great originality of Watchmen. What's interesting today is that we live with new paranoias, but they are paranoias. We are once again in very paranoid times, in a way that we haven't been I think - I'm talking about the post-9/11 world - we have been in levels of paranoia that we last experienced at the time of Watchmen.

I am slightly worried that he's not a comic book fan:

Q: How did you first become aware of the novel, and how did you become involved with this project?

Greengrass: I was going to say that the interesting thing from my point of view - I got a call in November or December, not that long ago, saying had I heard of Watchmen and was I interested in doing a film. I said are you kidding, of course I had heard of Watchmen. But the interesting thing from my point of view is that I'm not a person steeped in comic book lore. That's not where I come from. It wasn't something that - I didn't sit as a child and read millions and millions of comics.


He's rightly picked up on the political and murder mystery memes of the novel but Watchmen, to me at lest, is first and foremost a paean to, and post-modern subversion of, the superhero comic. Moore patterned his characters after the old Charlton titles and - even though he never used them - managed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and create a rich texture via the complex backstory revealed throughout the story. I fear that critical element will be lost, not only because of the exigencies of running time, but also because that element may not have resonated as powerful in Greengrass as it did in many readers.

That said, I'm very encouraged by this:

Q: But on the other hand many people have said that they think 9/11 makes the movie impossible to make because of the way the novel ends.

Greengrass: I don't agree. I think it's completely possible


The ending of the novel is critical to its power and success. And the fact that it would now have uncomfortable parallels with September 11 makes it more, not less, vital that it is preserved.

Comments (1)

Natalie Staatz:

Personally, I believe that this country needs an eye-opener. The Watchmen is an excellent example. this series of Comics is deep, brutal, and true. i have just recently finsihed reading them, and I am comnvinced that they would be an asset the the American people. I have also read the Graphic Novel V for Vendetta. I saw earlier that it was given a D- by a critic. there is absolutely no way that the movie could recieve such a rating. It is beautiful. I am almost positive that a conservative wrote that review. People should be exposed to the various ways to overthrow an government. If they are truly the ones in charge; they should know what can be done to stop their rulers. I am not saying that all young people should engage in revolution, but they should be exposed to the idesa of it. In hiding those ideas, we are only making possible for the people in power to dominate us. this is why I encourage all of America's youth to read. Learn what you can about the society that you live in , and then make your decisions. It is too important to let them slide by through the votes of your parents and the old. We are the future!!!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 16, 2005 8:59 PM.

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