Friday, March 24, 2006

Watchmen


Here's the story. Watchmen Has A New Director... Again.

Ok, I'm going to spoil it, but first, let me say, a cinematic adaptation of Watchmen is a bad idea. Period.

Yes, Terry Gilliam was attached for a long time. He likely would have done something worthwhile, whether it was a good adaptation or not. He threw up his hands, calling it impossible.

There's a good chance that if the director of Brazil isn't up to the task, the director of the remake of Dawn of the Dead isn't either.

Now, Moriarty speaks in the most glowing terms about the upcoming 300 movie, which is encouraging to me. He allows this exitement to cloud his logic by concluding that this makes him an excellent choice for Watchmen.

Frank Miller's 300 begs to be turned into a movie. It's simple, visual, action oriented, limited characters and time-frame. All the things it needs, setting a rhythm, building suspense, delivering action, are the things that Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead succeeded at. This is why I've been optimistic about it from the beginning.

"Watchmen", on the other hand, has entirely different requirements. It needs someone to create a world, develop believable characters within an unbelievable world, balance which subplots work, which are important and how much time and energy should each get. These are all the things that Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead failed completely at.

So, maybe I'd be more optimistic if I'd also just watched that 300 footage, but I'd probably be thinking with the wrong part of my brain, too.

I was recently, although before hearing this news, convinced to dream cast Watchmen, which led me to think of all the things it needs. The thing of it is, "Watchmen" is literary rather than cinematic in nature. There's absolutely no good reason to turn it into a movie and it would almost undoubtedly better to not bother at all.

But since someone smells dollar signs, and I bet there aren't as many there as they imagine, it keeps coming back, so what would make it work?

First of all, "Watchmen" is not only a comic book. It's about being a comic book. It's colored in the kinds of bold four-color tones that were already passé in 1986. It intends for us to realize we're in a comic book world and to build a kind of reality within that context.

As such, a movie of the subject needs to have that comic book look. Yes, like the Adam West "Batman" series. I know some of you are beginning to hate me. This is because you don't actually get "Watchmen". In fact, I bet you add a superfluous and misleading direct article to title, where it most certainly does not belong, don't you?

Go back and really read it. Look at what Dave Gibbons is doing with the art. Absorb the way the book is colored. Study the manner in which the story is layed out.

This is the kind of thing that Terry Gilliam does well in his best work, balance a meeting of the very fantastic with the very realistic. It's an incredibly hard balance to find, which is why he was always so well-received.

Nothing in a well-done 300 movie will convince me. Once again, it should have a kind of visual style about it, but should exist as a stylized version of reality rather than a complete fantasy. As such, there's no basis for comparison.

I'm not saying I won't be happy if Zack Snyder pulls this off. I'm merely saying that I'll be amazed. And that even with an absolutely note-perfect Watchmen, it still will not be the result of skills demonstrated on Dawn of the Dead or 300, specifically because the skills needed were not in evidence at all on Dawn of the Dead and would not be at all necessary for 300.

Moriarty has gotten a good blowjob and is using to decide that it means he should get married. It's this kind of spurious leaps of fanboy logic that keeps me from reading Ain't It Cool and I can't help seeing this one as unusually far of a stretch even for that.

But, as it goes, here's my dream cast.
  • The Comedian - Tom Berenger
    My preference would Robert Mitchum or Lee Marvin in about 1966. As it is, I think it needs to be an actor I wouldn't roll my eyes at the notion of them being in a remake of The Dirty Dozen, although I reserve the right to roll my eyes at a remake of The Dirty Dozen on pure principle.
  • Rorschach - Brad Dourif
    Weinery but creepy and threatening. It's a tough one generally, but he's perfect.
  • Silk Spectre - Helen Mirren
    Older and sexy, capable of being both classy and trashy. I don't know if she can do an American accent, but I think she's right on.
  • Silk Spectre II - Julianne Moore
    Just has that right combination of vulnerability and toughness, prettiness and plainness.
  • Nite Owl - Adam West
    Just freakin' look at the pictures. I suspect Dave Gibbons had him in mind.
  • Nite Owl II - Tim Robbins
    Handsome but awkward. Tall and long in the face.
  • Moloch - Malcolm McDowell
    As with Nite Owl I, looks like he was the model.
  • Ozymandius - John Corbett
    Hard one to cast. I'd prefer a 35 year old Robert Redford, honestly, but this was as close I could find.
  • Dr. Manhattan - Christian Bale
    He's listed on almost all the dream casts and with good reason. He's perfect. Handsome and yet strangely otherworldly. Carries an innate intelligence about him.
That said, I still think the whole thing is a big mistake. Like I said, it's largely a book that is, in effect, about being a book. Moreso, it's a comic about being a comic. The story exists mostly to play within the powers and limitations of the form.

Someone with enough talent could come up a way to make that story work within a cinematic framework, playing within those powers and limitations. Certainly, something could be done with that story in there.

Unfortunately, it's about as far from calling out to be told as cinema as any comic book I've ever read. Even with someone as talented as Gilliam, it made me nervous. With someone as green and weak as Zack Snyder, I can't bring any positive expectations at all.

And, yet, I'll probably go like all the other geeks, if just to have something to bitch about.

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