Monday, July 21, 2008

Watchin’ the Watchmen trailer

How I catch every production designer and costumer v-journal but miss the trailer, I don’t know. But thanks to a link from Jake, I now have seen it. In HD, too.

And ... I dunno. My initial reactions are all fanboy reflexes, which means they are uncritical and prejudicial and they emerge from deep within the mylar sleeves of my crocodile brain. Comedian is too handsome. Laurie/Silk Spectre is too sexy. Dan/Nite Owl isn’t fat enough. Veidt/Ozymandias is too young. Too this, too that. Not exactly like the comic. Worst episode ever.

Which is unfair. The V for Vendetta film may have been a dumbed-down hatchet job, but it was a pretty good dumbed-down hatchet job. With Watchmen I’m bracing for the worst in terms of storyline and acting, but it’s clear from the trailer that a great deal of attention has been paid to production detail. We basically already knew that, but this confirms it. Rope of Silicon has a frame-by-frame, movie-to-comic comparison of some key scenes, revealing that yes, they look like reasonably faithful translations of certain images:


The big question is whether that is all they are. A story is more than props and a rigid storyboard. If anything, too much concern about making a xerox from one medium to another suggests a slavish uncreativity on the part of a director, a failure of imagination. Too often, I think, that is where comic adaptations go wrong: they get stuck in the small picture and miss the big picture.

With Watchmen the stakes are especially high because the big picture is very, very big. It’s the best story ever told in comics and one of the best in 20th-century literature, an artfully complex summation of late-Cold War politics and popular culture. That’s not just me talking: as is well known, it placed on Time magazine’s list a few years ago of the 100 best novels since 1923.

(Even though we live in an age of war, I think the paranoia and pessimism of Watchmen are essentially rooted in the Cold War and are no longer a part of our culture, at least not in the same way. For some reason, though, that makes it more real to me. This is not a vague and formulaic complaint about war and death in general; it’s about a time and a place. That makes it real history, and paradoxically also makes it more universal.)

The 2 minute 20 second trailer is not enough to decide whether the film meets the challenge. But it reveals something that for other comic adaptations has been a tell-tale flaw: the little details have been obsessively accounted for, from Nite Owl’s ship to Ozymandias’ collar to Rorschach’s Veidt-brand hair spray weapon. All that is nice, but it’s not enough. Does Zack Snyder know that? Who watches him?

(One thing that’s kind of funny: Apple’s page for the HD version of the trailer seems to mix up the names of some actors and characters. Fanboys, you start your error-spotting engines:)

  • “Zack Snyder (dir.)
  • Malin Akerman
  • Laurie Juspeczyk
  • Billy Crudup
  • Jon Osterman
  • Matthew Goode”


Jason said...

Myelin sheathing. Unless you have some sort of suprehero mylar brain. Which woiuld be pretty awesome, honestly. Looking forward top seeing the trailer on the big screen, pre-Dark Knight.

Jesse said...

How about the fact that the song on the trailer is a Smashing Pumpkins song from Batman and Robin for chrissakes?

B. said...

I didn't know it was from Batman and Robin. Oh dear. Maybe there will be a cameo of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Freeze saying things like "Ice to see you" and "What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age" and, my favorite, "Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well. For it's the chilling sound of your doom."

Now that is good writing -- Alan Moore take heed!