Watchmen; better for the geek failure.

First, I have to say that now that the semester’s over, I’m going to need to start blogging more to clear out my backlog of topics. I can’t use my work PC for anything non-work related, so every once in a while I check my collection of RSS feeds on my iPhone and Instapaper it for latter blogging. Maybe if I do 3 to 5 a day I can get through them in a month. 🙂

Last meta topic: Facebook readers: this post came from my official blog; the auto-transfer to FB tends to strip any embedded images.)

watchmen-ozymandiasI finally got to see Watchmen at a 2nd run theater this weekend. (Just to get that out of the way: the sound was meh. Mediocre quality and an audio channel or two would cut out now and then. If possible, always see highly visual/auditory movies in a good theater. But, $2 to see a film in a theater isn’t a bad thing either!) And my general reaction: A-frakkin-mazing! I was totally blown away! I even had chills watching the incredible opening credits.

Chances are most people reading this will have already seen Watchmen or have decided not to. Instead of an in-depth review of the movie itself, I want to express some of my personal background and reaction to it. Hey, it’s a personal blog, after all–not a news ‘zine. 🙂

I was aware of the Watchmen comics when they first came out in the 80s, but I never read them. The covers were compelling, and even though I didn’t have comic book fan friends, I was still aware of some kind of buzz surrounding these comics. But, I never got into comics at all, really, despite my really wanting to. Once, as a kid, I had gotten a copy of Ghost Rider, and it has some action which was cool…but what it mostly has was a confusing plot that depended upon previous issues of the comic in order to understand what was going on. And that very early experience with comic books prevented me from ever really picking them up as I realized some of these comics had been going on for years! How could I possibly get involved in X-Men or Teen Titans much less any of the Super- or Bat- characters if I’d be lost without the years of backstory?

It doesn’t help that I didn’t have any comic book-loving friends (even though we were definitely geeks–we played D&D pretty much every weekend and rode our bikes to see every scifi and fantasy movie we were allowed to go to), nor any comic book shops nearby. Well, not that I knew of. I mostly grew up in suburbs of Denver, yet the only hobby store I knew of was a train and model store I’d get my model rocket parts from. I always got my D&D stuff from Waldenbooks. So…I was never given any advice in how to get into comic books in the middles. In high school I used to walk to my mom’s work after school, stopping by 7-Eleven, and I started getting The ‘Nam and Groo from the beginning, but I always saw them as pale substitutions for real comic books. (Mmm, that was also the beginning of my love for chili picante Corn Nuts!)

watchmen_rorschach1Ironically, I didn’t get into Watchmen for that reason despite the fact it was a finite story that was published over a year or two. Once I was older and realized it was a limited story, the excitement of Watchmen had turned into legend and reverence and the comics were re-issued and collections were published. I could have gotten into it then. But something else turned me off: the artwork. In my opinion, it was and still is pretty horrendous. It reminded me of Sunday comic pages. I understood by that time that Watchmen was unlike anything that had come out before. There was something about it that elevated the comic book to literature status: it was mature, it was deep, it deconstructed the super hero, it was revolutionary. But still, every time I was reminded of it and I told myself “I’m not worthy of geek status until I read Watchmen, I would look at the old style inking and terrible coloring, and couldn’t bring myself to actually read it.

And now I’m glad! Because I think the movie freakin’ blew me away exactly because of this specific condition I find myself in. For more than 25 years I knew of the cult status of Watchmen so when the trailers for the movie started coming out, I could join in the excitement of it. (And even if I knew nothing of the history and legend of Watchmen, the trailers were freakin hawsome! I got chills the first time and the 20th time I’d watch the trailers.) But since I had no early impressioned love of the content of the comic books, I could enjoy what the movie did without expectations or criticism for not sticking to the script, adding something, or leaving something out. I could enjoy the movie for what it was.

But then, I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to movie adaptations. I’m very aware of how impossible it is to translate a book to film and not have to change things in order to make a coherent and enjoyable movie. For example, I love the original Dune novel, every time I read it I get something completely new from it–it is so amazingly rich and deep. But I liked David Lynch’s movie just fine, enjoyable on its own terms, as it’s impossible to film that book. Likewise Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings was probably the best that could possibly be done and capture the themes of the novel(s) and still make a movie that would make sense, and be enjoyable. I thank goodness there was no Tom Bombadil in the film!

Since seeing Watchmen, I’ve tried to find scans of the original comic book online so I could see what the differences in dialogue may be, and honestly, from what I’ve seen, I think the movie did a better job. Some of the dialogue in the movie was a little stilted or odd sounding. Not much, though. But while most of it was word-for-word from the comic book, the movie would eliminate some dialogue that was in the original that was even worse. Almost ridiculous. From my limited experience, I think the film-makers did an amazing job keeping the best of the original. And I like the little details. For example, I noticed in the film when Rorschach was in the prison interview room, his had both hands on the table, as if he may have been required to do so, or he was ready to strike out if need be. I later saw, in that image from the original above, that you can just see his hands flat on the table.

Watchmen was an absolutely amazing film, whether you’re into super heroes or not. It was pretty violent and gross in places, but not too bad. (All the violence in this movie doesn’t even come close to the horrific two instances of violence in the French drama, Irréversible, but that really is for another blog post.) I really need to see it a couple more times before it leaves the theater. Am I getting the DVD? Hellsyeah!