Saturday, May 31, 2008

BK FEATURE: The Comic Book Movie Double Standard

So, I'm looking at this Minutemen photograph, just now released to the public to promote Zack Snyder's Watchmen. It looks pretty much like it should: a bunch of dopey guys in costumes trying to save the world, completely oblivious to the horrors that await them. It looks great.

And yet, I don't really care. I'm still pissed that Watchmen is being made at all. But why? Why will I gleefully jump to my feet everytime I hear anything about Power Max or the next Batman or even the Incredible Hulk, yet I freak out with fury when I hear that Alan Moore's best work is being adapted to the big screen? Lord knows that every other comic book movie has not even been remotely close to its source material (even The Incredible Hulk will evidently have more in common with the TV show than the comic), yet I've enjoyed them without the slightest smidgen of guilt. Yet, Watchmen gets made, and I get filled with an incredible fury.

Maybe it's that we like the other superhero movies because we don't actually care about the continuity of the comics they're derived from. Who cares if Peter Parker was supposed to meet Gwen Stacy before Mary Jane? It works in the context of the Spidey movies, so we forgive it. Is it that big a deal that Christian Bale doesn't decide to become Batman because a bat crashes in through one of the windows in Wayne Manor? Of course not. The superhero movies we know and love take what's necessary (the heroes), guiltlessly change the rest, and are much better films for it.

Yet, it's not okay when any changes are made to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It's not okay when the title character in V for Vendetta falls in love with Evie Hammond. It's not okay that Zack Snyder would say he "respects" Alan Moore's decision to have his name removed from the film, but then would go ahead and make it anyway. I'm not being sarcastic here, and blaming the public or the comic fans for finding it unacceptable. I'm saying I find it personally unacceptable.

Are Moore's stories so good that any change to them whatsoever, no matter how small, can be construed as disgusting? If that's the case, then we're admitting that the comics Iron Man, Batman, and Spider-Man came from evidently weren't good enough to need their integrity preserved. We're perfectly cool to just take the heroes from other comics, but when it comes to anything Alan Moore does, it's evidently gotta be everything or nothing.

I find this irritating, if only because it means that I will never be able to enjoy Snyder's Watchmen, no matter how good it is. Like everyone else, I scoffed at the idea of the action-minded director taking on what basically amounts to a subtle superhero soap opera (and though I'm evidently alone in this, I still can't forget how bad 300 was). I was pissed they're not using David Hayter's entire script, although he is evidently getting co-writer credit. And yet, are those the only reasons? Am I pissed because they're making a Watchmen movie in the first place? If so, and if I'm not alone, then that's a hell of an unpleasant way to react to hearing anything about an adaptation.

The key, it would seem, to really enjoying oneself at comic book movies is to take the mindset we reserve for a Hulk or an Iron Man – namely, that this movie is about a hero but doesn't necessarily have to be 100% faithful to its source material – even for those films that are directly based off much-respected graphic novels.

But wait, to hell with that! A graphic novel is not some excuse for a reasonably interesting character to fight people. At least, not if it's a graphic novel written by Alan Moore. A graphic novel is a cohesive, self-contained story in the same way that you'd treat a regular novel, or even a movie. If I'm supposed to just forgive weird little changes to the story because of the way Batman Begins deals with its source, does that mean I should be okay with a Jane Eyre movie adaptation that finds the protagonist fighting alien dinosaurs in a robotic suit? Probably not.

All I know is that I will be disappointed when Watchmen comes out. Even if they stick reeeeally close to Hayter's script, which they probably won't, Zack "I can shoot action scenes really well and not much else" Snyder will probably kill it somehow. Then I'll be bitter for a few months, then I'll write another feature on BK whining about how I was right.

It's difficult, being a comic book nerd.

Original here

1 comment:

Vic DiGital said...

Hey.. interesting rant. One thing (besides the quality) that sets Watchmen apart from Iron Man, Batman, et al, is that all of those characters have been rebooted, re-invented, or re-imagined so many times over the years that there isn't ONE agreed-upon story. If someone is to say that Superman has to remain faithful to the source material, then exactly what material is that?

But with Watchmen, we DO have established source material. Watchmen will never be rebooted as a comic by another writer. There won't be New Adventures of Nite-Owl and Silk Specter. What we have is a completed work.

The Watchmen movie, when it arrives, will undoubtedly be wildly different from the comic. There's no way for it NOT to be. They are two completely different narrative forms. However, I'm still going to give the movie the benefit of the doubt to be its own entity and be declared good or bad (or 'masterpiece') based on its own merits. I still think it has a chance. All of the stuff I've seen so far have given me hope.

One example I can give where the book and movie were wildly different (even though they absolutely sprung from the same source material) was "The Prestige". I LOVE that film. I think it's brilliant filmmaking. I then later went and read the novel, and IT'S brilliant. But the two are completely different. Structure, entire plot threads, the ending... they are completely divergent. But both are The Prestige. Both work completely.

So in honor of The Prestige, I'm giving Watchmen the benefit of the doubt until my butt is planted in a seat at midnight on March 6th next year. Regardless of what happens with the movie, the comic will always remain a masterpiece.

That's how I see it, anyway. Hurmm..