Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not the Update, but Something I've been thinking about.

I saw Watchmen this weekend (along with most of America) and I liked it. More on why later.

My buddy Chris just posted a link to this blog, which I read with interest. Go read it now.

Thank you. Now read my response.

For those of us who have not read the novel (but who really really want to), I think the film was intriguing. I did not go in expecting a superhero film. And the narrative is extremely character driven, which is not what American audiences like. American audiences like explosions and good guys who are good and bad guys who are bad. Although, this is bound to change.

As America came out of the Great Depression and entered WWII, there emerged a new film genre which we now call Film Noir. Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity. Films where the good guys weren't all that good. They created their own morality. I think we're going to be seeing a lot more movies with this kind of tone. I'm not talking about the lovable criminals of the late 90's/early 2000's (remakes of Oceans 11, Italian Job, Thomas Crown Affair). You know, bad guys we wanted to win. And of course after 9/11, we were inundated with films that were very Patriotic in tone, specifically Spider-Man (which I thoroughly enjoyed, don't get me wrong), which included the scene of New Yorkers shouting at the Green Goblin to "leave him alone" and "take on the whole city." Now is a time when we will start seeing films take on shades of gray.

When you get down to it, writer Alan Moore's declaration that he won't see this film is just downright ridiculous. While admitting that I haven't read the novel, I have read a bit on the structure of it, and have gleaned a lot of information from friends who have read it. And, also, as I've been told the film is almost a panel-for-panel recreation of the novel (obviously not true, but fairly true), I can say that much of what the graphic novel did was use the kind of narrative structure used in Hard Boiled detective fiction and the stylistic chiaroscuro that film noir became so popular for (which, oddly enough, was borrowed from comic books back in the 40's). So adapting Watchmen to the screen just brings it all full circle and back again, so to speak.

So why, you may ask, did I like Watchmen? For the same reason I liked Pixar's The Incredibles: The idea that heroes walk among us. In fact, I'm going to guess that the initial driving plot point of The Incredibles (superheroes forced into obscurity due to a public angry and afraid of them) was likely borrowed from Watchmen. When you get down to it, most superhero stories you can come up with will have some sort of nod to another superhero story. In fact, take a look at my new guilty-pleasure TV show Heroes. The whole thing smacks of plot points derived from X-Men, The Justice League, Watchmen...the list goes on.

So why did I like Watchmen? Even though it's not about real people, the people are believable. They're flawed. They may be superhuman, but they're human. That's what I liked about Heroes versus a television show like all the nine thousand variations of Law & Order (note no link here): the characters on Heroes may have unbelievable abilities, but they behave in believable ways. Maybe unpredictable ways sometimes, but unpredictable in a good way. Much like the characters in Watchmen. They have extensive depth to them. Each is different.

But in reality, the only reason I liked Watchmen is because of Jackie Earl Haley. I mean, come on! He played Moocher in the Academy Award winning Breaking Away (and also in the very short lived television series of the same name).

1 comment:

bradsyourdad said...

Jackie Earl Harley was also the main reason I liked it. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only character they needed to get right for me to enjoy the movie, and the absolutely nailed him.

PS: You can borrow the book from me if you'd like.

PPS: This is Andy.