Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Impossibility of a Watchmen Movie

Watchmen Shouldn't Be A Movie - Charlie Jane Anders @ io9

Anders makes some excellent points about the in-production movie Watchmen; most importantly, that the comic itself is almost untranslatable into another medium. To read the Watchmen is to read a commentary/celebration of comics that, in Alan Moore's style, wraps in upon itself. While a movie like V for Vendetta worked as a film, it lost much of its little moments that make the original comic a work of genius. The Watchmen takes that insularity even further with its backend material, its use of alternate versions of DC Comic characters and its play on story structure, page layouts and even the single issue format it was originally released in. We take for granted the collected edition of the Watchmen today (I have two hardback copies myself: the Absolute edition and a reading copy). But when the Watchmen was originally published it was in twelve installments over a period of nearly three years. And for a comic twelve issues is an immense amount of material even for the most mediocre of writers.
I realized long ago that the Watchmen would need at least four movies running two to three hours in length each, just to present the story in anything close to a authentic representation. Each part of the story is essential. Moore left little slack in the script while the illustrator Dave Gibbons used the simplest of panel layouts to evoke and most complicated of emotions and narrative. It is a comic of absolute brilliance that any other writer has yet to eclipse, even Moore himself. Granted, Warren Ellis' Planetary does come close but despite its excellence, Planetary is a comic that plays with pulp science fiction of the past as much as it toys with our conventional thinking of contemporary comic characters. It lacks that insularity and parallel narrative structure so effectively employed by Moore.
I expect the movie to come in the form of a sanitized Hollywood script; i.e. stripping away all but the most essential plot elements and leaving the characters empty shells of their former comic selves. While the essential plot does lend itself to the typical Hollywood disaster film, the text itself does not and never will. Much as I, Robot was a filed away script given the title of an Azimov work so too will The Watchmen be the original in anything but name only.