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Mike and Chris At the Movies

March 11, 2009

Welcome to a new monthly feature I’d like to call Mike and Chris At the Movies, where my buddy Chris and I will review films that have recently debuted at the box office. Chris has contributed to this blog before. After years of fanfare and hype, Watchmen opened last weekend, and here’s our take on it. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the comic, there are lots of spoilers ahead.

MIKE’S TAKE: Watchmen was a film made for the fans of the graphic novel, and the fans have responded positively. According to most, the film was just about 100% faithful Alan Moore’s 1985 comic. Therein lied the problem: the film adaptation was too faithful to the original source. The narrative style of Watchmen the comic worked perfectly for what it was. Unfortunately, that same style didn’t work cinematically.

The studio system has been heavily criticized in the past for straying too far from the source material. In some cases, the fans were right; X3 sucked butt. It seems that with this property, Warner Bros. wanted to make sure not to offend any of the hardcore fans. The problem is that just because a geek loves the Watchmen storyline does not mean they know the best way to translate that same storyline to film. A comic book is one thing, a screenplay is another. They’re different formats and they need to be treated differently. William Goldman wrote about this in Which Lie Did I Tell? When you’re adapting a screenplay, your only duty to the source material is to preserve the spirit and theme. Change whatever you need to in order to make it work for an entirely different medium.

The movie ended up being way too discombobulated with no semblance of flow. It also ended up coming a little too close to being exactly what the comic was a satire of. The opening montage was kind of laughable; I kept thinking about how confused I would be if I had never read the comic. Having it take place in the 1980’s was a mistake. Maintaining the Cold War angle felt like something they kept in to appease the fans. When Moore wrote it, the Cold War hadn’t been resolved. The Soviets were still a threat. Adapting it to today’s world, with terrorism replacing communism, would have been the best bet.

Obviously, there are aspects of the story you had to keep. It’s not like they could have ended it with Rorscach and Manhattan holding hands and skipping through a meadow of daisies. But overall, the story, or at least the narrative structure, should have been radically altered to fit the medium.

That’s not to say it was horrible. Every scene with Rorscach was money; if they released a Youtube video entitled “The Guy Who Played Kelly Leak Wearing a Mask” ownage compilation, I would watch it all day. The prison break scene was amazing, as was Manhattan’s origin story.

For the most part, it reeked of filmmakers who had a little too much respect for the original. They needed to worry more about making a cohesive film than respecting their source. Also, while we’re on the subject, the glowing blue penis was a little much. I’ve read a lot of message board posts asking what the big deal is about exposing a part of the male anatomy. I’m here to tell you that every time a glowing blue hog comes on a movie screen, no one’s going to be able to focus on anything but that glowing blue hog. That’s just how the human eye has been trained.

Well, that’s my opinion. What does my boy Chris think, you ask?

BLUMBERG’S TAKE: I about did a back flip in the theater as soon as I saw that shimmering blue hog. Here is what I would do with –

MIKE’S TAKE: So, you liked it? Great to hear Chris. I think that’s all we need to know.

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