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Monday, April 16, 2007

Book Review: The Watchmen

Since there seems to be near constant rumblings the The Watchmen will be made into a film, I wanted to give it another read. Questions about how viable of a transformation this could arise every time these rumors hit the surface. It doesn't help that Moore's work often gets translated into movies with all the intelluctual acumen of pig latin. V for Vendetta wasn't too bad, but League? Ouch. Simply ouch.

The work is often cited as an example of allowing comics to "grow up" ... and with good reason. The story is realistic and gritty (despite some of the science fiction elements). The structure is complicated - often flipping in between time or even narratives between or sometimes even within the frame itself. Even the medium changes as there are sections of prose tossed in for good measure (and effect). Still, I would not categorize Watchmen as difficult to read or follow. The format is complicated, but the plot isn't overly such. Not that the plot isn't good, Moore unravels a narrative very tightly in a very smart way that almost feels like a classic mystery movie than your average comic.

Obviously the book is good - but could it make a good movie? I'd say pretty soundly that it could. The problem isn't anything within the above paragraph, the problem is within the size and scope of the novel and how much a movie studio is willing to invest to properly bear that out. Just the character of The Comedian himself, who dies in the first scene of the book, has such a complicated and expansive history that touches nearly every other character - it could occupy ninety minutes of film by itself. So how much time do you give to Rorshach's past or the Martian ponderings of Osterman?

It would almost require a four or six hour format. It's actually better suited to a miniseries than movie because I'm not sure there are good endings that would appease fans in theatres at the end of one two hour section or the next (assuming a four hour movie would be split into two).

So I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Thankfully movies like Sin City and 300 has shown that faithful adaptions can pay off for studios. We'll just have to see if they're willing to roll the dice on a larger gamble.

Fun Fact! However, to avoid continuity issues with the recently acquired characters, and due to the fact that some of them would have become useless for future series, Moore decided to create new characters, using the recently acquired Charlton Comics characters as templates. This allowed for a more dynamic and unique set of characters. The Comedian (Edward Blake) is based on Peacemaker with elements of Marvel Comics' Nick Fury. Doctor Manhattan (Jon Osterman) is derived from Captain Atom, while the first and second Nite Owls (Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg) are based upon Blue Beetle. Thunderbolt serves as the inspiration for Ozymandias (Adrian Veidt), while the Question and Mr. A do the same for Rorschach (Walter Kovacs). Finally, the first and second Silk Spectres (Sally Jupiter and Laurie Juspeczyk) are based on Nightshade with elements of Black Canary and Phantom Lady.[18][19]
Although the cast of Watchmen are commonly called "superheroes," the only superhuman character in the principal cast is Dr. Manhattan — the others are normal human beings with no special abilities aside from peak physical condition and access to high-class technology and weapons. In the comic, they refer to themselves as "costumed adventurers." Rorschach calls them "masks." (Wikipedia)

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