Deconstruction of the superhero worth watching
March 4, 2009
Hey, any movie that takes more than 20 years to get made, let alone sued, deserves a break. That and the fact that this movie based on the graphic novel that many consider the Rodney Dangerfield of comic books: Make that anti-heroes, actually.
Helmed by “300” director Zack Snyder “Watchmen” is going to have a tough go of it, except for the die-hard, fanboy followers out there. Those expecting to see a cut-and-dried superhero flick à la “Batman” or “Spider-Man” will be really disappointed. The film stays true to its graphic-novel origins (originally by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons) for the most part, given the limitations from translation to screen. However thanks in part to Snyder, writers David Hayter and Alex Tse, I hope it’ll find its mass audience.
For one thing the story is a period piece, taking place in 1985 when the Cold War and all things Communism were at the forefront of daily living. OK, and let’s say it, it’s actually an alternate 1985 that we’re seeing.
The most recent movie movie based on fallen heroes that did decently enough the box office was Will Smith’s rendition of “Hancock” last summer. At least he was likable. The opening scene in “Watchmen” involves the murder of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and you immediately wonder from the outset what kind of company these guys (and gal) keep.
Some of these characters are pretty violent (as is the movie), and some of the scenes will make you feel uncomfortable. But it’s a movie that involves opening up your mind and expecting anything. What can I say? I like a movie that is subversive in its storyline, even a bit brutal. It’s also cool seeing superheroes who aren’t exactly super and make you wonder what their motives are. Superheroes protecting humanity? Maybe, but they really don’t (most of them, at least) possess anything that would be considered superhuman powers.
There’s also more history of how the Watchmen came to be that unfolds against a noir-ish 1940s backdrop. Over time and changing personnel, the Minutemen turned into the Masks. When it came to the Watchmen, their names almost sound like a porno gang with sequels already in the works.
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After the Comedian’s murder fellow ex-Mask Rorschach (a remarkable Jackie Earle Haley) suspects there’s more to his death: Rorschach believes the entire fraternity of former crime fighters is getting knocked off as what is known as the Doomsday Clock nears midnight. Remember, it’s 1985 in an alternate America, we’re not friendly with the Soviet Union, and this Doomsday Clock, showing how close we are to a nuclear meltdown, holds our tension in check. Get it yet?
Billy Crudup plays Dr. Manhattan (Jon Osterman), who is probably the most impressive out of the clan and the most effective when it comes to anything remotely resembling the word “superhero.” He looks like one of the Blue Man Group guys out of Las Vegas ” or a radioactive blue Oscar statuette.
This movie is tough to categorize: part camp, sure, but also unpredictable (like its stars) and unforgiving in its execution. Maybe that’s why it is a very interesting piece of filmmaking.
Snyder had his hands full with this project knowing that he had to balance an original story framed for a very select audience yet cash in with a wider audience that has been giving comic-book (oops, graphic-novel) heroes a chance to soar from the pages to the big screen.
” Howie Nave is a movie columnist for Lake Tahoe Action.
LOS ANGELES (AP) ” Fans should plan to savor every visual morsel when “Watchmen” swoops into movie theaters Friday because the subversive superheroes of the landmark comic book series may never return to the big screen.
“There’s no way I would be involved in a sequel or prequel,” said director Zack Snyder, who turned the graphic novel “300” into a 2007 blockbuster.
“Will they make one? I have no idea how you would. The work is the work. This movie is about ideas. Anything else you would do, if you did a sequel to it, misses the point entirely of what ‘Watchmen’ is,” he said.
It’s unclear whether Warner Bros. would ever take a cue from Dr. Manhattan, the blue-hued superbeing played by Billy Crudup who smoothly proclaims in the comic and the movie that “nothing ever ends.” Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. production, declined interview requests for this story.
“Contractually, we are obligated,” Crudup said. “I will do it. I just don’t know what it is we would do.”
Unlike superheroes with superhistories like “Batman” or “Spider-Man,” decades worth of “Watchmen” source material doesn’t exist.
In the 1980s, illustrator Dave Gibbons and writer Alan Moore (who has said he doesn’t want to be associated with a “Watchmen” film) crafted only 12 chapters of the comic book-turned-graphic novel.
The nearly three-hour R-rated movie is faithful to the original novel, leaving almost nothing on the cutting room floor except “Tales of the Black Freighter,” a comic-within-the-comic woven throughout “Watchmen.” It is due out March 24 on DVD as an animated short film, along with “Under the Hood,” the tell-all memoir from “Watchmen.”
Beyond that, Snyder can’t envision any cinematic additions to the mythos.
“What? In the next movie, they redeem themselves?” Snyder said. “To continue is to either rehash the same idea again or you’re going to try to fix the characters, which goes against everything the book stands for, or you could pick up new characters ” or I don’t know what. To me, philosophically, it just doesn’t make sense.”
The only plan to truly expand the “Watchmen” universe is in the virtual world. Warner Bros. is releasing “Watchmen: The End Is Nigh,” a downloadable video game for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Andy Abramovici, the game’s senior producer, said it was created with input from Gibbons and original comic editor Len Wein.
“What we all decided was the most prudent route to go down was to take some hints from the original story and explore those and what the allusions in the book meant to those characters, so our villain in the game is mentioned once or twice very briefly in the 12 issues, but because he is mentioned the way that he is, we kinda riffed on that,” Abramovici said.
The game was originally intended as a full-length interactive version of the film, but Abramovici said it was later pared down to two downloadable episodes because of production constraints. Set before the movie takes place, players can brawl as either gadget-happy Nite Owl or manic Rorschach, who have teamed up to take down the villainous Underboss.
On the big screen, “Watchmen” could be the first blockbuster of the year. When Snyder’s “300” charged into movie theaters around the same time in March 2007, it took home $70.9 million.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers, believes “Watchmen” could snag a similar response on opening weekend.
“I think ‘Watchmen’ has a shot at posting solid numbers,” Dergarabedian said. “The marketing is great. The release date is perfect. The fanboys are clamoring for it, and it’s got a cool factor, too. I think ‘The Dark Knight’ opened the door last year for audiences. People are probably going through superhero withdrawal, and ‘Watchmen’ is just the fix.”
A prequel or sequel might make a sound investment if “Watchmen” does well. The Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” soared into 2008’s No. 1 spot at the box office with $533 million; “Spider-Man 3” took in $336.5 million in 2007.
While a possible prequel about the Minutemen ” the superhero team that came before the Watchmen ” may make financial sense, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays seasoned “Watchmen” superhero the Comedian, says it would be creative suicide.
“The fans would kill us if we tried to go and do something else,” Morgan said. “If we tried to do a prequel that wasn’t written by Alan Moore, we’d get crucified. We couldn’t walk down the street. Unless Warner Bros. wants all of their actors to get killed, I think it’s a bad idea.”