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Mar. 20th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)

I don't know why he changed the ending. I can tell you I'm glad he changed the ending because the ending of the book is dumb. The ending in the film is tighter, more character centric, and all around more satisfying. If nothing more than the simple fact that it avoids the obvious issue of what happens when no more Squid-Things show up? Is he going to do it AGAIN to re-spike the fear? At least Dr. Manhattan is demonstrably "out there" watching.

Ideas are no good if you can't show us how they work in practice. That was my problem with V for Vendetta. V kept going on and on and on and on and on and on about Anarchy and all I kept thinking was, "Yes, but show us how that works." "Yes, but DO something to show us how that happens." "Okay, I get it, now SHOW ME HOW THAT BECOMES REALITY!" And... he didn't. Same thing with the "united enemy" at the end of Watchmen. There's no sense of sustainability and certainly Veidt would have thought that through a bit on SOME level.

I think many of the changes that were made were done to deliver the same impact to a contemporary audience as they did to an older audience. As you said in your first video we've seen the post-modern superhero for 20 years.

I don't know if this is deliberate but the ending felt much more contemporary since much of *today's* global crisis revolves around religion. The new ending of the film I feel speaks to that because Veidt gives the world one god to fear: Dr. Manhattan.

Similarly, I'm of two minds about the child-killer scene. On the one hand the book had a sense of poetic justice about it. Rorschach gives him the choice to cut off his own hand to escape the fire. However, as you've said, we've seen "heroes" doing things like that for 20 years. Batman leaves Ras to die in the train wreck at the end of Batman Begins for example. What the contemporary superhero movie audience has NOT seen is Batman brutally hack someone to death. So again, change for equivalent effect with a contemporary movie going audience.

I didn't know where Laurie got the gun when I was reading the book either. So the film captured my experience of the book perfectly there. Also, if the point is to have violence be "realistic" why can Veidt catch a bullet? That made NO sense to me relative to everything else I'd seen in the book. At least it fit somewhat in the film with the more stylized take on the action.

The one and only scene that didn't work for me was the back-ally fight with Dan and Laurie. They were clearly using lethal force which doesn't fit with my understanding of them. I felt it cheapened Rorschach's psychopathy.

Overall, this was my reaction to the film: Now I know what I was supposed to be feeling while I was reading the book. Really. By cutting out all the pace killing Alan Moore pedantic side-stories, lecturing, and over all wankery the film lets the character's actions speak for them.

For example, I think it's pretty damn clear what gives Dan his sex drive back with out having to bluntly say, "The costume's helped." That's an example of Alan Moore telling and not showing. The film showed you without having to hit you over the head with a line of dialogue about it. Hell, if nothing else, he's standing in front of the costume naked lamenting about how much he "needs" it.
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
I really don't know what book you read, but it wasn't Watchmen.

Rorschach stands outside and watches the murderer burn, waiting for him to come out. He doesn't just leave him there. Also, it's a direct rip-off from Mad Max--something R.'s psychiatrist addresses directly in the book. Rorschach isn't cool: he's more complicated than that. He's deeply, deeply disturbed. The movie made him cool. The only satisfying element of the movie for me about Rorschach was the end when he begs Manhattan to kill him. Exactly how it was in the book.

(In the book) Dan does stand naked in front of his costume, talking about how impotent he is without the costume. He even uses the word "impotent." Again, Snyder felt the need to change the dialogue to "I need it." A subtle change, meaning something different. Frankly, I found the dialogue less sublime and more vulgar.

Veidt catching the bullet in the book illustrates just how far ahead of the other "watchmen" he is. They're busting street criminals and he's catching bullets.

The "pedantic side-stories" are what made the book famous in the first place. The secondary characters: the two lesbians, the cops, the news vendor and the comic book kid, R.'s psychiatrist and his wife... all of these are beautiful little vignettes that make the final scene in New York that much more potent. Otherwise, it's just corpses. We know the faces of the corpses. We know their lives.

And the Black Freighter--another "pedantic side-story" I suppose. A symbolic story of Adrian's own "sacrifice." Showing, not telling. I guess you missed that.

I really don't know which book you read. Honestly.

Edited at 2009-03-20 03:43 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
Let me ask you this: Why do we need the parallel of The Black Freighter? Why isn't Andrian's story on its own sufficient? Why does the message need to be said twice?

Of the vignettes you mention the only one that worked for me was the psychiatrist's and I think that's because it tied directly in with one of the main characters. I enjoyed watching Rorschach's pathology take hold of him.

The others touched nothing. They were just there. Yes, I "get" they setup the impact of the ending but that only assumes I care about them in the first place. I didn't. I just wanted to get past them to get back to the story.

Same issue with the last third of V for Vendetta. Suddenly all the moving action is about secondary characters I didn't care about while V is kickin' it in his dungeon pontificating about anarchy. It's like Moore suddenly forgot about the "pro" in protagonist.

All of this is because I crave tightness and focus in my stories. I don't like long form ensemble television, for example. It rambles and gets side-tracked from what otherwise could be an incredibly punchy and effective narrative.

Looking at your own work I love No Loyal Knight. It's a great collection of interconnected supernatural crime stories. I enjoy it so much that when anyone brings up Dresden Files I say, "Yeah, but have you read John Wick's No Loyal Knight. It's so much better."

I really loved No Loyal Knight... except for the weird little interludes about some lady on a hill with mirrors and photographs that have something to do with the ending. Sort of. Maybe. Yes, I've read the Tennyson poem, I still don't get it.

Mar. 20th, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
The last paragraph in this comment tells me exactly all I need to know on why you don't agree with John about the movie and comic book.
I'm glad you like No Loyal Knight because I do as well. That said, really....really...you think the book would be better without the "weird interludes" that ummmmmm I don't know, make it more than just a supernatural crime story. No, I don't get all the allusions made, but bloody hell even I understand that the reason Moore and Wick rock is that the stories are not all surface and flash and the "lack of focus" is in fact more than one level of meaning. This apparently hits you twice on the head with the symbol hammer because you aren't bothering to get deeper than the basic plot. And you need that to be "tight" to move along with out these silly characters who insist on being more than just faces (and V is not the protagonist any more than Rorschach is, check out the idea of unreliable narrator, its called a literary device). Obviously you are also not a Umberto Eco fan.
Mar. 20th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
Okay, calling them "weird little interludes" was maybe more dismissive then I intended. I apologize. I just know that I got to the end and things were a bit of a let down compared to everything else. I also think you may have read "crime story" with more shallowness that I intended. If I wanted to call it shallow I would have referred to it as a "mystery story."

Mysteries are fun puzzles but lacking in substance. Crime stories are harsh and brutal examinations of human morality. That's why I *don't* like Dresden Files. They are so much sound and fury signifying nothing.

To me, theme (i.e. meaning) is best expressed by having characters that embody an idea through their values and passions, then placing them in situations that challenge those values and passions in a demonstrable concrete manner. The character is forced to make a decision that leads to them taking action that has consequences. That cycle is repeated until the situation resolves. The state of that resolution evaluated against the original values and passions embodied by the character is theme.

Now if you want to layer stuff ON TOP of that, that's fine. I'm a huge, huge fan of The Maxx with all the Outback imagery and weird psychological archetypes but ultimately the whole thing stays focused on the personal problems of a few central characters. And in many ways I get the Lancelot stuff in No Loyal Knight.

My issue with something like V for Vendetta is that V's anarchy dream is never challenged in a concrete way that resolves. The story got MOST interesting to me at the end when Eve takes up the mask. THAT'S the story I wanted to see. How is Eve going to honor V's dream without (a) becoming a leader herself and (b) resorting to tactics that make her just as fascist as the regime V brought down.

It's all well and good for a story to raise questions. A better story provides answers to those questions through character decision, action and consequence. I'm not talking about Universal Truths or anything like that. I'm talking about local to that character, local to that situation. There can even be contradictory answers. Rorschach and Veidt come to two completely different answers about the same question and neither end up very well.

Now to cut some slack to Watchmen, the idea that it could only be told in "comic format" keeps getting bandied about. Now, part of the comic format is reading it one issue at a time, across months, most likely rereading to refresh one's memory before reading the new issue. That's not how I read it. I read it straight through in two sittings (while sick with the flu mind you).

It occurs to me that from that perspective the book was very choppy. The narrative kept being interrupted with these chatty scenes at news stands and this story-within a story of the black freighter. That is, it didn't flow like a novel. Now had I been forced to *iterate* over that material over months to stay on top of it, perhaps more of it would have sunk in. Maybe I would have acquired a stronger taste for what on a single linear reading appeared to be choppy interruptions.

As for Umberto Eco I made it about a 100 pages into The Name of the Rose once. I admit I wasn't fond of a 2 page description of a door.
Mar. 20th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
Two things, Moore's V for Vendetta works much better in the time when the modern concept of Anarchy was first becoming popular in England and the US. V is an unreliable narrator, and thus can't challenge his own ideas.

Evey's story is a good one, and would have been fun to see, but it was not what Moore's aim was. He wanted to raise the idea of Anarchy and get people to think about it. Moore himself may not have known what Evey's actions would have brought about, but I think Moore's goal was to bring forth the idea of Anarchy for discussion, not to reliably claim it as the working alternative.

Second, try reading "Foucault's Pendulum," by Eco. If you do like imagery you might have an easier time with that one. "The Name of the Rose", I generally only recommend to people who enjoyed "Robinson Crusoe" or other early novel lengthy narrative type works. Don't get me wrong, it's possibly his best work, but if you can't sit through "War & Peace", "Robinson Crusoe" or "Ivanhoe" (all 3K pages) then don't try, "The Name of the Rose."
Mar. 20th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Of course, V can't challenge his ideas. That's what the author is for by putting V in situations that force him to make decisions about his ideas. The first two thirds of V for Vendetta do that brilliantly.

The first third raises the question of whether this is too personal for V. Is this *really* about making the world an anarchist paradise or is all of that just an attempt to rationalize... well... a personal vendetta?

The second third raises the question of whether V really buys into his own his ideas of people as free thinkers. Is he freeing Evey's mind or is his treatment of her just another kind of indoctrination?

We see what V believes. We see his choices, his actions and his consequences. How we as an audience choose to evaluate that is up to us but the narrative provides us with V's concrete localized answers through his decisions and actions.

And then we totally lose that in the last third because V stops doing anything.

I've thought about giving Foucault's Pendulum a go for while. "Dense" really isn't the issue. I read a lot of 18th Century Gothic novels. The Castle of Otronto, The Monk, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Frankenstien, for example.

Mar. 20th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Dude, V isn't the protagonist. Evey is the protagonist and V is the antagonist.
Mar. 20th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
You're putting goals onto Moore's work that Moore wasn't trying to do. Your idea about what could've happen is fun, but the work wasn't meant to go in that direction, like John said, V is the antagonist.

I'm glad that density isn't the issue, but you complained about a two page description of a door - a kick-ass door might I add that really deserved those two pages.
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
Also, the comic shows Laurie picking up the gun in New York before they go to Adrian's fortress. You can see her picking it off the body of one of the detectives.

You should pay attention to the details when you change things. Otherwise, you've got a plot hole you can run a truck through. An amateur mistake.
Mar. 20th, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)

He's deeply, deeply disturbed. The movie made him cool.

This is totally evident in the movie. I think that the feverish cleavering illustrates it. And people thought Rorschach was cool long before the movie.

The secondary characters: the two lesbians, the cops, the news vendor and the comic book kid, R.'s psychiatrist and his wife... all of these are beautiful little vignettes that make the final scene in New York that much more potent. Otherwise, it's just corpses. We know the faces of the corpses. We know their lives.

True, and true for the Black Freighter story too. I thought it was absolutely awe-inspiring when I read it. But come on, they're on a time limit with a film and the average non-book-reading ignoramus has a limited attention span. I think Snyder did the best he could -- and this is coming from a purist who was full of rage when they heard about the alteration of the ending (which turned out okay after all, given how ridiculously convoluted the psychic squid was).

The only satisfying element of the movie for me about Rorschach was the end when he begs Manhattan to kill him. Exactly how it was in the book.

I'm glad you were at least satisfied with that. The movie actually managed to improve that scene, giving it even more emotion than it had in the comic. There's a hesitance to Dr. Manhattan's actions, and Jackie Earl Haley's emotional performance got something across that two panels in a comic book didn't (for me).

P.S. Laurie is completely naked in the sex scene in the comic so your complaint about movie glossing over the fetish aspect is incorrect -- especially since Laurie wears her boots throughout it in the movie, which is totally a nod to the fetish thing.
Mar. 20th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)
I honestly don't think a Watchmen film is possible to make, not only for the obvious reason of it's being a perfect native of the comics medium (possibly the perfect native), but because it would make no money. Unfortunately, any film with any kind of budget has to appeal to the broadest audience possible so that people don't starve in its wake. The message and complexity of thought in Watchmen is nearly impenetrable for the general movie-going public, and there aren't enough Moore geeks out there to make it work. Hell, you've already alienated the hard-line orthodox Moore-ians simply by making the damn movie.

Now, that said, an independent production of Watchmen would be possible. Given the technology in the hands of the general populace, there's very little the dedicated fan couldn't do. Look at what the Star Wars fan film community has accomplished and you'll see what I mean. With Watchmen, honestly, the more faith kept in the comic, the lower the potential cost. Sure, it'd be a lot of work, but it's the only way I see much of anything Moore's done making faithful translations to film. I disagree with the Man on his belief that his books are strictly unfilmable, I just don't think they'd make any money.
Mar. 20th, 2009 06:52 am (UTC)
Loved the review, and the preface helped set the right tone for it.

I have to disagree very slightly about the fetish content of the sex scene. Laurie left her boots/leggings on, and the director specifically highlighted this. So to an extent, Snyder was aware of the fetishistic power of the costume. However, he was more concerned with the fetishism of the audience than the characters, I think. So, some of it is there... It's just pushed into the background.

You're right on with your conclusion, though. Snyder is a very visual director, and it doesn't surprise me at all that he sacrificed text and kept imagery.
Mar. 20th, 2009 07:59 am (UTC)
I think something connected to the fetish bit is the Mars dream Dan is having.

Edit: It's not only a sex-fetish, his coupling is not complete without it, he is not complete without his costume, which for a long time he abandoned.

Edited at 2009-03-20 07:59 am (UTC)
Mar. 20th, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
Several things :)

1. We are mostly in agreement.

2. You said, "If it takes the same amount of time," key word being "If". Since he did cut a lot of the bits about Rorschach and his mother, mostly about showing them again and again, then the change was necessary in order to carry the "same message"(but gutted from a lot of its attachment, so just "volume" rather than "scope"), in a shorter amount of time, then a change is necessary.
And though I think the Rorschach "Saw scene" being changed was horrible, it would have taken about ten more seconds I think ;)

3. I keep wondering, both when I hear a director talking about "Being faithful" and during your review. Maybe I just lack an understanding of how films are made, but something as major as the Mars section or the ending, are we really to give the burden of the changes to Snyder? The movie has a script, and the script has writers, they are responsible for these changes, are they not?

4. I think he may have not failed, since he made it "As close to the original as possible," which does not contradict your "Doomed effort" comment but puts it in a different context: If it's impossible to translate it exactly, and if it is further required to make some changes for it to work in the cinema, then "As close as possible" merely means, closer than the other alternatives, not 100% match.
But yeah, I think in some sections he could have had it closer.

5. My review.
Mar. 20th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
I think, in some ways, you're really looking at it wrong. I mean, maybe the film wasn't a frame-by-frame translation of the book, but it shouldn't be. Not at all. And it's not only about time - even if Snyder had 12 hours, some things have to be changed.

I'll focus on the ending (specifically, the no-cthulhu-summoning bit): The new ending was better. I must say I thought it bypassed Moore's version by a long shot. It was tighter, didn't come out of nowhere, and didn't demand a huge explanation about psychics (wait, there are psychics in this universe? Why didn't you tell us before?). It was a perfect choice for the film, and would have been a great choice for the comic book.

So what do I think Snyder was supposed to achieve (and did, if you ask me)? To get Watchmen right. To get the feel, the message, and the whole package (no pun intended) through. The comic is awesome not only because of the world, characters, and message (not to talk about the so-so plot): it's awesome because of all the tiny bits you can find and focus on, like the fact that the lock on the Comedian's door is manufactured by "the Gordian Knot", or Rorschach's faces. These things are not meant to go through the silver screen. And they didn't. Everything else, on the other hand, got through great, and sometimes even better (the comic could not have done that awesome opening sequence, that was practically missing from it).
Mar. 20th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
Who Reviews the Watchmen?
I agree with some points, disagree with others but thought it was a great, well-wrought review. Nice one, John.
Mar. 20th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
First, I agree with you in your arguments with bloodthorn about the vignettes, etc., they were all important in the comic book - and supposedly Watchmen will be some crazy 3:45 long movie when the Black Freighter etal is restored to it., but that might make it worse.


Because I don't agree with you on your most basic premise: Zack Snyder's goal was to recreate the book. I believe Zack Snyder's real goal, and something he's directly alluded to in multiple interviews was to save Watchmen from a horrific Hollywoodized doppleganger and make a movie that conveyed many of the same ideas to a modern post 9/11 audience that had never read the book.

I say this because he specifically commented that two of his main reasons for changing the end were 9/11, and the fact that Watchmen had been available to the public for 20 years and tons of comic books have stepped beyond the territory Watchmen first explored all those years ago.

He removed many of those vignettes because he was making a movie, and couldn't afford to make an unwatchable film. Watchmen, the comic, really and truly is unfilmable. Zack knew this, it is why he first turned it down. He also knew that if he had let it go to someone else he would feel responsible for letting out that monstrosity that would have been the Saturday Morning Cartoons Watchmen.

If he had refused to direct the film he would have been like a retired air force pilot on a disabled 747 who refused to try and land the plane because it was going to at best be a rough landing even though he knew the other choice for pilot was a retarded twelve year old who's only flight experience was playing Starcraft.

Zack literally dreamed the impossible dream, he was Don Quixote filming the comic book equivalent of Man from La Mancha. No one is going to say that he completely succeeded, not even me. But he did a far better job than even I had hoped. He brought the plane in for a rough landing with one engine and no landing gear in the middle of a farmer's field. Where people hurt? Sure your ears are bleeding and Alan Moore is sitting in the back with a broken nose smugly saying, "I told you so," but none of us are going to have to go to the hospital and no one lost an eye. ;)
Mar. 20th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
Very nicely said John.

I agree on most of your points. I do think however the art is served better with this attempt than not. I think the world is better with the Lotr movies even when they aren't the same as reading it. I do not believe that the book's story has been destroyed by this attempt, but give it a chance for a new audience. I too wish it didn't X-men/Matrix up the fighting. live action Jacky Chan or even a little more mundane would have been fine, but sadly it is easy to bend to Big Money to supe it up.

I am surprised with YOUR response about Manhattan's full frontal nudity. I did not find it overly used or spotlighted, but appropriately just there. No hiding it, no spot lighting it. We as a culture have made this an unbalanced issue in our movies. The giggles by some and the "Eeew" by the tweenager down the row from me show how one sided this is shown in our culture. No comments from them when the girls are skyclad. I had no issue with the use of the size as you seem to have with it. I thought it not overly stated.

I must admit it has been a long time since reading the story, and my efforts to trying to break out of storage my old copies have only found only the 1st comic of the series. My full bound book is probably still on eternal loan somewhere.

Did I find it a complete telling of the story? No. Did I find most of it VERY closely true to the story? yes. I think there are some different interpretations that the movie made that I would have like done differently, but I found the core of the characters true enough and the entirety of the story true enough to be a benefit of a retelling.

I am not surprise with your position John. Knowing how we differ and where we agree on the benefit vs damage Disney lends to the classics it gets it's hands on retelling. I am not surprised in the least on how you stand in defense of the purity of the story, and I can sympathize with you. But ultimately I do believe the story and its art has been greatend by adding this into the library of choices out there. I hope this brings more readers to enjoy the original, but I am more pessimistic that this may be the only chance many will get to hear this story, and the silver lining is that they will get at least this. Whereas many would have gone without this compelling story. Was it ruined with changes? I don't think so. I enjoyed what the story speaks to me. I like that the puppet strings will be cut by the truth even if it will bring the world back into chaos. But maybe I am just more sympathetic to Rorschach's point of view.

btw I am glad he chose to separated out the pirate/bloated body raft story into an entirely separate film. It wasn't going to lend well into telling of the core story by the medium of film. imho

As well as the Harry Potter films are not as rich as the books, bc of huge lack of story elements. It is still entertaining and we as an audience are better off having the extra telling of them. And just like many of the Disney stories (a debate you are sure ready to build an extra large soapbox about the failing rate of literacy read to youngsters, I'm sure. A more so on the destroying of classics in your view) I am afraid for many, these may be the only chances to enrich them with these stories. And yes in contrast to you, I do believe a Disney Cinderella is more than No Cinderella for a child even if it is changed and marketed so. But cases like the Little Mermaid are much more close of a call than Harry Potter or the Watchmen for me. And still I say it is a benefit more to have even Disney's Mermaid, even when it misses the mark so very far. ;)

Ok soryy g2 run and play with kids without rereading and checking things, please forgive I get less time at the keyboard than I would like. :)
Mar. 20th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Black Freighter had to be cut for the same reason Tom Bombadil got cut: It didn't actually add to the core of the story. It equates to a non-vital enhancement.

Regarding Dr. Manhattans magical swinging junk: Moore kept it understated and undersized as John was trying to use the Greek ideal for his new form. The Swaying Smurf Trunk is the exact opposite.

The Child Molester Demise: The original didn't show a transition to psychopath. The comic is actually the medium that failed to deliver in this sense, as we aren't given a sense of change from the before and after images. On the other hand, the movie shows us an investigator that clearly hesitates and shows emotion in his transition to the new paradigm of brutality.

Alan Moore stated that he wrote 6 issues worth of plot but was contracted for twelve. The flashbacks and background character development that made the comic so great were afterthoughts and "filler," which I'm very glad were included in the original material and truly important to the movie in many cases.

I understand where John is coming from and respect his opinion on this, but I did note the lack of tacit condemnation for the movie. Does this mean that, even though it failed as a direct translation, it proved to be a poor experience? I found it lacking in areas, but I still enjoyed the movie tremendously.
Mar. 21st, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
I'm sort of beating a dead horse here, but it could almost be said that the movie didn't fail as such, but the general audience failed the transition. I can honestly say that a more direct translation of Watchmen would have been an absolute flop. Sure, DVD sales would have sustained it in the decades to come as a massive amount of cult cred built up around the flick, but the themes addressed in the film-- even the fighting-- would have completely alienated most ticket-holders.

Same goes for V, a 2-hour treatise on anarchy would have resulted in a failed film. League would have been too literate for the majority of people to get. From Hell, I think, could have worked. Moore creates comics whose filmic counterparts scream for money, with ideas that most people who don't read Moore can't grock or handle, and movies are restricted in both time and the need to make a profit, and to make a profit, they have to fill millions of seats. I enjoyed Watchmen, V, and From Hell as movies in themselves. V and From Hell pretty much screwed the adaptation pooch. Watchmen was the most satisfyingly close switch of a Moore property to date, and still missed the mark, true. This is what I take as Moore's insistence that his stuff is unfilmable.
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