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Turnaround and Round and Round we go. Everyone wins but the fans.
December 28, 2008 11:27 AM   Subscribe

The Watchmen film has been tossed around for 20 years and finally, it looks like it might be released. Hold up just a moment, says Fox. Bloggers attempt to give some perspective. Others attempt to give Fox some friendly advice about alternate activites
posted by Lord_Pall (75 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, clearly copyright is fulfilling it's purpose in helping to foster the creation of new works.
posted by delmoi at 11:37 AM on December 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


They're putting the movie under attack so that we'll band together to protect it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:41 AM on December 28, 2008 [13 favorites]


I have no clue why anyone who likes Watchmen would want a movie version. It doesn't seem like the kind of book that would translate well, and it's been being perfectly awesome for decades without a movie attached to it. But then, no one ever made money by pitching movies at my tastes...
posted by Casuistry at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


Meh. The movie's going to be crap, and Fox is completely within their rights to go to court to protect their intellectual property. Warner Brothers has only themselves to blame for not covering the legal bases on this one.
posted by EarBucket at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2008


At least Jackie Earle Haley is getting paid. That's what matters.
posted by jonp72 at 11:55 AM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just want to recommend the motion comics on itunes for anyone that wants to experience the comic with out reading it. It's basically scans of the comic with someone reading the dialogue.
posted by empath at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is the year 2008. Even if Fox halts the release, the movie is going to be leaked online, and everyone who wants to see it will do so. Warner will lose money, Fox will get no money, and somehow Internet piracy will be blamed for the whole fiasco.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:08 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I doubt it'll stop the film... just that Fox will get a chunk of change.

Though of course if it really is down to a certain beardie in Northampton's magic anything could happen...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:24 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ditto empath. The Motion Comics are like moving books on tape.

The Black Freighter bits are particularly well narrated.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2008


metafilter: Eat all the dicks.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:59 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I heard the judge is a squiddie trufan.
posted by mwhybark at 1:02 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I will take this thread as an opportunity to state that while I quite like his work, Alan Moore creeps me right the fuck out.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:06 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"We want to see Dr. Manhattan’s glorious, blue genitals majestically flopping on the big screen."

Hear, hear.
posted by homunculus at 1:08 PM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've been following this a little bit, and what I want to know is how it's going to play out. Everything else is so much noise. Have there been disputes like this in the past? How were they resolved? Will the film be delayed, or will there be a neat settlement that doesn't affect our experience at all?

I don't really care that some knob on the Internet thinks Fox should eat dicks, even if they should. (Incidentally, it's very weird that he doesn't understand Fox's position: they bought the rights and want to be compensated for it. Does he not think that DC or whoever owns the copyright should be able to control movie rights? Without knowing the details, I think Fox's suit emerges more or less necessarily from this straightforward social choice.)
posted by grobstein at 1:23 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"We want to see Dr. Manhattan’s glorious, blue genitals majestically flopping on the big screen."

Heh. Glad to see I wasn't the only one who clicked through the links and actually read them. Good stuff.
posted by humannaire at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2008


You know, you might just have to read them instead.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:35 PM on December 28, 2008


Watchmen is not an action and special effects extravaganza.
posted by autodidact at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2008


.. it's like Citizen Kane, the comic book.
posted by autodidact at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2008


My primary interest in seeing this onscreen is two-fold -

A] I am just interested in seeing how they play this out on the big screen. Even if it ends up being due to morbid curiosity.

B] I hope it can raise awareness enough to actually get people to buy actual dead tree copies of the book and start getting people to realize that just because it has pictures of superheroes everywhere doesn't mean it can't be literature.
posted by Samizdata at 4:38 PM on December 28, 2008


Samizdata:
On the strength of the movie preview, I bought a copy of Watchmen, and thought it was really, really terrible. Bad dialogue, mediocre art, unremarkable plot, little character development, shallow exploration of issues. I was quite bored. What am I missing?
posted by SirNovember at 4:51 PM on December 28, 2008


I should say that I am aware that the thing is supposed to be a great step forward in the formal development of graphic novels, I just don't think it did anything interesting with its formal conceits.
posted by SirNovember at 4:53 PM on December 28, 2008


They're totally within their legal rights, and that's what makes this sad. Right now, the most profitable strategy would be to buy up intellectual properties of all sorts and just sit on them, whether it's a technology patent you won't develop or a movie you just never intend on making.

While I'm not one of those "intellectual property is theft" types, this scenario does not exactly fill me with hope. And I haven't even read the comic.
posted by adipocere at 4:58 PM on December 28, 2008


On the strength of the movie preview, I bought a copy of Watchmen, and thought it was really, really terrible. Bad dialogue, mediocre art, unremarkable plot, little character development, shallow exploration of issues. I was quite bored. What am I missing?

It's a comic book that's really about comic books!
posted by sixswitch at 5:00 PM on December 28, 2008


On the strength of the movie preview, I bought a copy of Watchmen, and thought it was really, really

...meh. At the end, I was like "wait, what?" And I thought maybe I should re-read it. And then realized I had better uses of my time. Probably an era thing (I read it only a few years ago.)
posted by DU at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2008


What am I missing?

It was the first post-modern superhero comic - in the same way that Ulysses was the first post-modern novel. It was designed in as minute detail as was Madame Bovary. The penciling has few rivals in narrative clarity.

And Rorschach is cool.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:57 PM on December 28, 2008


grobstein it's very weird that he doesn't understand Fox's position: they bought the rights and want to be compensated for it.

But he does understand that the above is Fox's position. He thinks it's wrong, for reasons he explains. "It gains me money" is not actually a moral value, it's a factor on which morality may operate.

IMO, the optimal solution is for Fox to be given some percentage of the net profits, therefore making it in Fox's interest that the film do as well as possible. Given that they put in no work, they deserve no return, but "deserve" and "copyright" have had nothing to do with each other for a long long time.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:13 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the strength of the movie preview, I bought a copy of Watchmen, and thought it was really, really terrible. Bad dialogue, mediocre art, unremarkable plot, little character development, shallow exploration of issues. I was quite bored. What am I missing?
posted by SirNovember at 4:51 PM on December 28 [+] [!]

If you aren't familiar with comic books, then you can't really appreciate what Watchmen did to the genre. Moore is very aware of our expectactions as a reader and plays with them and repeatedly forces us to wonder what a comic book is, and does some really unusual things with the format...unfortunately it's stuff that has been ripped off a thousand times by now, so a reader in 2008 has trouble knowing how awesome it is.

If you have to ask me what, specifically, I love about the books, it's the scenes where Dr. Manhattan is struggling to infer meaning from his new timeless perspective, where he experiences all things at once. I feel that Moore pulled off what Vonnegut attempted in Slaughterhouse Five - and that this is something where comics do better than the novel.
posted by mek at 6:33 PM on December 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Alan Moore creeps me right the fuck out.

I forget who said it, but it was early in his career and they said "And one day you'll be a convention and see Alan Moore looking like Evil Santa and he'll hug you, stoke you, and tell you why you're wrong and bad inside and then, then you'll know true truth. Or he'll sign your books. I don't know. He's a busy man."
posted by The Whelk at 6:44 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


This looks like Fox waking up and realizing that Gordon's "turnabout" license might not have been as complete as he thought it was, and thus they could shaft a competitor/consumer for a crapload of money.

Maybe it's just me, but when I see Hollywood making Intellectual Monopoly law even more complicated than it is (apparently to the point where Warner Bros' (not insubstantial) legal team were apparently misled) I'm reminded of some recent complaints about derivatives. And my sympathy for everybody who subscribed to the system just goes out the window.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I forget who said it, but it was early in his career

Just a guess, but that sounds a lot like a Warren Ellis quote to me. Speaking of freaky, revolutionary British comic book writers.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:27 PM on December 28, 2008


BitterOldPunk: I will take this thread as an opportunity to state that while I quite like his work, Alan Moore creeps me right the fuck out.

I'm ashamed to admit that until I saw that photograph, I hadn't realized that Alan Moore moonlights as Dr. Demento.
posted by JHarris at 7:33 PM on December 28, 2008


The real reason behind all this is that Moore put a curse on the movie. It's not going to come out until he lifts the curse.
posted by homunculus at 7:39 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's the best damn comic book I have ever read, (I am not done yet though). Is it literature? As someone said it does turn the genre on its head in a most delightful way, and at least so far, it is deliciously complex, especially for a comic book, but literature? I guess I will have to finish it to find out. The general social themes of heroes in society might just qualify. I must say I was more than a bit skeptical of all the hype before I started reading it, but then the opportunity arose so I have approached it with an open mind and am finding myself thoroughly enjoying it. I haven't read too many comics in the last few decade and certainly nothing like this.

All that being said, how can you do justice to this in a movie, especially when the public lusts for heroes and everything interesting about these heroes seems to be their humanity, their vulnerabilities? It's a classic theme (see the New Testament) but it works, but here to work it has to be a bit off kilter and I am afraid Hollywood doesn't want off kilter but rather just a superhero that occasionally shows a bit of weakness or emotion, just before offing the next bad guy. In any event, even if they get the vibe right, the complexity of ideas, playful tricks etc. will be quite difficult to fully encompass, especially the whole "what is a comic book" theme.
posted by caddis at 7:56 PM on December 28, 2008


It was the first post-modern superhero comic - in the same way that Ulysses was the first post-modern novel. It was designed in as minute detail as was Madame Bovary. The penciling has few rivals in narrative clarity.

This is precisely correct and bears repeating.

Also:

...how can you do justice to this in a movie, especially when the public lusts for heroes and everything interesting about these heroes seems to be their humanity, their vulnerabilities?

There are two worries here. The first is that the matter of the comic is essentially untranslatable to film. The second is that, even if it is translated very well to film, it won't be a commercial success.

The first worry is -- as I understand it -- the reason that Moore doesn't want the film to be made at all. The difficulty of adapting Watchmen to film is a legitimate concern, especially since the real strength of the comic is its postmodern critique of the comic form. How can that be translated to film? The simple answer is that it can't, but you could argue instead that the movie will turn into a postmodern critique of movie adaptations of comics. And if we conceive of it in that way, this legal farce might actually be part of the critique...

The second worry, that it will fail commercially, is interesting too, since its success or failure will probably dictate the direction of future comic adaptations. On the one hand, if it turns out to be incredibly successful and we see "Watchmen 2: Electric Boogaloo" (2011) and "Watchmen 3: Revenge of Rorschach" (2013), I will be very sad. On the other hand, if it is a complete failure and movie execs take it as a sign that you can't ever make movies based on smart comics, that will also make me sad. Pretty much anywhere between those two poles will be just fine.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2008


It was the first post-modern superhero comic - in the same way that Ulysses was the first post-modern novel. It was designed in as minute detail as was Madame Bovary. The penciling has few rivals in narrative clarity.

This is precisely correct and bears repeating.


I really don't think it's wrong to call Watchmen the Citizen Kane of comics. It introduced so many devices and styles and tricks that are now bone common (how many writers suddenly started to use Opposing Narration? or Slow -Panel-dissolves? Or tiny-but-telling panel-to-panel transitions?). The visual meter and framing have become so well-used that we forget how strange and spare they where. Take a look at some old Spirit comics, or even Moore's Swamp Thing. They seem so cluttered, so disconnected, so blunt. It's construction is drum-tight and jeweled. It's really a perfect little nugget of a story it's techniques and tone have been copied endlessly.

And yah, this movie is gonna suuuuuck. The narrative is half-flashback and half-disjoined thematic-memory storytelling. It's not a linear, you-see-it-as-it-happens narrative. From my readings on Moore, that was the point and the way to separate Comics from film influences. So, yaaaaaaah.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 PM on December 28, 2008


I have no clue why anyone who likes Watchmen would want a movie version.

My take is pretty simple: Why not? If it's good, it might manage to strike some of the same chords I felt when I was first reading the graphic novel, or otherwise put something I love -- but am familiar with -- in a fresh new light. Worst case scenario: it's terrible, but so what? It's not like my copy of the GN is going to spontaneously combust on my shelf. Then I also get snooty nerd-cred for talking about how much better the original was, a la I am Legend. It's win/win, really.

On the strength of the movie preview, I bought a copy of Watchmen, and thought it was really, really terrible. Bad dialogue, mediocre art, unremarkable plot, little character development, shallow exploration of issues. I was quite bored. What am I missing?

I should say that I am aware that the thing is supposed to be a great step forward in the formal development of graphic novels, I just don't think it did anything interesting with its formal conceits.


Ah ... this is a toughie. This thing really needs an annotated edition. Maybe the best way to put it is this:

Flip to Chapter V, p. 20, where in the Black Freighter section, the giant mottled shark attacks the raft. Slaying it, the castaway's narration then overlaps the real world events on p. 21, jumping back only briefly to detail how he's now dining on the shark as he sails. The very next page (p. 22), the police receive an anonymous phone call, telling them where they can pick up "raw shark" -- that is to say: Rorschach. Now, the connection between the shark and the vigilante established, go back and consider, for example, the end of the Black Freighter and the end of the GN proper (even down to the fate of the shark/Rorschach).

That's a pretty minor thing as it goes, but the whole damn book is like that.

It's the best damn comic book I have ever read ...

Honestly? I think From Hell is better.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:55 PM on December 28, 2008


From Hell is the best. I've never gotten the bone-chills from a comic before, and baby that book it them in.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on December 28, 2008


Argh

-That book shoved them in,

CanIhazeditfeaturenowplz?
posted by The Whelk at 9:00 PM on December 28, 2008


...unfortunately it's stuff that has been ripped off a thousand times by now, so a reader in 2008 has trouble knowing how awesome it is.

It's the same reason my husband thinks Alfred Hitchcock movies are boring, unimaginative, clichéd. When you grow up with the copies, the original just doesn't have the same impact.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 9:56 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah ... this is a toughie. This thing really needs an annotated edition. Maybe the best way to put it is this:

BTW, the Annotated Watchmen.
posted by mek at 11:08 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read Watchmen for the first time when I was in high school. That was over sixteen years ago. I have read it several times since then, and always notice something new, including when I read it most recently, earlier this month. I haven't read anything since that was as satisfying. And I don't just mean comics. It's not for no reason it was on that 100 greatest modern novels list.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:42 PM on December 28, 2008


You people can argue all you want until you're blue in the face.. but the situation seems pretty simple to me. The movie is going to crap, and nobody wants to release it. They should just put it straight to DVD because who freakin' cares already?
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:03 AM on December 29, 2008


I have no clue why anyone who likes Watchmen would want a movie version.

Why not? It can't be any worse than any number of adaptations, and it might be better.

I was actually quite hopeful that the guy from 300 is doing it.

What, you say? But rodgerd, 300 was crap! It's a dreadful hunk of shit!

Well, so it is. But it's not a horrid hunk of shit because it's a bad adaptation. It's a hunk of shit because it was an so perfectly, painfully faithful to its source material, to as many little details as could be crammed onto celluloid. 300 was shit because it's a perfect adaptation of a steaming mound of shit.

Now, of course, it's quite possible that the adaptation of Watchman will fail, but it won't fail because the director isn't totally focused on reproducing as much of the comic as it's possible to. He knows how to do that masterfully, even when he could have made a much better film by tampering.
posted by rodgerd at 1:12 AM on December 29, 2008


I did buy The Watchmen with all the people gushing about it here and I thought it was fantastic. There were some parts that I found boring or conventional but I think you have to appreciate the time and place that this was written, in the 80s. Some of the themes don't really apply to today's world.

But, also I don't read that many comics in general, and I haven't really since I was a kid. Maybe if I read more it would seem even more boring and conventional.
posted by delmoi at 1:18 AM on December 29, 2008


Been googling around the subject.... and, wow, Tom Rothman sure has done some EVIL
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:52 AM on December 29, 2008


"The movie is going to crap, and nobody wants to release it."...

You've seen it??!!!

I love statements like that, so well substantiated and from a base of knowledge and insight into the workings of the industry... sheesh...

Actually, those that have seen it think it is great. The production team is still shooting for the March release date, last week was spent doing sound editing. I missed my chance to go out and see it 'cuz I was too busy to fly out to CA over the holidays... :(

My prediction... you'll be able to see it in March... It's all about the money, and Warner and Fox both know that....

Although, now that I've said that, would there be some advantage in playing out this battle for a few months to gain publicity and whet the appetite of the masses a little?
posted by HuronBob at 5:15 AM on December 29, 2008


Like Mister Moofoo, I read it first in high school. I thought it was okay (most liked Dr. Manhattan's solo chapter on Mars) but didn't fully appreciate it until I read it again six months ago, slowly and carefully. It is not a book you can breeze through; you have to pay careful attention, and careful attention to everything (even the bits after the "comics" end each month).

Sure, some of the dialogue creaks, but psychologically the characters are much deeper than most mainstream comics had yet shown, and the plotting is top notch, and I love the parts throughout questioning authority and the use of power (not least in the climax). It's like a debate on utilitarianism, but less abstract and dull.
posted by johnofjack at 6:16 AM on December 29, 2008


Is there any real reason that patents and trademarks can be abandoned but copyrights can't? Obviously FOX was just using it as a troll/cybersquatter, buying the rights to prevent others from using them. I can't see how that's of any benefit to anyone interested in fostering creativity.

Personally I would've liked to see Terry Gilliam's treatment of it, though he'd backed out, saying it could only be done as a miniseries....
posted by johnofjack at 6:22 AM on December 29, 2008


And if we conceive of it in that way, this legal farce might actually be part of the critique...

:)
posted by caddis at 6:32 AM on December 29, 2008


Casuistry: "I have no clue why anyone who likes Watchmen would want a movie version. It doesn't seem like the kind of book that would translate well, and it's been being perfectly awesome for decades without a movie attached to it."

Replace "Watchmen" with "Lord of the Rings" and you basically have exactly what 90% of everyone was saying circa 1999. I'm not saying Watchmen will have the critical or financial success that the LotR series had (in fact it almost certainly will not -- that's a very high bar). What I'm saying is that pretty much everyone is terrible at accurately predicting what will translate to a movie well and what will not.
posted by Plutor at 11:08 AM on December 29, 2008


Somewhere, a young child is learning to read with the Watchmen. The Shadow sucked, V sucked, the Transformers (animated and michaelbayed) sucked, 300 sucked, Corvette Summer sucked (oh Annie Potts!), Heavy Metal sucked, Flash Gordon sucked, and soon Watchmen will suck. Oh wait; like the material? Go figure the films have their moments too, and fans relish them. And another young child falls in love with Tarna. Not unlike the last Highlander film (sucked); Watchmen will soon be out there in digital form waiting to be heh watched. Needs more bicycle. Screw Fox.
posted by buzzman at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2008


Heavy Metal sucked? Ah man, all these years I thought it was actually kinda good. Oh wait, you meant Heavy Metal 2000! Had me scared there for a minute.

And Flesh Gordon wasn't completely horrible.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:53 PM on December 29, 2008


BTW, the Annotated Watchmen.

Awesome. I'm going to read that with the GN in front of me, like, now. Really.

Thanks.

You people can argue all you want until you're blue in the face.. but the situation seems pretty simple to me. The movie is going to crap, and nobody wants to release it. They should just put it straight to DVD because who freakin' cares already?

The best part is, we could just sticky this post as the first comment in every MeFi nerd-thread and save 90% of people the trouble of commenting. "Sorry guys: the usual 'Spider-Man shouldn't have organic webshooters/The X-men shouldn't have black costumes/The Kingpin isn't black' angle has been covered. We've got it. Nothing anyone has done or ever will do can possibly equal the original and perfect My Little Pony/Silverhawks/Go-Bots/whatever cannon. Move along."

Except for The Spirit. That shit's just rancid.

What, you say? But rodgerd, 300 was crap! It's a dreadful hunk of shit!

Well, so it is. But it's not a horrid hunk of shit because it's a bad adaptation. It's a hunk of shit because it was an so perfectly, painfully faithful to its source material, to as many little details as could be crammed onto celluloid. 300 was shit because it's a perfect adaptation of a steaming mound of shit.


This. That movie has Miller's weirdo politics all over it. Add in the historical revisionism to make that strained theme stick and Miller's "I'm the Batman, dammit! What are you, retarded?" dialog, and it nails the source material perfectly. It's a friggin' gorgeous movie otherwise. The fact that this time Snyder is adapting something good gives me some optimism, if not exactly great faith.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:28 PM on December 29, 2008


My 12-year old self would like to remind you that Heavy Metal did not suck. It ruled. Thank you.
posted by The Whelk at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2008


Flash Gordon was fucking awesome.

But then again, I haven't seen it since I was 10 years old.
posted by empath at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2008


I read the Watchmen right after 9/11. It freaked me out.
posted by mecran01 at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2008


I've been pretty sure that this movie will suck since I heard it was getting made by Snyder. But I've been willing to be wrong because I didn't want to be a cynical movie grampa-pants.
Until I saw the last trailer and heard both Rorsharch and NightOwl refer to their group as "The Watchmen".

They call themselves The Watchmen.

At no point is that phrase uttered in the comic.
This movie is going to look pretty but be a watered down Gung-Ho Let's Miss the Point! version of the comic. With this, the changed ending and Ozymandias looking like a freaking wussy kid how can it be anything but?
I still look forward to being wrong though.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 12:10 AM on December 30, 2008


Flash Gordon remains the perfect film for Boxing Day afternoon (though I didn't watch it this year, damn)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:53 AM on December 30, 2008


Why have we kept "20th Century" in our name? Because that's when we last made consistently great films. Call it nostalgia

Fox on Twitter...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:24 AM on December 30, 2008


I've been pretty sure that this movie will suck since I heard it was getting made by Snyder. But I've been willing to be wrong because I didn't want to be a cynical movie grampa-pants.
Until I saw the last trailer and heard both Rorsharch and NightOwl refer to their group as "The Watchmen".


Yeah, that second trailer is pretty disappointing compared to the first one. I can understand the use of the word "Watchmen" in dialog -- the book contains constant repetitions of awkward phrases like "masked heroes" -- but I agree it's a mistake. Among other problems, it posits the existence of a group that was never formed: the Comedian's cynical arguments torpedoed the creation of any next-generation group of masked heroes in the '60s-'70s.

On the other hand, I've been checking out the "Motion Comic" based on recommendations upthread, and I think it's an excellent argument for a movie version of Watchmen, especially a hyper-faithful one. It lets you imagine what a shot-for-frame reconstruction of the book would be like, and the answer is "pretty awesome."
posted by grobstein at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2008


They call themselves The Watchmen.

At no point is that phrase uttered in the comic.


Angry Internet Men will get angry about anything. I don't understand how that could make the slightest bit of difference to the quality of the film.
posted by empath at 11:28 AM on December 30, 2008


I don't understand how that could make the slightest bit of difference to the quality of the film.

It refers to an umbrella organization that doesn't exist in the book. The problem is not merely that they call themselves The Watchmen, but that they consider themselves members of an actual group with a name, at all.

In the comic, there is no successor organization to the Minutemen (the '40s-era superhero group), and this was pretty important. The combination of the emergence of Dr. Manhattan and the social change of the '60s meant that a super-hero group no longer made sense; this was an early sign of the forces that would lead to the Keene Act. This is all dramatized in an important early scene. In Chapter 2, fat crime-fighter "Captain Metropolis" calls a meeting to form a new super-group, the Crimebusters. The objections are voiced in the cynicism and nihilism of Rorschach and the Comedian. The group never comes together, and this is the beginning of the social isolation that sets the backdrop for the killings that move the plot of the book.
posted by grobstein at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


What grobstein said.

a lot more eloquently than I ever could

PS - That Annotated Watchmen site is awesome Just what I need.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2008


Story in yesterday's Times helped me get a better handle on this. Many of you probably already understood this stuff, but it wasn't clear to me from what I've read in the thread, so I'm going to briefly summarize: The Times indicates that disputes like this are rare, so it's hard to extrapolate what will happen from past events.
posted by grobstein at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2008


I don't understand how that could make the slightest bit of difference to the quality of the film.

Another (more subtle, less important) problem is that the "Watchmen" label is applied by critics of the masked heroes -- quis custodiet ipsos custodies, Who watches the watchmen? ask Keene Act-era graffiti throughout the comic.
posted by grobstein at 2:20 PM on December 30, 2008


The phrase also comes from a sequence that goes (very roughly) something like "So you think you wife might be fucking around, what do you do? When you go out to work you put a guard on the door to make sure no one can get in and fuck her. But who's watching the guard?"

It's not unimportant that what appears to be a deep statement about power and responsibility stems from a satire about paranoid cuckoldry.
posted by Grangousier at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2008


Weird! If it's not unimportant, what do you make of it?
posted by grobstein at 3:04 PM on December 30, 2008


OK, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and my version is a bit rough,
audio quid ueteres olim moneatis amici,
"pone seram, cohibe." sed quis custodiet ipsos
custodes? cauta est et ab illis incipit uxor.

I hear always the admonishment of my friends:
"Bolt her in, constrain her!" But who will guard
the guardians? The wife plans ahead and begins with them!
I'm too flu-ey and ear-blocked right now to give a very good answer, and with Moore there is rarely only one reason for something. I've tried, but I just start to gibber.

One point is that, like the quotation, the "costumed heroes" sound impressive, but the book shows them all to be variously damaged, pathetic, psychotic and in one case not really human.

For example, the one "super" hero doesn't fundamentally believe that it's possible to act - he has a view of destiny and simply follows its script. This is as essentially unheroic as it's possible to get, especially if it's someone who can technically do anything.

Also (not related to your question but worth mentioning, too I think) - the name "Watchmen" is a play on words (accentuated by the Dr Manhattan backstory) - it also refers to mechanical men, people who are only acting mechanically, obeying very simple scripts and instructions, becoming "somebody" by becoming a mask (one of the euphemisms for "superhero" in the book is "mask", and of course the mask, to go back to classical allusions, is the persona), becoming nothing. On several occasions, the actual people behind the masks (and this goes for the psychologist as much as the Comedian), break down when confronted with the nature of reality and their own impotence. They can only watch; they can't do.

The reason Hollywood can't make Moore's books is that it can't face things like this - it only has a very small number of ideas - "good guy", "bad guy", "winning out over unsurmountable odds", all that shit - to play with.

The film version of V For Vendetta, was the Wachowski Brothers' tribute to Moore in the same way that it would be to tie him to a chair, gang-bang his dog, then solemnly take a dump on his face (one member of the production team after another) before setting fire to his house, with him still tied to the chair.

And (like the film adaptation of Watchmen) they got the look of the thing just right and employed an almost perfect cast* to present what was not so much an adaptation of a work as a punishment of the author.

Oh, I'm sorry, I've not answered your question, really, though I did have a gratifying rant. The best I can come up with just now is "it has something to do with bathos". Just be grateful I didn't leave any of the real wittering in.

*Although I'd have cast Stephen Fry as Protheroe - no offense to Roger Allam: he played the wrong character very well.
posted by Grangousier at 4:27 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


It makes not the slightest bit of difference to any of that if the Crime Busters were called "The Watchmen", though.

According to the script review I read, the one and only meeting of "The Watchmen" ends the same way -- with the Comedian talking about Nuclear Weapons and humanities ability to destroy itself, and the group splitting up.

It's also, btw, an easy thing to change in post production with a few over dubs in the right place. I imagine the 'collectors edition' will fix that.
posted by empath at 5:20 PM on December 30, 2008


New Watchmen Featurette Probes Separation Between Superhero And State
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on December 31, 2008


Watchmen Movie Lawsuit Finally Outed As Studio Pissing Match
posted by homunculus at 1:54 PM on January 3, 2009


Watchmen Settlement Reached
posted by homunculus at 7:57 PM on January 15, 2009


Wooooooooo!
posted by grobstein at 9:14 PM on January 15, 2009


HuronBob now officially has access to two tickets to the premier... :)
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2009


NBS Celebrates 10 Years Of Dr. Manhattan
posted by homunculus at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2009


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