Quis custodiet Watchmen?

The trailer for the upcoming Watchmen film is up, and…Wow! Just…wow! First, it’s an excellent trailer. It is perfectly focused, and it builds to a powerful climax. Plus, the song selected to play over the visuals – “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning”, by Smashing Pumpkins – perfectly matches the feel of the story. The single spoken line by the disillusioned Rorschach conveys the attitude of the story being adapted.

The film also seems to be a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel. Most adaptations of graphic novels treat their sort material with disrespect. Hollywood’s attitude seems to be that, simply because the story was told through illustrations, then it must be “kid’s stuff” and requires changes to make it more mature. The result is a juvenile movie, in which depth is replaced with action sequences, and a pretense of maturity is added by selecting inserting the word “fuck” into the screenplay.

I could care less if the film reproduces every panel in the graphic novel perfectly. In fact, that would be a cheat, since it would simply be fan service, and show no vision on the part of the director. I am more concerned that the film captures the themes of the source material, and it appears Watchmen is poised to do that.

My only caveat is one shared by the graphic novel’s author, Alan Moore. iO9 points to this interview with Moore at Entertainment Weekly. The interview is spread over five ad-tastic pages, but Moore discusses Watchmen and the film adaptations of his work on the first two. Better still, iO9 excepts the relevant parts, so you might want to just read that.

Moore points out that Watchmen is being directed by Zack Snyder. Snyder was also the director of 300, so now you know why I reposted that long-ass review. In my original review, I pretty much blamed Snyder for that film’s fascist overtones, but, if he is now faithfully adapting the ultra-progressive Watchmen, those elements must have been present in the original 300 graphic novel. The Wikipedia entry cites Moore’s critique, in which he condemns Spartans’ use of the term “boy lovers”.

Frank Miller’s response is that he meant that line to convey hypocrisy on the part of the Spartans, whose very society was based on forced pederasty. If that is true (I’ve not read the graphic novel, so I cannot say for sure), then that subtlety was erased from the film version, which plays directly into the homophobic sentiments of its jingoist fanbase. The only person who could have been responsible for that was director Zack Snyder.

And so we are back where we begin. Snyder produced what can only be called fascist propaganda in his adaptation of 300. How then can he deal honestly with the progressive themes in Watchmen, the very antithesis of those in his prior film? Is he just willing to do whatever it takes to turn a paycheck: the epitome of the Hollywood hack?

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