Monday, February 12, 2007

Good Bad Stuff Up Ahead: Number One: (of 20)

Yes, I have been absent. No, as Garth so graciously checked, I'm not dead (here)

I like to balance my media intake with generous helpings of silence, song writing and the sounds of my typing holding off a valiant attack from my fingers. Sometimes, I see that 15th picture of Micheal Bay's Optimus Prime and I just want to turn off the hype nozzle. So I did, for a while. After all, you don't pay me do you? Do you?

So here we are, almost through the first month of 2007 and the rusty gears of the Comics 2 Film Genre are starting to turn, breaking the momentum of winter's stagnancy. What are the top twenty good possibilities that could so horribly go bad? Let's start at the pinnacle of achievement and the dream project that may be impossible to film as less than a 12 hour movie.....

(Click on pics for larger image)

Number One: Watchmen

Watchmen may be falling into very capable hands. If it has, it isn't that it fell from poor ones, since it has been falling into capable hands from capable hands, again and again and again, in it's never ending "hot potato" journey through what we call "Production Hell." This has been a welcome resting place for many fans who think that comic's magnum opus should stay clear and away from and real possibility of being fleshed out in the celluloid realm. After all, it is to some, (this one included) near perfect deconstructionist science fiction, fueled with bitter political passion and activism and boiling over with violence, disgust and dear love for the near dead and now much revived modern genre of the superhero.

Alan Moore's "Watchmen" is the kissing cousin to Robert Altman's film "The Long Goodbye" in which Altman destroys the "Hard Boiled Detective" story by casting Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe and placing the story in 1970's Los Angeles, a world devoid of the drama, passion and the suspense that fueled "Film Noir." Altman positions Raymond Chandler's classic writing against the blandness of casual sex and morals of the 1970's and the lack of titillation and sensationalism nullifies the story's power.

Altman's destruction of "Film Noir" didn't just kill it though, it set "Film Noir" on fire, a Phoenix's fire, which has allowed the genre to be reborn and expand. Because he broke all the rules, Altman freed modern filmmakers to update and experiment in the medium. "Blood Simple," "The Last Seduction," "Blue Velvet," "The Usual Suspects," "Blade Runner," "Sin City," "Dark City," "Angel Heart," "Devil In A Blue Dress," "City of Lost Children," and "L.A. Confidential," all benefit from the ability to change the rules on the tradition of "Film Noir" while keeping its spirit.

"Watchmen's" similar legacy on comics is proportionately much more profound, since the super heroic genre is the mainstay of the medium. "Watchmen" and it's contemporary "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" freed comics to be both cowled, fetishistic and serious, adult and character driven. The down time, the small conversations, the self-doubt and questions of purpose (what I call "Parker Time") all became legitimate sources for deeply driven character building.

Moore's ability to both embrace traditional genre staples and then cast them in bizarre new perspectives, allows both the obvious, never before asked questions like "Why would someone go around in long underwear and a mask?" and the chilling answers we didn't want to know like "Because that person is fucking nuts!" As if he was turning up the lights at a late night S&M party, Moore shows us Superheroes as they truly are, sad and well meaning perversions, living daydreams full of lofty ideals, existing somewhere between childhood and reality. All of a sudden a man in a suit isn't funny, it's scary or sad or deadly serious.

Comics like "Starman," "Preacher," "Hellblazer," "Daredevil (Volume 2)," "Fables," "Powers," "Astro City," "Identity Crisis," "Civil War," "Sandman," and many, many others gratefully acknowledge lying in "Watchmen's" barbaric wake.

So now Zack Snyder, director of "Dawn of the Dead," and more recently Frank Miller's Spartan Epic "300," has been cast comic's ultimate hot potato and plans according to (HERE) to start filming sometime this Summer. Snyder says:

“There has been a push on I think everybody's… on the other scripts that exist about trying to update the movie or make it take place in present day, or things of that nature. I think that by setting the movie in ‘85, by having the Cold War, having Nixon, having all that stuff you reinvigorate what the story is about. It allows all the metaphors...I think what Alan Moore has, in his book, the comic he's made about authority and government and all those things, they're big themes. Maybe if you make that movie right, [then] what that has to say makes people think about what's happening maybe now or in their own lives. That's my hope for what the movie can be.”

For my part the stunning visuals of "300" do greatly whet my appetite for the possibilities of a Snyder helmed "Watchmen," but until I see this film, I'll have no opinion on whether Snyder has the sophisticated chops to handle this deep and complex story of antiheroes, gods and bastards, with the skill needed to bring it off. Truth be told, Watchmen has been in Terry Gilliam's hands and Mr. Gilliam felt it couldn't be done in less than twelve hours.

Recently, Paul Greengrass, a thoughtful and subtle filmmaker had the reigns and an apparently scaled down, but successfully adapted script from X-Men and X2 scripter David Hayter. All of that has been scrapped and truth be told, all this could be too. Snyder advises that the best way to insure his helming "Watchmen" is to go see "300."

"I think that the appetite for me is to make a movie that feel's more like Taxi Driver than like Fantastic Four, again. So it's a balance.....I have to remind them (the studio), I go, ‘look, it's much more Strangelove than Fantastic Four,’ which they don't like hearing.”

Putting down cash to see "300" will also be the best way to see if Snyder SHOULD be directing "Watchmen." Whatever happens, "Watchmen" remains, at least for now, the Holy Grail of comic book film projects, if done poorly, it will "Ishtar" the audience with confusion and a helping of geekiness too awkward for the general moviegoer to swallow. If it nears the greatness of the Comic, the comic book movie will have gained a level of seriousness that will make "Spider-man 2" look like "Winnie the Pooh."


kell trenzer said...

I really love "Watchmen" every time I read it. What studio has the balls enough to do it, and do it right? The studios (and general masses) want superhero movies with big marketable icons that you can make toys out of. I really can't see kids with their Comedian action figures. Still hoping that it gets made regardless.

Stuff Daddy said...

Yes, it is hopeful that Mr. Snyder says he wants to make "Dr. Strangelove" not "Fantastic Four." Let's hope he can. I couldn't watch a Hollywood version of "Watchmen."