It's now a little more than two weeks until Watchmen opens, and I have no earthly idea how this movie is going to play out. None. There's plenty of geek excitement about it, that's for sure. There's already frothing about the changed ending, about whether it will be the worst thing in the history of cinema or, as this guy from Time Magazine seems to believe, a life changing, borderline religious experience. A "miracle". On the other hand, others might find it a simply baffling mess, vastly over-rated, silly or taking itself too seriously.
I'm looking forward to seeing it. I might even hold off and wait to see if I can catch it on IMAX when I'm in Ottawa. And yet, through all of this, I have a sense of unease. And it wasn't until I saw this little blurb, accompanied with the image you will see below, that things began to crystallize a bit for me.
Yeah, a blue Dr. Manhattan condom. And part of me does go, "Well, that's mildly amusing and clever." But couple that with some stuff I've read by some of comics biggest name creators (mostly on Twitter) and you get an overlying sense that a lot of them feel really....bad about this movie. That it might be fine. It might be a great cinematic experience. But they're not entirely sure this movie ever needed to have been made, no matter how good it is. And they're horrified and more than a little embarrassed by the marketing that's gone into it.
Keep in mind these are people who have written Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Batman, the X-Men and other series that have been turned into massively promoted movies. And these people are looking at the marketing and wincing.
Plus a lot of them feel bad for the guy who wrote the series, Alan Moore. I won't go into the long, convoluted history of Alan Moore and the Watchmen, except to mention these few points.
1. Alan Moore is a genius and no serious discussion of the greatest comic book writers in history can be had without his name being featured prominently.
2. Moore, like most geniuses, is a touch mad. Depending on who you listen to he's either a very sweet man who is misunderstood or a deeply crazy man who worships a snake god.
3. He also has a long running feud with DC comics, who published Watchmen. The feud is deeply complicated and immensely bitter.
4. He also hates Hollywood. He was probably distrustful for many years, but the brutal circumstances surrounding League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is finally what did him in. So on top of being a waste of money, a hideous distortion of the brilliant comic and the film that drove Sean Connery into retirement, it also did serious damage to one of comics' greatest creators.
5. Moore isn't messing around with his hatred either. He famously refused option money for both V for Vendetta and Constantine and told producers to give it to the artists - David Lloyd and Dave Gibbons. It's likely he turned away several million dollars when he did that.
But perhaps most importantly, he honestly doesn't see the need for books or comics to be made into film. I believe someone once famously said to him that some director ruined From Hell, to which Moore responded along the lines, "No, the book is just fine. It's not ruined at all."
And yet, you still get the feeling he would be mortified by all of this in a deeply English way. The toys, the posters, the...condoms. And God knows what else that might come down the pipe.
So yeah, there is a certain rabidness among fans looking forward to this, but I get the feeling among professionals there is deep sympathy for Moore, who believes he's been screwed over by Watchmen. But also, this is an important comic to just about every comic fan. Time Magazine listed it as one of the 100 most important literary works of the 20th century. This isn't just another comic book. If the Daredevil movie sucks, oh well. People are far more protective over Watchmen. I suspect Moore's not alone among comic book professionals in believing this movie should never have been made. That maybe some literary works should just stand on their own and not have to suffer the degradations often involved in translating something from the page to the screen.
By the way, it is a great comic. I don't know that it's my favourite of all time or even my favourite of Moore's work - I'm still quite partial to V for Vendetta - but it is a spectacular comic, especially when you start deconstructing everything Moore and Gibbons were trying to do.
I really do recommend picking it up and, I suspect, it won't be a problem finding a copy over the next few weeks. One of the good things, I guess, about the massive marketing push currently taking place.
1. Reason for our lost love - Ron Sexsmith
2. All my life - Foo Fighters
3. Bastard - Ben Folds
4. Pistol of fire - Kings of Leon*
5. I'm gone - Lloyd Cole