Pharyngula

I forgot to tell you all the most important gossip I heard at the Bell last night. I had a scant few minutes to talk to Jim Kakalios, who has gone all Hollywood on us, doing consulting work for the next big superhero blockbuster … Watchmen. Ooooh, all you geeks are saying, tell us more! I can’t. All I know is that Jim promises that it is excellent and true to the graphic novel. And as a fellow follower of the Code of the Thin Tweed Line, he cannot lie to a fellow academic. This will be something to look forward to.

I tried to pump him for more information, but Hollywood has locked him in with vicious threats — if he spills the beans, a tanned and toned starlet will show up at his door, pin him to a table with her pilates-firmed thighs, and carve out both his kidneys with her long glittery nails. He places his concerns for his kidneys above his loyalty to the the Thin Tweed Line, which is a little distressing.

Maybe I should pass Jim’s home phone number on to Harry Knowles.

Comments

  1. #1 Will E.
    September 29, 2007

    Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach! Oh, man, that’s good. That’s perfect.

  2. #2 Christian Burnham
    September 29, 2007

    The new ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ is out soon (we hope).

    Anyone reading the story so far? It’s pretty clever.

  3. #3 MH
    September 29, 2007

    Meh. The Watchmen graphic novel was designed to be ‘un-filmable’. If they come up with something as good as V for Vendetta, I’ll be happy, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Go read the book, people. It is indeed one of the best graphic novels ever written, and a great piece of fiction.

  4. #4 wright
    September 29, 2007

    Yeah, “Watchmen” would have to be changed a lot to be a decent movie if it also followed the graphic novel meticulously. Not to say it couldn’t be done, just that it would be difficult.

  5. #5 horrobin
    September 29, 2007

    March 2009 release date, huh? Alan Moore should be demanding his name be removed from the credits sometime next year then.

    I am glad that they are setting this in the 80s (alternate universe version) — the synopsis for the updated version that was floating around a few years ago just didn’t work for me.

  6. #6 Chris Hallquist
    September 29, 2007

    We’ll see how their promise to be faithful holds. I’m very glad about the existence of the V for Vendetta movie because it got me to read both the original comic and Watchmen, but once I read the original I realized just how badly the adaptation sucked, at least relative to its source.

    Moore claims all his stuff is unfilmable, but I tend to think this is even more true of Watchmen than V for Vendetta. The problem is how darn complex the narrative is, nonlinear mixing in fictitious historical documents and all that. I guess there are some basic narrative techniques to do what needs to be done, but I dread the prospect of clunky exospeak replacing Moore’s masterful storytelling.

    I’m glad they’re keeping the 1980’s setting. Trying to update V was much of what screwed it up.

    One thing about movies is that though there’s no intrinsic reason for them to be all about action-packed set pieces, that’s what draws the viewers in. Watchmen is most definitely not about that, and it would be a shame if that’s how the movie got done.

  7. #7 Paul
    September 29, 2007

    “If they come up with something as good as V for Vendetta, I’ll be happy, but I’m not holding my breath.”

    Good lord, I hope not. V for Vendetta was trash. I can see it now: Rorshach, dressed in skin tight black leather, flying through the air with pistols blazing in both hands while the Owl, also dressed in skin tight black leather, fires an electric automatic grenade launcher at Ozzy, who is at the helm of a super gigantic robot which he is using in order to destroy the UN building.

    Don’t laugh. It may come true. Hollywood is your enemy.

    Paul

  8. #8 Chet
    September 29, 2007

    I can see it now: Rorshach, dressed in skin tight black leather, flying through the air with pistols blazing in both hands while the Owl, also dressed in skin tight black leather, fires an electric automatic grenade launcher at Ozzy, who is at the helm of a super gigantic robot which he is using in order to destroy the UN building.

    I’ve never read Watchmen, and in general I’ve enjoyed every film adaptation of Moore’s work only to be completely disappointed by the original print versions, so what you’re describing sounds totally awesome to me.

    I guess I just can’t understand how Moore’s pretentious nonsense winds up being the basis for enjoyable movies.

  9. #9 melior
    September 29, 2007

    I missed this, maybe y’all did too. From Bruce Schneier’s blog:

    Was it a mammal? A mermaid? An alien? We strained our eyes to see. There were some stars out, but no moon had risen to provide any light, so the water was a gurgling blackness that was easier to hear than see. I wasn’t sure exactly where to direct the light, but that low wailing sound was freaking me out. Picture pulling in a big heavy unknown Thing from the deep dark ocean at night and it’s crying. It hit the deck with a heavy squishy sound. It was hard to see anything in the darkness. I finally figured out where to put the light. We see a whole bunch of tentacles curling and waving and a round body about four inches in diameter and the continued moaning. We both realize at the same time it was a squid about four feet long, though its whole body wasn’t onboard yet.

  10. #10 Stogoe
    September 29, 2007

    I have to say I checked out of Watchmen halfway through. It was just…boring. Uninteresting. I liked the V movie, too, so perhaps I should just voice agreement with Chet. I couldn’t read Eisner’s The Spirit, either.

    Moore is one of those names that splashes across my palate screaming ‘overhyped pretension’. Like Monte Cook, or Frank Miller, or Neil Gaiman. And Tarantino, but I like his overhyped pretentiousness.

  11. #11 Tom
    September 29, 2007

    Moore is one of those names that splashes across my palate screaming ‘overhyped pretension’. Like Monte Cook, or Frank Miller, or Neil Gaiman. And Tarantino, but I like his overhyped pretentiousness.

    I guess I’ll have to check out this Monte Cook, because I really enjoy the others you mentioned. The cast for Watchmen looks great, so I’m hoping it’ll at least be enjoyable as an adaptation.

  12. #12 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    September 29, 2007

    Yeah, “Watchmen” would have to be changed a lot to be a decent movie if it also followed the graphic novel meticulously. Not to say it couldn’t be done, just that it would be difficult.

    What’s going to make or break the movie is whether the person playing Rorschach can successfully pull off that “No, they’re trapped in here with me” line as something more than macho posturing. It’s absolutely critical in showing what he is, and therefore why he has to die at the end.

  13. #13 Phoenix Woman
    September 29, 2007

    Quick question: Why did Alan Moore have a shit-fit over the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta but not raise a peep over the far-more-offensive cinematic butchery committed against his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Compared to the movie of LEG, the V film was amazingly faithful to the book.

  14. #14 Phoenix Woman
    September 29, 2007

    Speaking of silly overblown pretentious dorks, Freeman Dyson is caught talking through his ass hat again:

    http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/09/29/freeman_dyson/

  15. #15 Stogoe
    September 30, 2007

    Quick question: Why did Alan Moore have a shit-fit over the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta but not raise a peep over the far-more-offensive cinematic butchery committed against his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

    Partly because LEG was the first adaptation to film and he didn’t know any better, and partly because he’s become a cantankerous jerkwad? Honestly, if you hate your work being filmed, don’t let them film your work. Betcha he’s still pulling down the cash for those adaptations, though.

  16. #16 inkadu
    September 30, 2007

    The Watchmen would be best adapted for a miniseries… maybe 12 hours are so. Movies are ridiculously short, and I think people’s attention spans are getting longer for visual media…

    Oh well. I’ll be first in line to buy tickets with my ketchup stained smiley face. Har har.

    Sugar cube, anyone? They’re Trojan brand.

  17. #17 Rey Fox
    September 30, 2007

    “Quick question: Why did Alan Moore have a shit-fit over the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta but not raise a peep over the far-more-offensive cinematic butchery committed against his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?”

    Possibly because V had more serious literary ambitions, whereas LXG was more of a genre exercise and a bit of sandbox playing. It read almost like a treatment for a movie in its original form (and yes, a way better movie than the one that was eventually made).

  18. #18 Bob O'H
    September 30, 2007

    Good to hear. But who will watch the Watchmen?

  19. #19 Jesurgislac
    September 30, 2007

    I love The Watchmen. But it’s unfilmable in its entirety (as a mini-series, it could work: maybe, if any corporation could be found willing to take a chance with the non-linear storyline).

    The Watchmen is a graphic novel. It works as a graphic novel: the style of the drawing, the non-linear storyline, the fictional documentation appended to the end of each chapter, the way in which the pirate comics annotate the storyline, as fictional documentation and in the form of a boy reading one of the comics by a newsstand (and also, the repeated visual motifs, such as the repeated close-up of the pirate captain and of Rorshach, and the dog with its head split in two…) It’s possible that you could pull out one of the storylines (my bet is on Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre (Daniel/Laurel Jane) and base the movie on that, using the other storylines as decoration/background. But actually adapting the whole graphic novel as a movie? I bet they don’t do that.

  20. #20 octopod
    September 30, 2007

    Man, the one I’m really depressed about is The Golden Compass. The project used to have Tom Stoppard on it as screenwriter, which would have just been completely awesome, but they axed that. And now a friend in the movie business sends me the following blurb:
    “Director [Chris] Weitz [best known as one of the creators of AMERICAN PIE(!)] has adapted Pullman’s work himself, however he said the film will make no direct mention of two key themes from the book: religion and God. This led to attacks from fans, although Weitz has reassured them references to religion will appear in ‘euphemistic terms.'”

    I don’t agree, though, that Alan Moore’s stuff is “pretentious”. More just “complicated”. Then again, I’ve generally got a pretty high threshold for noticing pretentiousness, which is to say that I don’t really care as long as it comes off well. But League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was such an amazingly awesome novel and they made just a terrible movie out of it…very depressing. V for Vendetta wasn’t nearly so bad, which gives me hope for this one, but I’ve got no idea how they’re planning on compressing all the story of Watchmen into a single feature.

    Damn, I should go see Stardust. And then I should really avoid going to see The Golden Compass and, if possible, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which I heard is also up for a movie adaptation…talk about a clusterfuck waiting to happen…

  21. #21 Kseniya
    September 30, 2007

    Call me unsophisticated, but I thought Watchmen was brilliant, in all kinds of ways. The “Fearful Symmetries” chapter, for example, is… symmetrical. 🙂

    Good point about the “They’re trapped in here with me” line. It’s not macho posturing. It’s psycho scariness, dread made flesh. As if Hannibal Lechter had said it.

    A mini-series would be better, yeah, but some of it will be very hard to put down on film “faithfully” regardless of length – for example, the parallel pirate-comic stuff. It’s important, but given the problems it presents a filmmaker, it wouldn’t shock me if they cut that out completely. The story would still work, of course, just as “Cuckoo’s Nest” worked even though they completely discarded the POV of the book (Chief Broom as first person). In cases like that, though the results are good, the artistry and mood are nonetheless unavoidably altered.

  22. #22 Frank S. Kim
    September 30, 2007

    Quick question: Why did Alan Moore have a shit-fit over the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta but not raise a peep over the far-more-offensive cinematic butchery committed against his The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Compared to the movie of LEG, the V film was amazingly faithful to the book.

    Alan Moore’s “shit-fit” has very little to do with the quality or faithfulness of the movies. Before League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen adaptation came out, his thinking was that he would completely stay out of the moviemaking process (he hasn’t even seen any of the movies adapted from his comics), and his original comics would stand on their own.

    However, after LXG movie was released, a couple of filmmakers sued Fox with the claim that they pitched a similar screenplay years before, and the studio stole the idea from their screenplay and hired Moore to create the comic book in order to cover it up. As a part of the lawsuit, Moore had to go through TEN hours of deposition. (He later said he would’ve been treated better if he had “sodomized and murdered a busload of children after giving them heroin.”) Fox chose to settle the case out of court, which infuriated Moore because it made it look like Fox was admitting guilt and dragged Moore’s reputation down as well.

    So when the time came for V For Vendetta adaptation, he made it very clear to the Warner Bros. and the filmmakers that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with the movie. But what happened was that, when the filmmakers held a press conference announcing the production, Joel Silver (the producer of the movie) made a completely false statement that Moore has read the screenplay and is very excited about the movie.

    Since this was completely opposite of the truth, Moore became extremely upset. He demanded a retraction and an apology from the filmmakers and the studio, and when it didn’t happen, he severed all ties with Time Warner and its subsidiary, DC Comics. He even forced the filmmakers to remove his name from the movie poster and the movie credits.

    Honestly, if you hate your work being filmed, don’t let them film your work.

    That’s exactly what he’s doing now. He refuses to sell the movie rights to the work that he owns. The problem is, he doesn’t have complete control over his past works such as V For Vendetta and Watchmen, so he cannot do anything about them.

    Betcha he’s still pulling down the cash for those adaptations, though.

    Nope. After the League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen debacle, he specifically arranged it so that his portion of the movie money would go to his collaborators on the original comics instead. So the money that he would’ve received for V For Vendetta instead went to David Lloyd (the artist who drew VFV), the money for Constantine was distributed to other co-creators who worked on the character (Rick Veitch, John Totleben, Steve Bissette, Jamie Delano and John Ridgeway), and the money for Watchmen went to Dave Gibbons.

  23. #23 Owlmirror
    September 30, 2007

    for example, the parallel pirate-comic stuff. It’s important,

    Obviously, I am guilty of not reading closely enough.

    How was that stuff important?

  24. #24 inkadu
    September 30, 2007

    I’m with owlmirror on this one. The pirate stuff? GONE! CUT! Throw it in the crank file.

    It’s cool, and it’s nice, and it serves as a heavy handed moral judgement on Ozy — doing evil with good intentions is still evil — but it’s ancillary. And I can see now that comic book fans are unrealistically demmanding of movie adaptations.

    And, wow, I didn’t know Moore started Hellblazer. Color me ignorant.

  25. #25 RickD
    September 30, 2007

    I agree with the sentiment that Watchment should be a mini-series, not a movie. It would do well with a Lost-style frame, where each hour was told from a different charcters standpoint: you could have an hour apiece for Comedian, Ozymandias, Rohrschach, Nite Owl/Silk Spectre II, and Dr. Manhattan (and maybe an hour for NO/SS I).

    I’m amazed that this film is finally being done. I read the graphic novel literally 20 years ago and the “film version” has been on and off a number of times since then, as early as the late 80s. Jackie Earle Haley is a great choice for Rohrshach. Hadn’t seen him in decades, literally, and then he was tremendous in the Kate Winslet film Little Children. A great comeback story for Haley, who was one of the leading child stars of the 70s.

  26. #26 Kseniya
    September 30, 2007

    Oh, c’mon guys – if you read past the word “important” (notice that I didn’t say “essential”) in my post, the answer is there.

    1. It wouldn’t shock me if they cut it.
    2. The story would still work.
    3. In such cases, the results of altering the source can be good, but the artistry and mood are altered nonetheless.

    What about that is “unreasonably demanding”?

    The pirates stuff would be very difficult to integrate into the film effectively. The story would still work without it (it doesn’t advance the plot at all) but it would still be missed by those who had read the book. What surprises ME is that there’s any disagreement about that.

  27. #27 CJColucci
    September 30, 2007

    What is “principle photography”? Some industry term or just a typo?

  28. #28 inkadu
    September 30, 2007

    Kseniya —

    I’m not too sentimental about these things. I, in fact, would NOT miss the pirate stuff in the movie, because I generally like things to move along when I’m watching them. I’m also not going to miss Hollis’ reminescence about rubber breasts, Dreiberg’s ruminations on owls, or Rorschach’s psychiatrist. I’m not going to miss them, because they would just be a drag on the movie.

    Take the Lord of the Rings, for example. I loved almost every change to the story they made, and was glad they cut what they did (ok, I missed the barrow wights).

    When a movie doesn’t respect its own dynamics, it becomes painful to watch.

  29. #29 Will E.
    September 30, 2007

    I thought The Invisibles was practically Watchmen already.

  30. #30 The Pale Scott
    September 30, 2007

    Anyone want to go to the Ganja Din Diner?

  31. #31 muhr
    September 30, 2007

    I’m looking forward to the “Watchmen” film adaptation, not as much as “Preacher” as an HBO series, however.

  32. #32 Casey
    October 1, 2007

    What an amazing novel that is. I heard that the movie is even going to recreate the pirate scenes.

  33. #33 Kseniya
    October 1, 2007

    Yeah, I missed the barrow-wight (and Bombadil). The sequence involving the barrow-wight was “important” too, but skipping all that didn’t hinder the telling of the larger story. Cutting that stuff was a reasonable choice.

    There’s a significant if subtle irony inherent in the hobbits’ inadvertent detour through the barrow-downs. Had they not fallen prey to the wight, they’d never have been armed with the swords they took from the barrow – and it was only such a sword (wielded, as it happened, by Merry) that could have hobbled the Witch-King, thereby dealing long-awaited retribution on behalf of the men of Westerness against those who had once defeated them:

    So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westerness. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdown when the Dunedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

    As Gandalf said, it was not only Dark forces that were at work, unseen, in the battle over the fate of the Ring. One might suspect it was fated that Frodo and company be waylaid by the barrow-wight for the sole purpose of getting those swords into the hands of those who would eventually come face-to-face with the nazgul.

    In the movie, however, nothing at all was made of this. Strider passed out a few nondescript short swords to the hobbits in Bree, and that was that. Did the telling of the tale on screen suffer from this omission? Nope. But I still missed it.

    That’s not a complaint, by the way. I’d say the LotR movies were astonishingly good, given the scope of the project and the high standards to which the finished product would inevitably be held. I can only hope the same for the Watchmen adaptation: If it succeeds as well, it will have exceeded any reasonable expections quite handsomely.

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