This summer, Warner Bros. unveiled the trailer for what seems to be the next comic book film sensation – Watchmen. While this small taste has whetted the appetites of a new generation of super hero fans, will it be enough to bring leery, older fans back for the main course?
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Alan Moore, Watchmen explores the murder of a superhero in a rapidly deteriorating world, where costumed vigilantes who were once active are now forced into retirement by the government.
Response to the Watchmen trailer has been extremely positive, with the latest printing of the 20-year-old graphic novel selling out from the publisher. It marks the first time in history that a comic book film has generated significant interest in the actual comic itself. However, while new fans eagerly open their copies of the graphic novel, older fans are hesitant to open up to the film.
Written by the widely respected author Moore, Watchmen demonstrates that comic books can be intelligent literature. While some appreciate the convention-shattering superheroes, others admire Moore’s brilliant narrative techniques, including his use of symbolism, multi-layered dialogue, structure and the strange metafictional allegory of a comic within a comic (Tales of the Black Freighter), which has reportedly already been cut from the film. Many fear that poor translations or the altogether absence of this storytelling will result in an unfaithful adaptation of the book.
“The graphic novel is just too dense to be translated into a movie,” said Wade Shaw, owner of Wade’s Comic Madness in Levittown, Pa. “Too much will be lost and I can’t see it working. The only way a live-action Watchmen might work would be as some sort of HBO mini-series, where each hour-long episode would comprise one chapter of the story.”
“I think I’m going to pass on this one,” said Temple alumnus Steve Morales. “All of these comic book movies are loose translations of the actual comics. But you can’t have a loose translation of Watchmen. If it’s not all there, it won’t work.”
While a Watchmen film has been considered for several years, with directors such as Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) attached, there is arguably no better time than the present for the concept to finally become a reality.
Public interest in superhero films is booming. It began with X-Men in 2000 and continued with subsequent releases, such as the Spider-Man films, Batman Begins and Iron Man. With The Dark Knight having passed the $500 million mark, the superhero fad shows no sign of waning.
In addition to an eager public, the timing also allows for better special effects through recent developments in CGI technology. While just over two minutes, the Watchmen trailer is positively mesmerizing. From the nuclear accident that transforms Jon Osterman into Dr. Manhattan to the giant clockwork emerging on the surface of Mars, many scenes leap directly from the graphic novel to the big screen.
“We have had a ridiculous amount of people pouring in for Watchmen,” said Eric Loyack, manager of Brave New Worlds, a comic shop in Willow Grove, Pa. “We’ve reordered four or five times since the trailer came out.
“Personally, I’m excited to see the film. People are always talking about Moore’s reluctance to be involved, but I liked the V for Vendetta film and I also liked Zack Snyder’s take on 300.”
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” junior English major Frank Scoles said. “While I think it’s difficult to translate comics into movies, in general, I have been impressed with some of the more recent films. Plus, Watchmen doesn’t seem as outlandish as some of the others. It’s more grounded.”
Watchmen posed the question, “Who watches the watchmen?” In the context of the story, it relates to the public’s intolerance of vigilantism. However, a much simpler question remains: who will watch Watchmen? Find out the answer to that question on March 6, 2009.
Tom Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.