When ambition overrides common sense in the world of film, it can only lead to disaster, atrocity and humiliation, and the need for some directors to film their ‘defining’ novel more often than not results in an incomprehensibly expensive mess in the tread of the filmic trainer.
For every Lord of the Rings, we get a Dune, for every A Cock and Bull Story, we get a Breakfast of Champions.
Eoin’s excellent post on ScreenHead.com lists what he considers to be the most unfilmable novels out there - with interesting ideas about which movie auteurs could possibly attempt to direct them. However, there is one work conspicuously absent from the list. And it’s being filmed at this precise moment.
Zack Snyder, the man behind 300 and the Dawn of the Dead remake, both films with a lot of merit but not quite enough to elevate him into the ‘cinematic genius’ category, is flexing his directorial muscles on the oft-postponed film version of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel Watchmen. The first image from his ‘vision’ has just appeared online [see above].
Watchmen has been in various stages of development since the late 1980s, with directors such as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Paul Greengrass, and actors such as Kevin Costner, Richard Gere, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Williams, Jude Law and Tom Cruise being attached at some point.
However, the project has consistently stumbled due to major script departures from the source material, or the cover-all excuse of “scheduling conflicts”.
It would be foolish to dismiss Watchmen as ‘just another comic book’. It penetrated the superhero mythos and ethos with a subtlety, brutality and pathos previously unseen in the medium. The characters were dense, fallible and charmingly human, the violence terribly realistic, and it tackled weighty topics such as personal identity, nuclear paranoia and celebrity.
It was also one of the first graphic novels to test the boundaries of what the medium was capable of, including a “comic-book-within-a-comic-book” structure, making a linear cinematic version likely to be either a hollow shell of the original, bereft of its density and soul, or a bloated, overblown, incomprehensible mess, that would require at least two toilet breaks during its fifteen hour running time.
Alan Moore has famously pre-emptively disowned any film versions of his work, and with the pretty-but-soulless V for Vendetta, the idiotic League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the truly abysmal From Hell already made, perhaps that is a wise thing.
Who watches the Watchmen? If Dune is anything to go by, not that many people at all…