Fri
Jul 18 2008 8:31pm

Long Excited Cables

watchmenDeep in the middle of the night, I discovered that the Watchmen trailer is out. And I immediately had a flashback to Easter, sitting at Orbital talking to Patrick about tor.com, and how nobody would be expected to stick strictly to topic in their blogs, because of course there would be some subjects that everyone would race to get up onto the site. So I watched the trailer and then downloaded the HD version to keep all 173Mb of it with me forever and realised that this is why I own a computer with an HD screen. And then I thought I must blog this right now or someone else will.

But it was 3am by then, and I needed to watch the trailer again. And sleep, and then go upstairs to the library and find Watchmen. And then re-read it in its entirety, noting several points where I made new connections that I'd never made before in all the previous readings. And then watch the trailer again, and then show it to my family, and explain to my daughter why this matters. And then watch the trailer again.
 
I have no sense of proportion about this. I am a total squeeing fangirl. The entire Internet is with me on this. There hangs this awful anticipatory sense of doubt; even after all this, this film may still be pants. We have been here before. But gosh. It may still be pants, but if it is, it will not be because of a lack of attention to its source material.

Every time that the trailer is shot like the book I am in awe at how much trouble they've gone to recreate the images. Wow, it's the Gunga Diner. There's the newsstand. There's the Comedian in Vietnam with his smiley face badge. Every time they change something it just seems right too. Of course Rorschach's face moves. Of course Doctor Manhattan glows. And of course the costumes reflect the glossy armour and leather gear of today's superhero movies, rather than the lycra costumes of comic books. And Mars is red, not pink.

Suddenly its early 1986. I'm sitting at the party following a CUSFS event; we have just finished interviewing Alan Moore, and somebody else. My memory fails me there; John Grant, maybe? Whatever, I am a total squeeing fangirl, and we are all agog with anticipation for Moore's new comic, which people have been talking about and which is Coming Out Soon.

Alan remarks that he has some pages with him; are we interested in seeing them? We are all overcome with excitement. It's issue 4, inked but not yet coloured. Doctor Manhattan is on Mars. We try to say sensible things, but we're very young and this was all out of context. Eventually, I think of a reasonably sensible question. "What colour is he?" Blue. Blue. Right. But by then I am lost in excitement and wonder.

Gretchen Rubin describes the four stages of happiness; anticipate, savour, express and reflect. How much happiness have I had from all four of those elements from Watchmen over the last twenty-two years? All that anticipation and excitement from that night in 1986, fully realised as I read the comics month by month as they came out. Discovering for the first time all the nuances of the plot and the way it was so non-sequential; it demanded repeated readings. And how much of this reflects the essence of fandom; this shared cultural experience that caused us to point out delightedly to each other all the wondrous detail of Dave Gibbons' art. And so fandom has erupted in unbelieving delight over the last 24 hours.

Yes, we've been here before, and for all sorts of reasons there's still a good chance this film will be pants. But I intend to get as much happiness out of the anticipation stage as ever I possibly can.

And now I must go and watch the trailer again.

12 comments
John Adams
1. JohnArkansawyer
I'd never noticed before this trailer that the clockwork on Mars resembled both the Black Freighter and a Rorschach blot. Or maybe it never did resemble them before. Whatever--this was beautiful!
Mike Scott
2. drplokta
I think it was Alan Grant, not John Grant, who came along to CUSFS with Alan Moore.
Alison Scott
3. AlisonScott
Dr p; of course it was Alan Grant; John Grant is a pseudonym for someone else entirely. And now of course, I remember some of the things we talked to him about (obviously not appearing in this anecdote), like what Judge Dredd does on his days off and the experience of writing for girls' comics. I knew you'd know in fact; but you weren't online when I was writing the post.
JR Peck
4. stoolpigeon
The trailer is sweet and they look to be hitting a lot of major points from the comic - which is encouraging.
Soon Lee
5. SoonLee
...and for all sorts of reasons there's still a good chance this film will be pants.

I admit to being conflicted & cautiously optimistic. On the one hand, everything about the movie so far has been promising.

But.

WATCHMEN was such a highwater mark because it was so very much of the comics medium. Turning it into a movie is a tremendous challenge & historically movie adaptations of comics have disappointed. There's also the "based on the graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons" thing.
Pablo Defendini
6. pablodefendini
There's also the "based on the graphic novel illustrated by Dave Gibbons" thing.

I think that's Alan Moore being his inimitably ornery self. He's famously stated that as a rule, he wants absolutely nothing to do with movies based on his work.

I'm also trepidatious about this. As you say, Watchmen is very much of the medium, but there are two salient points which give me a bit of hope (and engender much squeeing):

1) Many of the critiques of comics that Watchmen addressed can be applied, in slightly modified form, to the current crop of comic book superhero movies.

2) Snyder did a wonderful job at adapting 300. Say what you will about the source material, the message of the movie, etc, the adaptation was just spot-on.

One big caveat on this last point, though: Frank Miller's comics style is very cinematic- it can be argued that most of his work is pretty much already a storyboard, so adaptation (at least visually) isn't as challenging as it would be with something like Watchmen. The trailer (as many have already pointed out, there are frames in the trailer that are shot-by-shot parallels to the comic), along with the stills that we've seen so far, are promising in this respect.
Pablo Defendini
7. pablodefendini
Apropos Alan Moore: Here's an EW interview where he lays out his viewpoint on adaptations in general, and the Watchmen movie in particular, via io9.
Alison Scott
8. AlisonScott
I think I have heard Moore say, on several occasions, that Watchmen was designed to do things that you can't do in film or books, with particular reference to the way you can skip back in comics to catch the reference, and layer the thing with complex visual references.

Times have changed since 1986. Lots of TV and film is produced now with the expectation that people will watch it more than once, will blog about it, will refer to annotations on the Internet. That provides writers and directors with the opportunity to be every bit as tricksy as Moore and Gibbons were, and lots of them take that opportunity.

Obviously people like me -- and there are lots of us -- will go to see Watchmen with a good understanding of the references already. But surely Snyder will be filming with a belief that the DVD, the director's commentary, the extras, will all serve to help people catch the density of the story.
Pablo Defendini
9. pablodefendini
Lots of TV and film is produced now with the expectation that people will watch it more than once, will blog about it, will refer to annotations on the Internet.

Indeed, that's a great point. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall reading somewhere that Snyder was having, um, issues with the studio regarding the inclusion of the Tales from the Black Freighter segments of the story, and that if he couldn't get them into the final cut, they'd definitely be on the DVD. I can only assume that the same goes for material adapted from the prose sections of the book, such as the magazine articles, etc.
Liz B
10. despotliz
Apparently there will be a separate DVD release with the animated Tales from the Black Freighter, including a documentary based on the Under the Hood bits of the comic, with the possibility of a later extended version of the film with the Black Freighter bits edited back in.

I have gone from 'tentatively optimistic' to 'squeeing fangirl' overnight after watching this trailer, and I've just spent the afternoon re-reading the novel. Please let it not be terrible...
Soon Lee
11. SoonLee
Frank Miller's comics style is very cinematic- it can be argued that most of his work is pretty much already a storyboard

Indeed, the movie version of "Sin City" used the comic as storyboard. I don't expect "Watchmen" to be so easily adapted though. Guess we'll find out when the movie gets released.
Paul Andinach
12. anobium
what Judge Dredd does on his days off

Judge Dredd has days off?

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