Who Watches the Questionable Film Adaptation?
It's almost here.
The most anticipated film in recent memory, as well as the only film in recent memory that can be described as "the most anticipated film in recent memory" without seeming the least bit hyperbolic, will be released in theaters, with either spectacular or disastrous consequences. At least I hope so.
Alan Moore's Watchmen, the Iliad of graphic novels, is being adapted to film after a decade of rumors, with 300's Zack Snyder at the helm. Untold legions of fanboys stand ready to flood the theaters, all hoping for a movie that cannot be described as anything but a masterpiece.
This fanboy, however, is far more flexible. I am willing to accept either a masterpiece, or a monumental flop. My reasoning is that if Snyder's Watchmen opens to popular and critical scorn, it will be seen by nobody as the definitive film adaptation of the comic book, thus making a do-over a possibility. The remake can then learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, and come to known as the definitive Watchmen film — deservedly.
The worst possible scenario? Snyder's movie is decidedly mediocre — obviously lackluster in some areas, but decent enough to satiate the fans and the general populace. Should that be the case, Hollywood would never see any great impetus to give a Watchmen adaptation another shot, thus leaving us stuck with a subpar effort that we all know could be far better. This seems to have been the case with The Golden Compass.
Given the director, it seems that a masterpiece is the least likely outcome. Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead was little more than one product in the assembly line of movies being retooled by Hollywood to be slicker, faster, and louder. I haven't seen 300, due to its reviews and claims of its archconservative ideology and homophobic undertones (sex columnist Dan Savage described it as "Ann Coulter on a meth binge"). A filmmaker noted for forgoing subtlety is hardly the best choice to direct Watchmen, the depth of its plot and characters suggesting that it was the reason the term "graphic novel" was coined.
Adding insult to injury, the Watchmen movie was previously in the hands of Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky, both of whom were conceivably capable of turning the film into the next Lord of the Rings. Having the project thrust into Snyder's hands after those two feels like a CEO skipping over the Harvard graduates to give control of the family business to his high school dropout son.
Snyder turning Watchmen into a film that does justice to its source material is about as likely as an understudy paving her way to Broadway after the lead actress falls ill. But even less probable is the desertion of the film by the fanboys, regardless of its critical reception. In a mindset I can never comprehend, the most hardcore fans of something always want to see its film adaptation, regardless of its quality. I take the opposite viewpoint: If an adaptation is terrible, it should not be seen, to avoid rewarding its makers and sullying the memories of the original product.
This line of thinking is why I haven't seen The Golden Compass or the Matrix sequels, and it's something I'd like to endorse. Why feel obligated to make yourself part of a franchise simply because you enjoy its raison d'être? Stick to that and refuse to patronize those who seek to capitalize on your loyalty, or at least make them work for it. See a movie adaptation because it's good, not because you enjoy the original so much you feel the need to see every incarnation of it.
That is my message to my brethren. As for me, I will be steeling myself for the likely critical gutting of Snyder's potential epic — or worse still, critical lukewarm praise — and following my own advice.