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On 300, Zack Snyder, and Watchmen

February 4, 2008

We just watched 300 again last night on Blu-Ray. Again I was struck by how apt the film was for the gamer generation. No wonder it’s been cut and pasted to death all over the internet. I wonder if it was the director, Zack Snyder, who gave it such a look, or the collaboration of his art director, the cinematographer, editor, or whoever else worked in post-production to take the movie above and beyond what it was in filming. Perhaps the best films come not from the efforts of one man, but a well-built team of movie-making professionals. I did notice that Larry Fong, the cinematographer, is also going to be working on Watchmen, as well as the editor William Foy, and the composer Tyler Bates. So I can imagine much of Watchmen might be stylized in the same pattern as 300.

But, I wonder how well this will work. 300 was a pretty violent, gory movie. Watchmen seemed to me, as I read it, more slow-paced, thoughtful. There were a few instances of violence, the death of Blake, the attempted rape, the shooting of the pregnant woman. And of course the ending. But if those scenes get the most focus, I think the audience will lose out on the careful character development and darkness of human nature that is more subtle than a slow-mo beheading. It would be more apt to use the same team as made V for Vendetta were it not for the fact that Alan Moore said he hated the way that movie turned out. (I actually thought that was one of the Wachowski Brother’s better films)

I just don’t believe that novel to film adaptations usually work well, which is why I’m not getting my hopes up. 300 worked because Frank Miller’s style is much like a movie or video game already, it’s loaded up with sex, violence, and easy-to-follow plots complete with narration. Watchmen is unusual in the fact that it has no narration, and some would argue, no likable protagonist. Rorschach makes for an unlikely hero, and I suspect his character will be the first to get altered. It almost reminds me of the Sandman script (the Avary version I read back in 2001) where they turn the Corinthian into the villain, and the Sandman into the hero who must stop him. It was a complete abomination and I’m glad the film was never made. Hollywood, like Rorschach, likes their sides in black and white. But with Watchmen, so much of the comic explores how no one is truly good or evil, and everyone is justified in their own minds.

SPOILERS:

I think the ending will also be altered. Even I, while reading the graphic novel, felt that the ending broke from the spirit and the style of the rest of the novel. It really seemed silly as I read it, a giant tentacle monster with a dead psychic’s brain kills 3 million people with its psychic scream? In a book that made the masked hero seem real and plausible, it took that away from me my suspension of disbelief. I know this is blasphemy to Moore’s fans, but I didn’t like the ending and I’m sure it will be changed in the movie.

But what will they change it to? As silly as the giant tentacle monster was, its explanation as being an alien invader uniting the world against a foreign enemy does seem like the best solution to the apocalyptic Gordian knot. Certainly natural disasters that kill thousands don’t bring the world together the same way, and 9/11 initially brought condolences from the world but the pity did not last long. Would a threat from a possible alien force suddenly make the Earth unite as one, as it does in the book? I really don’t think so either. I don’t think anything would. I don’t think any solution is as simple as one act by one man. Perhaps some underground group, organizing from every country in the world could have made such a dramatic difference, ala “Fight Club”, but that is even less plausible. I have no solution.

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