July 17, 2008

Eight Months To Midnight

The clock is officially ticking.

It took 22 years for the seminal graphic novel "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" to give birth to a movie version of the Caped Crusader that truly matched its sensibilities both in tone and substance, namely Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight".

Although, to be fair, "The Dark Knight"'s actual literary reference points are "Batman: The Killing Joke" and "Batman: The Long Halloween", featuring The Joker and Two-Face, respectively, but "The Dark Knight Returns" really reshaped the character into something much more rich and essential.

Three months after the last issue of "The Dark Knight Returns" shipped to comic stores, a comic with a blood-stained smiley face on the cover appeared on the newsstands that asked a very simple question:

How would the world that we know actually have changed if a man gained superhuman powers and declared himself our protector?

That was the beginning of "Watchmen", by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. And what Frank Miller did for Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns", Moore & Gibbons did for the entire genre of superheroes.

So, now that this is the year that the superhero movie has finally arrived (thank you Iron Man, Hulk, Hellboy, and Batman), it's only fitting that the story that dismantled superheroes should follow right behind.

Friends, the trailer for Zack Snyder's movie adaptation of "Watchmen":

Will this be as rich and satisfying and as qualitative a film as "The Dark Knight" appears to be? Doubtful. Chris Nolan is a singular storyteller who wrestles every single aspect of the film to make it tell the story, and nothing more. Zack Snyder is a director with a tremendous visual eye and a great sense for good stories. But the difference between them is Nolan is also a writer, and Snyder is not. In fact, when Snyder says that he's absolutely committed to everything put on the page in the Watchmen graphic novel, that actually makes me MORE nervous about the final film. Slavish devotion to a literary piece is not what makes for a great film.

Just ask Mark Steven Johnson, who directed Daredevil and Ghost Rider.

In fact, I would even suggest that the reason why The Dark Knight surpasses Spider-Man and Iron Man is that Nolan was willing to jettison whatever didn't fully support what he felt was the basic premise of Batman - a regular man who makes himself into a superhero through the application of his wealth and force of will in self-mastery. It's the absolute commitment to reality that makes The Dark Knight transcend other films in the genre.

And, frankly, given the basic premise of "Watchmen", that should be the same basis of that film as well.

At least, that's what I would do. :-)

In other words, I seriously doubt there will be any Oscar buzz around Watchmen.

But I DO think it it will be a fabulously fun movie, with the potential to be a very provocative film in the vein of "The Dark Knight" if they stay true to the heart of the story itself.

In short, I'm excited! Can't wait.
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