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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

#1,424: Watchmen

Lately, I've been employed.  I'm an assistant editor on a new program for SpikeTV called 'Surviving Disaster,' and I'm really good at it, so it's going very well.  The assistant editor, in case you were curious, is mainly responsible for getting media in and out of the editing system, which in our case is Final Cut Pro.  So capturing tapes, making the six or more types of media we have incoming play nicely together, keeping everything organized between multiple editors, and doing it without a central server.  Easier done than said, practically, and although production seems like it might be behind schedule, post is now ahead.  Also, if you ever see our main character show up somewhere you are, RUN!  A terrifying experience is just around the corner, and several of your companions may end up dead or badly hurt just to prove a point!  RUN! I read 'The Road,' possibly in part because someone who might be Luke liked it, and because I liked the movie of No Country for Old Men.  I think I liked 'The Road,' and I didn't really question why at the time.  The setting is indeed bleak, but not as depressing as I'd been forewarned.  At some point, the string of events almost become comical, when not horrific.  And there's a nice current of a father and son relying on each other for different reasons and some of the same reasons.  I did occasionally have to take a step back to parse what I'd just read though, or try to map out who was speaking, since no punctuation will do that to you.

Since reading that, (but not because of it,) I think I've been asking 'why' more often.  I saw the 1954 version of Animal Farm, a cartoon much more bleak and depressing than that book.  I wondered a little bit why Orwell went with certain names, since in a big blatant allegory the names are probably valuable.  I was also reminded of the multiple reports and projects and essays I've done on his other book, 1984, over the years.  I still haven't read that one though.

I saw The Fisher King, and I now know that some movie I saw a snippet of once, of a kid who wants to go out to play with a guy who's more interested in having sex with his girlfriend is officially neither Prince of Tides nor Fisher King (I know these aren't similar movies, but they came out at the same time and somehow got tangled around in an eight-year-old brain.)  I found it to be the least Gilliam-like Gilliam movie I've seen, and also the one that dates itself the most.  Seems like trying to 'modernize' a classic story really puts down roots into the specific time it was made.  IMDB says Private Parts wouldn't be for another six years, so I guess there was still a little time before Stern was completely irrelevant.  

The Brothers Bloom, officially coming out this May, is a new movie from Rian Johnson, who made Brick.  I liked it a lot.  Adrian Brody is a con man who's ready to settle down, quit the game, and have a real life.  Someone else plays his brother, who draws him in for the classic 'one last score.' And Rachel Weisz plays Natalie Portman, who complicates things, naturally.  In it's favor, the movie has a very 'interactive' feel to it, in the sense of a 90s adventure game, maybe, where actions have consequences.  If something breaks, it stays broken later, or someone has to fix it.  Also a plus, the curious out-of-time feeling in which the movie is both modern and in the era of the classic con man.  Working against it, the character games do sort of get dropped towards the end in order to handle all the plot that's been piling up, but the attention to detail never fades (Bloom is always thinking of the Queen of Hearts).

The Room is, to paraphrase a pal, ridiculousity from top to bottom.  Something of a cult phenomenon in LA but more-or-less unknown to the rest of the world (it's had a billboard up since long before I moved to LA, at the director/writer/star/producer's expense).  It's just a crazy pile of nonsense, with eye-bending special effects (his building must be rotating on its foundations, if the green screen work is to be believed), and dialogue that could only be written and delivered by a non-native speaker that has probably still not gotten the necessary foothold on the meanings of certain words.  Like 'room.'  Very MSTable.  Best viewed with a group, a sense of the absurd, and a pizza, half canadian ham and pineapple, half pesto and artichoke, light on the cheese.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno was better than I'd heard.  The characters speak more like people in a movie and less like characters in Kevin Smith movies do, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.  I laughed at it sometimes.  It felt...clumsier than previous outings, and I think the popular excuse for that is something like trying to appeal to a broader audience, but I don't know if that's true.  It is, more or less, the story of the making of Clerks.  Maybe it needs another viewing someday to figure out what I think.  I don't think I've made it through all the DVD extras on Clerks 2 yet though, and that's a movie I know I liked.

And then there's Watchmen.  I guess this left me with more questions than anything else, and I'm about to mainly discuss the ending, since that's the only part that's interesting.  I understand most of the condensation that takes place earlier in the story, which does occasionally change characters' motivations, but I'm pretty sure they remain motivated.  When it was done, my reaction was that it was accurate, but unnecessary.  Was it too accurate for its own good?  Is my opinion that an adaptation -should- shake things up?  And if so, why did the last couple minutes irk me a little bit?  Is my opinion that folks shouldn't do adaptations?  I'm okay with the general idea of adapting a work from one medium to another:  the audiobook of American Gods didn't need to change up anything from the text edition, and yet it adds a new dimension.  So what is the point of adaptation?  To retell a story in a way that takes advantage of the strengths of the new medium.  If that doesn't happen, then the work isn't an adaptation, it's a translation.  And the function of a translation is not to impart new meaning but to relay the existing meaning as accurately as possible.  

Watchmen is a story told through comics as well as about comics.  It is regarded as a masterwork because of how thoroughly and intricately it uses its medium.  The reason so many had previously regarded it as 'unfilmable' was less to do with whether the technology was available to create Dr. Manhattan, and more to do with why we don't have filmed adaptations of Infinite Jest, or House of Leaves (and why puzzle-based adventure stories are almost always unsatisfying in the format of a 90 minute film).  So when 98% of the Watchmen film is an abridged translation of the book (showing that the filmmakers concede that a completely accurate reproduction would not be feasible for the theater-going audience), book savvy viewers do not feel that the film earned its deviations from the source.  This is only compounded by the really odd choice to hang a lampshade on the altered dialogue.  Is it supposed to be a clever wink to the in-crowd?  Wasn't that the whole rest of the movie?  

What changed and why?  We ditch the monster, because it would take a lot of screen time to set up properly.  Okay.  Maybe a dozen major cities are attacked instead of just one, either to avoid the appearance of 9/11 flavored pandering, or maybe because we've seen what happens when just one country gets hit, and it isn't world peace.  The world isn't uniting against aliens, or another dimension, it's uniting against God.  Except, Jon doesn't get his god-moment in the movie, completing his transformation from human.  Maybe if Jon had said 'nothing ends,' it suggests that he -will- be watching or returning to Earth at some point, as opposed to agreeing to leave and keep the conspiracy.  But this means that Veidt has his final moment of reckoning with a human, and one that we know poses zero threat to him.  A fair sight different from the original ending, where Veidt's story ends in doubt, his confidence put in check by the fear of God.  On the other hand, maybe the lampshade moment is just an update of the same moment, when the Outer Limits similarity is called out.

I kind of hate to even be discussing it at length, since that's such the thing of the moment, but it left me a little puzzled on my walk home from the theater.  However, on my way back I was able to make a recent dream come true.  I passed a taped off section of freshly poured sidewalk, which I think is a first for me.  And I wrote in it.  Sorry, I don't have a picture yet, but with luck it's there forever and I can get a snapshot in the future.  What could I have inscribed on the curb to leave me feeling so self-satisfied?

"Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet..."

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