Monday, March 16, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Overland Park pt 96-100

Part 96

Who watches the Watchmen: Zack Snyder and the people in the theaters?

The blog continues to roll on down as next Friday gets closer and closer to reality and the release is just around the corner, and we have some more things to talk about.

Both dealing with major proponents on the sale of the film. Similar to how we discussed actors last time and some of the characters briefly, I want to discuss the director, and then bring up a point that was recently discussed on CNN.

Zack Snyder is the director.

I'm going to say it again. Zack Snyder is the director.

You know his name and maybe his face. He's been all over the world, promoting the three major film releases he's worked on.

His first major film, and his first film by all accounts, was the remake of Dawn of the Dead. A film that I should have hated. I loved the original. I thought zombie films were done and I wanted to be the person to bring them back in a big way.

But he released a stellar remake, a fun movie, one that was different enough from the original to seem like it's own movie. A film that has some of the loudest special effects, gory, gruesome, and did not disappoint.

Now, one thing that Gooch mentioned, and one thing I believe in, is Snyder's ability not to hold back. I have the unrated version of Dawn of the Dead, and it's gory. His next major film, nudity, gore, blood, violence, awesomeness.

But we're still talking about Dawn of the Dead.

Snyder came out of nowhere, a guy who was a commercial director, a guy who went to school with Michael Bay and a guy who no one had heard of, and all of a sudden, the zombie craze was alive and well, people wanted to make horror movies R-rated again, and people were champing at the bit to get Snyder to direct something else.

And he waited 3 years and waited and did right by a comic property next.

300 was his second major release, and again, it was a project (similar to Watchmen) that may never have happened.

Instead of following the rules he set up in his filmmaking tactics on Dawn of the Dead, he revamped and used skills similar to Sin City and made a film almost entirely using green/blue screens and special effects.

He did something that took balls. He tried a different technique, and I'll let you be the judge, but to me, it worked.

300 was a better film than it should have been. By all rights, the man was making a film that had no right to be a film but should have just stayed a book, a comic, and a graphic novel. A movie that on the page looked pricey, ambitious, and probably impossible.

And it came out.

And blew people away.

To date, he still owns the record in March. At some point, it will get surpassed, but he sold a movie no one knew anything about but people thought looked cool and made a cool, what, $70 million opening weekend? In March?

That's something right there.

That's why he got the silver platter handed to him with the keys to the biggest comic film in history. The unfilmable one. The Holy Grail.


A movie with more starts and stops than almost any other in history.

From the date of publication until this March 6th, the film has been through at least 4 directors, a number of different studios, countless actors, producers, screenwriters, musicians, and you name it, pretty much everybody has wanted a piece of it.

We talked about that on Monday. All the actors that wanted to be a piece of this film, and the ones I listed were just a small part of that. There are so many more that I would probably fill an entire blog just talking about them alone.

But, the directors: Terry Gilliam was first. And man, it still chaps me to think that they screwed him over since day one on this project back in 1986. He had the rights, he wanted to make it, but didn't think for a second it could be done as one film in 3-acts. He thought maybe a trilogy, maybe a series, but definitely not one movie.

He was ambitious, and that cost him the job. He was only offered about 20-30 million to make the movie with, which even by 1980s standards is a very small number for such a huge project. He even had the writer of the soon to be critically acclaimed Batman Burton film writing the screenplay, that yes, was an adaptation, and no, wasn't perfect, but in scope, it could have worked with some fine-tuning.

That takes us through another one of my favorite directors: Darren Aronofsky. The second time the film got so close to being made that sets were being built, people were going to be hired to write and act in the film and it was going to move forward. But Warner Brothers screwed him over on it and then screwed him over worse Fountain which he was going to devote his time to making the best he could, after spending 6+ years trying to get it off the ground in the first place.

David Hayter wrote a screenplay that was the talk of Hollywood, and for those who don't know, this is the dude who wrote X-Men, he voices Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid video games, and he's done a lot of work on a lot of properties.

His screenplay was the one people started to talk about in Hollywood, but it was also the one that caused Alan Moore to flip out and believe it was pure shit and drivel and had no right to be made. Cue the music, big surprise, Alan Moore didn't like it. This was around the same time the debacle of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came out, so it's no surprise he wasn't sure about another film of his masterpiece being made.

Cue Paul Greengrass after Aronofsky was shown the door, and you get ever closer to the film being made, but it took 3 more years (4 counting 09) to make this film and to get it out.

And it took a director like Snyder, one willing to be brave, to not back down when the studio says make it PG-13 and not back down when the studio says we want sequel potential, a guy who by all rights should never have made this film in the first place, and there you have it.

On March 6, 2009 (03-06-09), Watchmen will be released to theaters. Judging by his films to date, I'm excited. Very excited. More excited than I should be but still cautiously optimistic.

This is the big one. The mother of all comic book movies. And we're almost there. I have my tickets now for the midnight show, and it's the second in a year that I've been to (the first was Dark Knight), and I'm getting as excited for this as I was for that.

So again, trying to be cautiously optimistic here.

But I'm a comic fan through and through. So one or the other, this movie is for me.

But is it for you?

I've spent the better part of the last month talking up the film and the graphic novel, discussing the potential for this film and how it will play out and what it will be. Reading online reviews now is giving me a small taste of what people think. But will the general public like it? Or will it be too different?

It's not Spider-Man, it's not Superman, it's a group of characters they've never heard of and a group of character actors that they may barely even know. It's tricky. It's got a huge mountain to climb.

That's why the commercials show a ton of action. Probably the extent of all the action shown in the film is seen in the trailers.

This is a movie about a comic about the deconstruction of mythological superheroes and the men and women they really are. It looks into the inner psyche of these people to show them as real and as disturbed (if not moreso) than we are. It's based on something that is the tone of all comics following it.

Grim. Gritty. Realistic.

Will that tone work in theaters? Or will the general movie-going public see it and disregard it as just another Spirit?

We'll know soon enough.

I hope at this point that people want something better. Something more. Something a little more involving and realistic in their superhero movies than the ones of old. One that is down to earth and muddies the souls and the feet of the heroes within.

I hope that this film is what people are looking for from their superheroes. Deconstructions and breakdowns and character pathos that make you not sure who to root for and why you should.

This is going to be a challenge for the moviegoers and still for the creators of the film.

But I will be there, opening night, with a smile on my face and a smiley face button on my chest.

And I be there to be a part of this, as I have been ever since reading the book so so long ago.

Will you?

Next time, we continue our look with a few more tidbits to keep in mind before the film comes out. A few more characters to touch on, and maybe even a discussion on the music.


Part 97

Quis custodiet ipsos custode?

Who watches the watchmen?

Who guards the guardians?

Who will watch the watchers?

Who will guard those that guard us?

Who will protect us from those that protect us?

Who will protect you?

Are you the one who helps other people? Are you the one in charge? What happens when you, the hero, needs help? Who do you turn to?

It's an underlying theme in a lot of literature. A theme brought forth a long time ago by Juvenal, in the Satires, regarding how tyranny can be stopped.

It's one used even still today.

And it's the underlying theme, and for the most part, the major consensus of all people, that the story is exactly about that idea.

Who watches the Watchmen?

It's spray painted on walls. People say it to each other. People question it. It's in the news. It's on the streets. It's a hint and a whisper spoken between people who never knew each other before.

And it's one that should be an underlying theme in the film.

And it's one that will tie non-comic fans and comic fans alike. One that will touch everyone in the theater.

Who watches the Watchmen?

Think back.

Think about growing up.

Think about being a kid and entrusting your life to people.

Think about cops and parents and teachers and other people who you trusted, without question, because they were the ones protecting you.

And then think about how your world was changed the second you learned that those people aren't perfect. That they need protecting too. That they can be pulled through the mud just the same as everyone else.

Think about the first moment in your life when your eyes were opened to corruption.

Greed. Guilt. Dishonesty. And think about how it affected you.

That's the theme of the graphic novel, and I think it might be safe to say one of the themes we will see in the film.

Who watches the Watchmen?

Plato answered the question, according to Wikipedia, as "they will guard themselves against themselves. We must tell the guardians a 'noble lie.' The noble lie will inform them that they are better than those they serve and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege; they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it."

And that brings up a point about what we're getting to.

The film, which we will get to.

The graphic novel touches on this in certain ways.

The heroes are real human beings. Human beings who were told a noble lie, that they were protecting the freedoms we all desired and being kept in the public eye because we trusted them.

And as soon as we turned our backs on them, they were left cold, alone, disturbed, and pissed.

They were told that they were better than all of humanity. They were the strong. The resolved. The best of the best. They were the ones we could look to in our time of need, the supermen and women who could protect us against everything.

And then the Keene Act of 1977 was passed, dissolving that all away.

If you've seen The Incredibles, or read any recent Marvel Comics, you may know where this is going.

Superheroes were outlawed. The public began to distrust them. Lose faith in them. Bad things came up in the press about them, scandals, all came out after this. It all started because of a riot.

The police in New York City went on strike, which caused riots, and violence in the streets, and people just all going off the reservation about the heroes and no trust could be placed on them any longer.

And so it was that the Keene Act was passed and all superheroes and vigilantes were outlawed.

Most retired. Some, like Rorschach, acted in secrecy. The Comedian, the cold-hearted son of a bitch that he is, got a job as a government-sponsored hero, just like Iron Man did recently in Marvel Comics.

This act, the passing of the act that was caused by police feeling they were unnecessary and the heroes were too brutal, is what caused the disillusion of the heroes.

It's what caused the downfall of the supermen.

It's what caused people like the main villain of the story to do what he needed to do to get the heroes back together again and "save" the world.

I don't want to spoil it for you as the ending of the graphic novel is so bizarre and so perfect that it would be too much to give away.

But it causes a massive upswell in panic on the streets. It plays a role in the idea that the Communists were going to blow up the world with nuclear missiles. It caused a number of pivotal moments in the comic and now the movie. It leads to the death of the Comedian.

It all comes back to that one thing. That one, central question: who watches the Watchmen?

Unlike the Incredibles, there is no real retirement. There's no real Witness Protection for them.

They are who they are and that's that. It leads to a lot of deaths. A lot of sadness. A lot of murder and pain and deception. It leads to people like the first Silk Spectre taking a job using her body to make money.

People like Hollis Mason. Moloch. The Dollar Bill. You name it, at the point of the story where the reader comes in, it's almost over.

We're on the downward spiral.

This movie is going to be depressing.

But it will leave you wondering, who watches the people that protect you? Who protects you when you're protecting them?

It will put a lot of things into question in your life. It will make you paranoid. You won't really trust people.

It will be hard to sleep. Hard to trust. Hard to live your life.

Because you'll always be there wondering, when is the man coming to get you next? Will the film touch on this? I can hope. It should. It definitely should. I mean, it could be right around the corner. The man coming to get you.

It could be right before the end credits...


Part 98

Who watches the Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter and the structure/composition of the comic

I've mentioned previously the fact that the comic is unfilmable. That there are things in this book that would make it almost impossible to follow the rules of basic structure. That there are things about this book that make it visually appealing, things that may not work on film.

Well, we're finally here.

I promised a discussion on the music, and that will be discussed next time. Discussed with a look at the extensive prose pieces at the end of the text and what they mean to the overall work itself. But this, this blog is about two major things that influence the work outright.

And we'll start with Tales of the Black Freighter.

A comic within a comic. That's how this starts. A comic set within a comic world where comic heroes and characters read a comic about other comic characters.

The idea of the meta-text is born and fleshed out in the comic book format.

Tales of the Black Freighter follows a man called the Captain, never really fully named if I remember correctly, who is the last survivor on his own ship after a group of pirates attacked and destroyed his ship, on their way to Davidstown, his home.

The tale follows this mariner as he struggles to make it home in time to save those he loves. His neighbors, his wife, his family and friends.

The tale is gruesome, stark, and dank. It follows the story of this man as he falls further and further into darkness and corruption. As he slips further and further into madness.

And just like the young man reading the comic pressed against the electric hydrant, we want more. We want the story now.

And instead, it's split between 6 different issues of the comic, and not in any real succession. And that is frustrating, but when you're a comic reader, you get used to these sorts of things.

The cliffhanger. The need for more.

In a comic format, you get used to waiting. But even in reading this as a graphic novel, you want to skip ahead and read what happens to the mariner next.

And it's never good.

The ship has severed heads on pikes. His only companion are the gulls trying to eat the bodies of the dead, floating and bloated in the water below him. His only other companion is the wooden mermaid on the front of his ship, a companion that his kept him sane in some way.

But he builds a raft as he needs to outrun the slow movement of the Black Freighter. He needs to save his loved ones from these murdering cads. He needs to make it there and do whatever it takes to provide their safety.

So he builds a raft of dead bodies and their clothes. All those lost from his ship, strewn together with logs and rope and clothing. Dead bodies are his raft.

Sharks attack. He kills a seagull for sustenance. He drinks saltwater in small amounts to keep himself slightly hydrated.

He kills a shark and rides it into town.

He walks over the bodies of the dead.

He goes more and more insane as he makes his way home.

And when he's there, his madness consumes him. It erupts and explodes and turns him into the villain of the story.

There was never any real danger for the inhabitants of Davidstown until he showed up.

The pirates never came. Horror never came. He murdered and clawed his way there and when he made it, he was the pirate. He was the horror. He was the madness.

And the end of the story shows him, casting off the shackles of his humanity and making his way back to Black Freighter, drifting near the coast.

This story, Tales of the Black Freighter, adds a different perspective to the overall tale. Just like the other add-ins that we see in this comic, it influences things that are happening.

It narrates certain parts of the comic. It tells a tale similar to other characters falling further and further into madness (re: Rorschach).

It's all about human condition and what we'll do to stop the madness that comes for those we love, even going so far as to actually become the villain of the story.

It has a lot to do with one of the main characters in the graphic novel as well.

But I don't want to spoil things. Because I want you to see this film.

Now, the reason this makes it unfilmable is that, by subtracting the Tales of the Black Freighter insert, you're losing a major portion of the tale. You're losing insight on the level of the comic that you won't be allowed in the theater.

You won't be able to dissect things as easily. You won't be able to see the parallels between certain characters in the novel/film and in the Freighter story. You won't be able to see a large portion of what you're meant to see.

And it's a big drawback to the film.

Now, they are releasing the Tales of the Black Freighter animated film with Gerard Butler voicing the Captain (attached with Under the Hood, something we'll discuss next time) as a separate DVD after the release of the film has already happened, but how many people that haven't read the comic will actually go out and buy this? Especially when there is talk that a release will happen down the line possibly including Tales of the Black Freighter intertwined in the film release (again, probably dependent upon how well the film does).

Signs are bleak on this. But not hopeless. Again, the director did 300 and people went in droves. So things are hopeful there.

However, another major portion of the comic experience will be lost in the translation to the film. There are a lot of things that will probably translate well (like hidden symbols, hidden meanings, posters and background items for fans to pick out, etc).

But when the film is released, one of the key elements of the comic may be lost (I stress may).

One of the best issues of the series was issue 5, entitled Fearful Symmetry.

In the issue, Rorschach has a "discussion" with Moloch the Mystic (no longer a mystic and no longer a villain) and Ozymandias is attacked by an unknown assassin and his life is placed in jeopardy, among other things.

The issue itself is on a roughly 9-panel grid (and the majority of the work itself follows this pattern). Each page mimics a later page.

Page 1 and the final page. Page 2 and the second to last page, etc etc. All the way through the book.

It culminates in the very middle of the book being essentially a two-page spread showing the events of the attack on Ozymandias' life and what happens in it. The pages reflect each other, as if in a mirror image, to a degree.

Not in the sense that the exact same things happen on reflecting pages, but more in the page layout and the colors.

If you have the graphic novel, good for you. Flip open to issue 5 and flip through it. Look at page 1. Look at page 28.

Take a look throughout. Look how the panels are set up on each page. Look at how it almost goes 1 3 5 7 9 having the same colors (panels on one page) and 2 4 6 8 having the same colors on the page.

Flip through the book and look at each page individually and see it. The symmetry is there.

It's extraordinary. And again, it's unfortunate to think that this cannot be reflected, verbatim, into the film version.

Now, that's not to say that symmetry can't be there when the film comes out.

They can mimic earlier scenes. Colors. Shapes. Shadows. Light and darkness can reflect the mood in certain ways. Music can be used to simulate the sense of symmetry.

There are ways to do it.

But as it stands, we've seen the part of the film in trailers where Ozymandias is attacked, and it appears to be shown more for action as opposed to symmetry of scene.

Again, I haven't seen it yet so I'm unsure, but having read more and more about how Snyder wanted to make this as close to the reality of the comic as it could be, I have faith.

And faith is a word that I don't use often, especially when discussing comic films.

But in all honesty, the film will be a different entity. I've never appreciated the comic fan who cannot marry the idea that comics and movies are different and are supposed to be different.

It's not an issue of two separate entities and never the twain shall meet (though at one point it looked like that would be the case).

In my eyes, comics and films go hand in hand. They are separate experiences, to be enjoyed and discussed in different ways.

There are things you can do in a comic that you could never do in a movie, and vice versa.

In my eyes, I am open, but not all comic fans are.

So there is an uphill struggle for Watchmen with these fans. The fans that believe that it MUST follow the source material to a T or else it doesn't show respect to it. The fans who think that even the smallest change is a slight against the creation and therefore is punishable by death or non-viewing.

There are those people who will never see this movie because of word of mouth and because it's not in the vision of Alan Moore.

There are those people who will never see this film and potentially enjoy it as an ADAPTATION of the source material.

But we'll discuss that on Friday.

There are people like that who will rail against the movie for all the reasons I have laid out to date, and where I may seem like one of them, I am completely excited for the prospect that is this film.

I am excited beyond all belief for it.

I just can't wait til Thursday night. It's been a long time coming.


Part 99

Who watches the Watchmen? The music used in the comic and the music that will be in the movie (or on the soundtrack at least).

By the way, can you believe it's been 99 of these things? One more for 100? Jesus. I feel very penultimate here. It's crazy.

"At midnight, all the agents and superhuman crew go out and round up everyone who knows more than they do."
-Bob Dylan, Desolation Row

Now, as we've discussed to date, this is a superhero comic. It's a superhero comic pulling apart the mythos and boiling it down to its most human level.

This first quote plays a major role in the rest of the series, and actually is seen at the end of the first issue. Take a look at that quote again and tell me what you think it means.

The world of superheroes has been broken. They have been rounded up and stripped bare of their place in society because they are too powerful, because police were rioting, because they felt and seemed above all else ultra-human. That they were above the law.

So the government rounds them up and places a ban on all superheroes, effectively destroying them in the process. Because they know too much. Because they are too much.

And look at it in the sense of the world around us. The way of the world recently.

Religious beliefs. People you love. The people who love you.

Rights are still taken away from us everyday, and that song was written how long ago? Recorded in 1965, it still holds a point in the world we live in today.

Again, it's a way for people in power to take away the power that should belong to everyone. It's a way to belittle those around you and make them seem less than human.

You turn them into a choice. You turn them into one small aspect of who they are.

And in this world: you turn them into heroes and then strip that away, and what do you have left?

Nothing but bare bones and a warped sense of reality (re: Rorschach).

"And I'm up while the dawn is breaking, even though my heart is aching. I should be drinking a toast to absent friends instead of these comedians."
-Elvis Costello, The Comedians

Again, another song written a long time ago (1984), it completely fits in line with the story within.

Obviously, there is a character called the Comedian in it, and this quote ends issue 2 of the comic. An issue devoted to the death/funeral of the comedian.

The title of the issue, Absent Friends, is from the lyrics to the song, similar to the way issue 1 is called Desolation Row. It's all very serendipitous.

But more than that, the issue deals with the funeral, the placing of the body of the Comedian in the ground. And not everyone is there for the event.

Think of it in the context of a funeral. They should be happy. They should be excited. They should be relishing the world around them. And instead, they're around a bunch of faceless people, people from their past that mean little to nothing to them as it is.

The dawn is breaking: well, obviously the discussion here is that the time is coming. That the endgame is afoot. Which the majority of the comic is devoted to.

But here we are, at a funeral, the end still approaches, but instead of doing something happy, instead of doing something they want, they're stuck. They're stuck watching the world pass them by, dressed in gaudy costumes and acting like fools.

This quote can work for all of us, as we get older. We're stuck, in certain ways, in jobs we hate, with family and friends that don't call anymore but you still hang around with, and instead of being joyous and looking toward the oncoming years for big events and new joys, we're stuck.

We're stuck, sitting with a bunch of goons, reminiscing about the past.

There are more songs to discuss that play parts within the comic itself, such as Walking on the Moon by the Police, Neighborhood Threat by Iggy Pop, Jocko Homo by Devo, and Unforgettable by Nat King Cole, but almost all of these do not appear on the soundtrack to the film, and probably do not appear in the film.

Which bothers me greatly as each of these plays a major part in the book, but this next one most certainly does.

"You're my thrill. You do something to me. You send chills right through me when I look at you, 'cos you're my thrill..."
-Billie Holiday, You're My Thrill

This plays a major role in issue 7 at the very end of the issue (but not a quote at the end of the chapter). It plays in Nite-Owl's Owlship during the tenement fire, and it plays a huge role in the development of the character of Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg).

A lonely man, aging, living out his days as an inventor and bird-watcher, he spends his time speaking with his mentor, Hollis Mason.

It's only after the death of the Comedian, the reappearance of Rorschach into his life, and the return of Silk Spectre II as well, that brings him out of his retirement.

But he's still the impotent superhero. The unwanted man who can accomplish nothing to be proud of anymore, ever since hanging up the tights and the belt.

He's the aged wonder, but once he's up there in the sky, saving lives and doing right, he's empowered. He's invigorated. He can totally get it up (literal and figurative).

And his love for Silk Spectre knows no bounds at this point because he's a new man. New confidence. New abilities. New power. And he's reborn.

We see this daily. We see this in films (Rambo, all the old men coming back to recapture the screen), we see this in politics (John McCain), we see this in every aspect of our lives.

We all want to reclaim our youth at some point. Be reborn. Feel empowered. Do right. And we all need that spark.

It just so happens that this song plays while Dan finds his spark.

Then we get into "The Times They are A-Changing" by Bob Dylan, which is featured and goes without saying, but also this one:

"Outside in the distance a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl."
-Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

Now, Bob Dylan's music plays a major role in the comic. It pulls a lot of story elements together, and obviously, within the graphic novel, the times are changing.

Things are getting bleaker. Darker. More disturbing. The world is on the brink of disaster and here we are, in issue 10, entering the very end of the comic book in its entirety, and All Along the Watchtower plays a role in this.

Rorschach and Nite-Owl have teamed up and are making their way to Ozymandias' fortress of solitude (again, he's that world's realistic iteration of Superman).

Two riders, approaching on hoverbikes that Nite Owl invented, and the cold is coming in.

It's all very on the surface don't you think?

We all know this song. We've all heard the version sung by Jimi Hendrix and a lot of us have heard Dylan's original, but it makes perfect sense here.

Ozymandias watches televisions showing the events of the world as they transpire, and here we are, the two heroes approaching to question him about the happenings, and we're left with a question, an overriding question that will face the characters til the end of their time: who watches the Watchmen?

And that leads into our final quote, before our discussion of the soundtrack itself.

"It would be a stronger world, a stronger loving world, to die in."
-John Cale, Sanities

That ends the Watchmen. That quote. It ties into the death of a major character, the one true hero of the book, and it ties everything together at the very end.

The world has been brought together by a common enemy. It has been made stronger. And now people left and right are dying.

Again, I don't want to spoil the book/film for you, so there are a lot of things I can't say. And I won't say them.

Just know that the reality of the comic is that the world is changing. Some think for the better. Some think for the worse.

Those that think it will be getting worse are the ones that don't make it in the end.

It's a look at the way the world is. Casting off the shackles of the old to make way for the new. Casting off the oppressive world views and starting over.

That's the way the world works in Watchmen. That's the way the world works in our own lives.

And that's the point. That's the world of the Watchmen. A world where things are quite what they should be. Where the heroes are bleak, resolute, and disturbed and the villains are the ones in power.

It's a testament to the world at the time, in the 80s, when Alan Moore wrote the book. A world with the Thatchers and the Reagans and the Iran-Contra events. There are big explosive issues, and the thoughts of an invading force of Communist is a big problem that faced people daily (look at Red Dawn).

So here we are, at the end, and what are we left with? Armageddon. It will happen someday, despite all the naysayers and those railing against it, but will the world be better off if it actually happens?

We'll see.

But let's discuss the soundtrack for the film. The one with original and inspired by music.

Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
The Times they are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan
The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel
Me & Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
I'm Your Boogie Man by KC and the Sunshine Band
You're My Thrill by Billie Holiday
Pruit Igoe & Prophecies by Philip Glass
Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen
All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix
Ride of the Valkyries by Budapest Symphony Orchestra
Pirate Jenny by Nina Simone

Now obviously some of these songs make sense in the context of the graphic novel (in fact, almost all do). I'm very glad that Desolation Row is on there, though I've not heard My Chemical Romance's version of it.

I'm left scratching my head about it.

I don't understand why they have it as a cover song. I mean, it's good that there's no original songs on there (thank the lord on high), but it leaves me wondering, why them?

They're fans of the graphic novel. Big deal. 9 out of 10 people who've read comics in any fashion are fans of the graphic novel, and a ton of them make music.

Why not do an entire album full of cover songs and put them on the album? Why just that one, Jimi's version of Watchtower, and Pirate Jenny by Nina Simone?

Why no Comedians? Why no Iggy Pop?

There's quite a few important songs missing from this album that strike me as odd.

And for all my enjoyment of the song from the trailers (The End is the Beginning is the End or the Beginning is the End is the Beginning by the Smashing Pumpkins), I'm glad it's not on here.

A little weird to use a song that originally appeared on the Batman and Robin soundtrack in your marketing push and it would have been weirder to use it on the soundtrack.

Again, I like the song, but you want to distance yourself from that blight on comic films as much as possible. Place tongue firmly in cheek when using it and maybe, just maybe, it will work.

Well, it worked in the trailers but I'm glad it's not on the soundtrack. That would have been weird.

And with that, we're here. A long, strange road has been weaved these last 99 columns/blogs that we're finally there. We're at the pinnacle.

The next blog is issue 100. The big one. The ultimate as I've been numbering them for a reason.

I've not yet seen the film, but will be seeing it Thursday/Friday at midnight. It will be in IMAX. This film has been a long time coming, and I'm sure my excitement has shown that.

Number 100 will be a big blow-out. It will be long. It will be a strange road we still weave. It will signal some changes down the line as we progress and try to get back to our regularly scheduled gonzo program.

Our next blog will be the last devoted to Watchmen and will feature a review. In however many words I decide to use.

But we will get back to what the plan was from the beginning. Fear and Loathing in Overland Park. A look at the world around us. A world in our backyard.

We'll be back.


Part 100

Number 100, the final Watchmen look, and a look to the future.

Let's begin with my review of the Watchmen. I spent all weekend dissecting it in my brain. I spent all weekend back and forth, discussing with people that I know, looking at certain aspects, and trying to decide how I feel.

And I'm still not sure.

It made 56 million, but is that enough? Biggest opening of the year so far, but still, is it enough? Will it do well next weekend? Or is it doomed?

I saw it Thursday night, midnight, at the IMAX, and I wasn't completely blown away. I was a little frustrated. A little peeved. A lot angsty. And a lot tired.

To preface, the group of people I saw it with included my friends, and then a theater full of comic fans (it seemed), people who saw t-shirts and posters at Hot Topic (wearing the standard Hot Topic gear that included plasticware and leather get-ups), and a couple of goons wearing homemade costumes that looked very homemade.

It was sad.

It was Star Wars all over again.

And when I saw all three Star Wars films in theaters, thankfully, I was more let down there than I was here.

Read Gooch's article. Mine will be similar, but not exact.

I'm coming from years of reading this. Close to 20 years almost. I read this when I was 8 and had no clue what I was reading and have read it a number of times since.

This was a deciding factor in my becoming a comic fan and a deciding factor in what I would look for in my comics and my superheroes.

This film, however, does not do the same thing for my film tastes.

It's not perfect.

It's a little frustrating.

There are scenes that were directly lifted from the comic, and that's where the problems arise. It's a little stiff in places. It's a little wooden. It doesn't allow space for fun, excitement, and change. And then once those scenes are over and it jumps into a scene that is not from the comic, the contrast is there completely.

It doesn't relish in the sense of it's absurdity as much as it could. There's a blue naked dude on screen the whole movie and no one questions it. It's a world very unlike our own and a lot of it you can tell that maybe this is a niche film. Maybe this isn't a film for everyone.

But Snyder wasn't sure who he was making it for.

Yes, he tried to please the long time fans with tastes and sounds and scenes lifted from the comic exactly. Yes he did his damnedest with the unfilmable material and made a movie that for all intents and purposes is a thinking man's blockbuster.

But it's not perfect.

And maybe that's the point.

The frustrations begin with the sheer nonsense that the slow-motion affects. A lot of people have mentioned the slow-motion by this point, and I feel like mentioning it myself.

It worked in 300. 300 was an action comic/action film. Watchmen is not an action piece. It's a deconstruction of mythology and characters and humanity. It's a look inside the pathos of the human mind and the fetishistic ways in which we put on masks.

It's strange to see this comic on screen and see the action sequences slowed down to the point of absurdity.

And to me, it's lazy filmmaking.

Some people see it as a stark contrast to the quick way the world is moving around them, some people see it as a way for the director to stimulate your senses and let you see things as the characters do, but it makes no sense.

I lost count of the number of slow-motion sequences. Each and every scene of action had at least one moment slowed down, whether a bone breaking, a shot fired, or a person dodging a hit.

Rain scenes were slow-motion and the rain itself slowed down and dripped slowly.

The unfolding of a flag in the rain during a funeral scene was slow motion.

A smiley face button was flipped and slowed about 15 times.

Blood was in slow motion, spurting, dripping, flowing.

Fight scenes with young kids, old people, everybody, slowed down. It was a little absurd seeing young Rorschach tear at the older kid in slow motion or seeing his mother yell at him in slow motion.

The entire opening credits scene (which was beautiful, extraordinary, and some of the best work of the entire film) was in slow motion.

Just a little too much and a little over the top.

Some of the film was fantastic, as I said.

Patrick Wilson was a complete and utter surprise. He was so good that I couldn't believe this was the same actor from Lakeview Terrace, the same "pretty face" guy that was in Alamo and so many other movies that he just disappears into. And he does. He becomes Dan Dreiberg in this movie and it's amazing.

I always saw fan-favorite John Cusack in the role of Dreiberg, and Wilson made it his own. With tiny nuances from the comic, little bits and pieces of the man inside the costume, you feel for this guy.

He's the linchpin in the film. The guy who knows and interacts with everyone in the movie. All the other characters know him and see him and act around him. He has scenes with everybody.

It works. He works well as the slightly bloated Batman-esque retired character, and the changes at the end of the film work better for his character and make him become the hero he wants to be.

It's awesome.

Nothing needs to be said about Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. He was perfection. Absolutely the character on screen. Just sheer dynamite acting.

Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan was another person I didn't expect a lot from. Reading reviews before the film I expected him to be a slight let-down, but again, he didn't disappoint.

He has a distinct voice and a very understated acting style that I love. He was perfect. Not at all who I expected to be Dr. Manhattan, but he's just so perfect and he just fits into the world as the disaffected man.

And his distance, his portrayal of the cold superhero who has no reason to stay on Earth is brilliant. Again, understated, but perfect.

His flashback is one of the best. His flashback fits in so well in the movie and just gave me goosebumps. It wasn't exact from the comic, but it was so close that I knew everything that was going to happen and I was just in awe of it.

I was in awe of the special effects when his body was reconstructing and I was in awe when he burst out of nothingness, reborn. It was insane.

The rest of the actors are just kind of there. Matthew Goode and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are the best of the rest, as they have a lot to do, but Malin Ackerman is just there as a pretty face, the actor playing Nixon is almost as laughable as Skeletor playing him in Frost/Nixon against the werewolf guy.

Hollis Mason isn't in the movie for more than one scene, and showing his book, Under the Hood, throughout the movie makes no sense and plays no part other than to tie in the idea that these characters have been around for a long time and have done a lot.

So it's not perfect.

That's not to say it's terrible.

As I mentioned the opening credits, as have most, so too do I mention the music in the film. At times brilliant (The Times they are a-Changin'), it was at others equally ridiculous.

The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel is such a cliched song that it hurt and made myself and a few others laugh out loud in the film. It was painful. Here's a scene that demands respect and demands seriousness and we laugh? That's not a good idea.

You missed the boat by not including Elvis Costello's song from the graphic novel.

You missed the boat by including 99 Red Balloons in German (Luft Balloons, I think it's spelled).

You missed the boat by having My Chemical Romance cover Desolation Row.

But beyond that, the score itself was at times both not really there and superb. The prison break sequence had 70s style music that immediately brings to mind Escape from New York with pitch perfect ability and made me wish the whole score was exactly like that.

The assassination attempt against Ozymandias scene had a hilarious Muzak rendition of Everybody Wants to Rule the World which fit perfectly and not too many people caught.

But there were little touches throughout the entire movie that were remarkable and made me happy to watch.

Some stuff that frustrated me.

And some that made me think.

It was not a perfect film. But it was a good film. It was one that made me happy at times and frustrated beyond all belief at others. But we struggle through it.

At least it wasn't as boring as Benjamin Button.

Regarding the release, it has an uphill battle from here. A lot of people weren't pleased. It didn't grab the non-hardcore fans as well as 300 did. It didn't grab the non-fans for a large portion of the movie.

You have a 3 hour movie that has bits and pieces of action in it that will make non-fans happy, but the fact is, it's 3 hours long. That will play a part in the uphill battle.

Also, next week and every week following has some kind of release to go against it. Race to Witch Mountain. I Love You, Man. Adventureland. Fast and Furious. All different kinds of movies but they play to similar crowds. So it will be interesting to see what happens next, but by no means will this match Dark Knight's money-grabbing ability.

Now, moving forward, we have new places to go and people to meet. We have big events coming down the line, including a film festival in California this weekend.

That's right. A film festival.

This Fear and Loathing is about to go global and is going to be on a couple of panels this weekend in Santa Monica. How weird is that?

Panels? Me on a panel? Craziness. I'm still slightly out of my mind and don't believe that it's true, but yes, I will be at a film festival this weekend. And yes, I will be on panel in front of some really famous and important Hollyweird types.

And yes I will have my business cards out.

So what does it mean going forward?

It means that Fear and Loathing may go global, but I'm committed to bringing it back to what it was. A look at the strange. The surreal. The understated. The reality of the world.

And a look at how it affects you and I personally.

You are now returning to your regularly scheduled program...


| Top ↑ |