Does the act of reviewing Watchmen make you stupid?


Seriously. Continued from here and here.

Submitted (mostly) without comment:

And yet as this continues, for 162 minutes, the usual question arises: Has the film added anything? Which forces one to confront the book, after more than two decades, with a little more critical distance. For years, people have wondered if it is filmable. But the real issue is whether the novel is worth filming at all.

When it first appeared, “Watchmen” was hailed as a revolution in comic-book artistry. It was dark and ironic, a wry speculation on what the “real life” of superheroes might be like, set in a dystopian 1985, during the constitutionally extended presidency of Richard Nixon. It was two books in one, a look at the twisted, tortured, sexually kinky underworld of vigilantes who like to fight crime in costumes grafted onto an ordinary, race-against-the-doomsday-clock tale of pugilistic heroes and arch-villains. It deflated the very form it celebrated.

This was catnip for the fanboys, who can be as snobbish about their comics as wine lovers or opera geeks are about their fetishes. And it attracted critics eager to find genius in the dark corners of American pop culture. Time magazine declared it one of the 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923, in the same league with Faulkner, Orwell and Hemingway. The academically inclined found it a brilliant deconstruction of the superhero myth, multivalent, polysemic, densely imbricated and all that jazz.

Despite the intellectual name-dropping, the quotes from Nietzsche, Blake and Juvenal (“Who watches the watchmen?”), the level of Moore’s writing rarely rises above B-movie fare. It is silly and dated, the faded gibberish of an old-fashioned noire stylist (the kind who now works for newspapers). And it is filled with cliches.

Over the years, multiple efforts to film “Watchmen” have failed. Terry Gilliam, director of “Brazil,” was engaged with the project for a while, but that fell through. Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) worked on a version that updated the story from its Cold War setting to the War on Terror, but that didn’t go far either. All of which led to the farcical notion that “Watchmen” was unfilmable.

Proust is unfilmable. “Das Kapital” is unfilmable. “Watchmen” is not unfilmable. It is already a parody of the cinematic, from its rapid cuts and interwoven short scenes to the camera angles suggested by Gibbons’s often surreal perspective.

Watchmen” wasn’t unfilmable, it was unreadable. A script doctor might have helped de-clutter the often incoherent story line and tart up the leaden chatter.

But when it marches in lockstep with Moore’s tedious plot and recapitulates the leaden back and forth of his cardboard characters, the only watch that matters in “Watchmen” is the one on your wrist. It’s telling you life is too short for this movie.



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