Early Watchmen reviews are in and the consensus seems to be that while technically accomplished and very faithful to Moore’s graphic novel, the movie lacks spirit, succeeding in engaging the audience intellectually, but ultimately failing to engage them emotionally. The common criticism seems to be that Director Zack Snyder’s loyalty to the source material proves Watchmen’s undoing. Hmmm. I’m reminded of a past Mind Meld discussion over on SF Signal in which I was asked to weigh in on why many sf/f book adaptations fail. At the time, I wrote:
“People need to accept the fact that books are books and movies are movies, each to be appreciated on their own merits. In a best case scenario, they compliment one another and, hopefully, draw potential fans from one to the other. In a worst case scenario, they are utter tragedies that leave fans bemoaning the fact that, say, David Lynch was ever given the green light to make Dune.
My advice to filmmakers is to avoid getting caught up in the details of the source material and just concentrate on producing a good movie. Make the movie, not the book because, let’s face it, if you go down that route, you’re just begging for direct comparisons and, at the end of the day, the book is always better.”
You’re never going to please everyone. Stray too far from the book and you risk alienating fans of the original source material. Adhere too doggedly to the source material and you risk alienating viewers who may not be familiar with the book. The best adaptations walk that fine line between remaining true to the spirit of the book and striking out in a bold new direction. One movie that succeeded where so many others failed was Children of Men. A brilliant movie and a great book – but both very different animals. Another example is Blade Runner, one of my favorite movies based on a brilliant book, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which, coincidentally, was my Top February Read.
Very similar to the movie, it focuses on our protagonist, Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter working for the San Francisco Police Department who is charged with the task of retiring a group of androids who hijacked a Martian transport and escaped to Earth. The field of bio-synthetics has come a long way however and, as a result, androids are nearly indistinguishable from their human counterparts. The only way to differentiate between them is by means of the Voight-Kampff test that measures a subject’s ability to empathize. Humans can. Android’s cannot.
In terms of structure, it’s very similar to the movie although the book contains an assortment of truly out-there story elements, from a bizarre religious movement called Mercerism to a WTF?! narrative detour to an alternate android police station. It’s mighty weird but typical Dick and one can’t help but embrace the quirkiness as it, in a wild and roundabout way, reinforces the themes of individual identity and personal reality that the movie does in a much subtler fashion (the director‘s cut is much closer to the novel in this respect, actually inferring that Deckard himself may be a replicant).
The movie eschews most of the quirkiness in favor of a bleak dystopian setting that Philip K. Dick captures so effectively in the character of Deckard, his own misgivings about his job and, in particular, his ultimately heartbreaking quest to purchase a real animal – given that, by this point in Earth’s future, real animals are all but extinct. But the scene that stands out for me above all others is the infamous “spider scene” in which we are offered a glimpse of a replicant’s emotional detachment as Priss, one of the hunted androids, pulls the legs off a spider simply to prove it can make do with just four. Her clinical approach to the creature’s suffering is deeply unsettling.
A great book. And an equally great movie. But two very different entities.
As for Watchmen, I loved the graphic novel and fully intend to pick up the DVD when it comes out so I can judge for myself. If nothing else, it looks gorgeous. But before anyone starts feeling too sorry for the creative behind the movie, take heart. Early tracking has Watchmen doing BIG box-office, which is great because that holds the promise for more theatrical adaptations of literary genre favorites, be they fantasy, SF, horror, or comic book-based. And more such adaptations increase the likelihood that, every so often, someone will get it right.
I sent author Mark J. Ferrari your questions yesterday and I found the following email in my inbox this morning: “These are REALLY good questions, and I will enjoy answering them this weekend! Please feel free to thank your participants as soon as convenient
for their interest and their great questions.” So, thanks to everyone who took the time to post questions and comments…
And thanks to Chev. I received the Pug Mugs calendar. It joins my other Pug calendar on my office bulletin board.
Today’s entry is dedicated to birthday gal Deni B. Also best wishes to belated birthday, uh, individual AscendedTauri.
Majorsal writes: “do you know how close amanda is to finishing the q/a?”
Answer: Nope. I told her to take her time and that there was no rush.
Siba writes: “what does it take to add you to my facebook friendlist…”
Answer: Getting me back on facebook would be a start.
Shiny writes: “Last night (well, early this morning) I read through my current script and it didn’t suck. In fact I like that damn thing and I’m in love with the characters again.”
Answer: That’s funny. Tuesday night, I re-read what I’d written so far on the short story and hated it so much I was ready to scrap the whole thing. I re-read it on Wednesday and liked what I had so much that I was inspired to work on it today. I think it’s an odd/even day thing.
Ordinarysuperhero writes: “I wanted to ask, somewhere along that vein- what do you think should be more important to an author? That they enjoy their work or that their audience enjoys it? Or should it be both in equal amounts?”
Answer: It has to be a bit of both. You can, of course, just write for yourself but, at the end of the day, no one will care about your work other than you. On the other hand, you can’t be so worried about what your audience will and won’t like that you risk compromising your work.
Nicholas writes: “Bonjour Mr. Mallozzi, quand verrons nous les premieres images de Stargate Universe, et les photos promotionnelles?”
Response: C’est mois.
Translation: We’ll be seeing the first images of Stargate Universe this month.
Fifi writes: “What, no Joe Flanigan Q and A????”
Answer: Uh, no.
Ytimyona writes: “Hey Joe… do you think you could host guest blogs from some of the stars of SGU over the next break in shooting (or if, yanno, there’s an episode that is very light work for one of them)?”
Answer: Have already approached a number of them about doing a Q&A once they’ve had the chance to settle in.
PG15 writes: “One more Q: Is Peter DeLuise directing “Fire”?”
Answer: He is.
Amconway writes: “Food for a Dog with an upset stomach…”
Answer: I prepare something very similar but instead of carrots I use peas.
Dee writes: “Hi – I realize this probably isn’t the most appropriate venue – but wondering how I might contact Mr. Mallozzi or Alan McCullough by email.”
Narelle from Aus writes: “Got the Wii setup and going yet?”
Answer: Yep, and got the wife a whack of games including Hell’s Kitchen. I hope the computer-generated Gordon actually swears at the players.
Belouchi writes: “1. Did they fix that tainted Camulus ZPM from Zero Hour, if not why not use it as a weapon?
2. If Atlantis does go back to Pegasus, would they be more likely to return to the original Planet: Lantia or the one they were in prior to the events of Enemy at the gates?
3. Does the Antartic outpost carry more drones than Atlantis and doesn’t fire streams like we saw in the lost city season 7 SG1?
4. Will we see Daedalus class ships from the Brits and the Frenchies given that we found out the Russians( Korolev) and the Chinese( Sun Tzu) had/have one?
5. After all these years are there still Goual’ds out there that need to be taken into consideration; we know all the system lords were wiped out from Stargate Continum but there is the chance of lesser Goualds with powerful ships and armies?
6. Are you done with the Script for Project Twilight, if yes, when can we know of the title?”
Answers: 1. No. It was inferred that the ZPM contained a fatal flaw and that, when next powered up, it would explode.
2. Yeah, I wonder.
3. The city of Atlantis has more drones in its arsenal.
4. No plans to see a French or British ship.
5. There are definitely some goa’uld out there, biding their time.
6. If you’re referring to the Atlantis script – no. I mentioned in yesterday’s entry that we had a very detailed outline though.
AscendedTauri writes: “Oh, I also just purchased Mr.Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” and I plan on reading it in the near future. How is he doing in regards to Universe? Any chance we’ll see a script from him this first season?”
Answer: That’s up to John.