Archive for February 2009
Given its nature as a graphic novel, it is more than fitting that Watchmen is a similarly graphic film. Anybody familiar with Watchmen, the book, is most likely enamoured of it, and sure to have an idea of which elements of the richly layered text matter most to them.
The good news is that the characters are mostly well cast and recreated in a manner true to the novel. Promotional material is already out, spruiking the end of the superhero as we know it. But rather than ending anything, Watchmen – both as a book and as a new film – is about creating a necessarily new approach to the modern hero fable.
Rather than the appalling candy floss of Spiderman or Superman, and even less ‘moral’ than Hulk or the Dark Knight, Watchmen’s mostly well-drawn characters are multi-dimensional and as ambivalent as they have to be. Even with the elevation of some modern concerns like energy sources and the geopolitic of Afghanistan to a prominence they lacked in the graphic novel, Watchmen honours the original work of Alan Moore in a way that the Waukoski brothers’ molestation of V for Vendetta did not.
Matter-shifting Dr. Manhattan has all the power needed to save humanity from itself, but lacks the desire to use it. The Comedian is an alcoholic misogynist sociopath who wants to see the world burn, but shudders fatally when that possibility becomes certainty. Rorschach is almost as psychotic and unforgettable as on paper. In almost any other film, he could be the standalone supervillain.
Ozymandias/ Veidt lacks some of the impact he should have, simply because he is not portrayed in any sympathetic way, he looks more like a blonde Ken doll or Flash Gordon extra than the more rugged and wise comic book depiction of his character, and because the casting decision for this character who simultaneously achieves total heroic and villainous status is perhaps the worst in an otherwise well-played film. Other than Veidt, the Richard Nixon character is probably the closest to caricature in the film, contrasting pointedly with the far less thinly drawn characters driving the story.
And let’s face it, how few action movies of the last decade – whether transposed from comics or not – have offered anything substantial or challenging by way of character development, let alone done much more than sermonize Brady Bunch values thinly veiled in bloodshed?
Even at around 150 minutes and using the graphic novel quite faithfully as a storyboard, the filmmakers were never going to be able to transfer the entirety of such a complexly constructed book to screen. So the question really is one of what they left out and how they managed what was kept in.
A number of the vignettes and side stories not involving the Watchmen characters don’t make it into the movie and this is something of a shame. The directors and screenwriters likely made the decision that to do otherwise would crowd the work and add confusion to an already agile film which does – to its credit – faithfully use the soundtrack laid out in the novel, augmenting it with some clever pop culture inserts and beautifully constructed media montages and character backgrounds. Similarly, some of the book’s more extreme supernatural elements are excised, traded off instead for more ‘real world’ scenarios. Again, this is probably a choice based on what the film’s structure can solidly support and what audiences can comfortably absorb.
But the choice is also made to give the love and lust relationships of the novel greater prominence than they originally had. In a way – and like some of the costuming – this choice reaffirms the stereotype of the comic book fan as frustrated middle aged virgin. But the notion is fleeting, mostly offset by an avalanche of great ideas, explosive violence, and dark philosophical observation. Fans of the novel may scowl at the ending, but at least it offers a surprise for everyone.
The big question: is Watchmen a film release worth looking forward to?
Absolutely – catch it on the biggest screen and biggest sound system that you can. It’s really quite a movie experience which, despite some annoyances and absences, isn’t to be missed.
Unless you’d rather be watching Australia.
Watchmen gets 8.2 out of 10 (on a scale where V for Vendetta gets 6.5, X-Men 1.5 gets 8 and The Dark Knight gets 9)
February 7, 2009. Black Saturday. The Victorian firestorm that left thousands homeless and hundreds dead.
Only Pentecostal Danny Nalliah, pastor of Catch The Fire Ministries, had the good sense to look past all the enraged finger-pointing and publicly blame Victoria’s frivolous abortion laws. The comparably visionary Miranda Devine, writing from her comfortable Sydney mansion, preached that filthy murdering greenies with their climate agenda owe the families of the dead a personal apology.
Max Rheese, head of the pro-GMO/logging/nuclear, anti-climate-science, Don Burke-fronted Gunns-donation-receiving corporate think-tank Australian Environment Foundation wrote for Online Opinion to blame public land managers and governments. Although he conceded that the only reason they ignored awesome forest science established in 1939 (yes, really) was because of pressure from latte-sipping inner-city greens.
Even Germaine Greer – usually worthwhile and at worst amusing – announced to a dinner attended by the Queen that a lack of burning and clearing by Australian authorities, albeit in ignorance of blackfella wisdom, is to blame. Similarly astute observations can be found all over The Australian’s letters pages.
And even Fran Bailey, MP for the bulk of Victoria’s worst affected areas, is pushing an argument adored by nearly every woodchipping lobbyist and climate skeptic every time Australia burns.
It amounts to a claim that protecting areas managed as National Parks, limiting logging of native forests, and giving ecosystems a chance to function at all naturally is to guarantee fiery tragedy and ensure that fire crews can’t gain access when it occurs.
Basically, ‘man with bulldozer, chainsaw, and woodchip license knows best’.
But writing to the Environment East Gippsland newsgroup, one Victorian forest activist noted that “apart from Bunyip, I cannot think of any major fire this season that hasn’t been in a plantation or other heavily managed forestry area.”
According to his observations and initial reports, all fires – bar one – started in plantations, logging coupes, grasslands, and farms. Namely, areas already decimated and dehydrated by the very practices prescribed by the ignorant, remote, and spin-driven parasites happy to exploit yet another fatal catastrophe.
But at least this tragedy will finally move Australia to really act on climate change…
Got to admit that I quite enjoyed Germaine Greer’s overtly pragmatic epitaph for Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. As a virulent pissing contest engulfed Australian and global semi-celebria, with each successive politician and MTV host proclaiming greater and greater love and admiration for a bloke that many thought of as a bit of a dickhead, albeit a freshly dead one, Greer was the sole voice stating the obvious, namely
What Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space. The one lesson any conservationist must labour to drive home is that habitat loss is the principal cause of species loss. There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress.
Which is why it is baffling that she should now display a brilliant lack of intelligence, proclaiming that the highly fatal and destructive bushfires still tormenting Victoria were caused by authorities failing to burn off and a lack of bush clearing.
The simple fact is that the Victorian authority supposedly responsible for forest management, the ironically named Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), are all about support for unsustainable forest practices. They more or less prostitute their taxpayer-funded services to the woodchip industry, which does nothing but clear bush – old bush, new bush, sick bush, healthy bush.
The DSE are in fact such vigorous fans of the hazard reduction techniques known as back-burning that it is barely eight years since ‘controlled burns’ they were overseeing (supposedly) did what fires do in the face of 30-knot winds, destroying roughly a million hectares of native forest. As a result, logging lobbyists secured a commitment from the Victorian government, enabling them to access massive stands of ancient forest, to make up for the volume of wood no longer able to be cut down for the simple reason that it had been turned to charcoal.
Far from adding what is usually a dissenting and radical voice to this particular discussion, Greer is simply, and ignorantly, piping the same shrill chorus soon to be sung by all the usual idiot lobbyists like Barry Chipman and anybody from Timber Communities Australia, the Institute of Public Affairs, the Liberal and National Parties, etc. Namely – that this tragedy wouldn’t have happened if conservationists hadn’t interfered with sound forest management practices.
Obviously, bushfires wouldn’t happen if humans could fight back by cutting down every bloody tree and killing every bloody native animal – a far cry from Greer’s anti-Irwin argument. Bloody human-hating Greenies f%&$ed us all again, they proclaim.
But the simple fact is that nature and forests can quite perfectly manage themselves, if just left alone long enough to functionally exist. The remaining areas of Victoria’s old growth forest – concentrated in and arounf the Otways and East Gippsland – still retain enough moisture to function not only as massive biodiversity store-houses, but as difficult-to-ignite fire buffers. Less human intervention, through irresponsible land clearing and corporate logging, is the answer, not the problem.
Greer would do better to understand this before firing one off on such a mishandled issue. She has done herself, myriad species, and all natural environments, not to mention the dead and damaged, a massive disservice with this fresh strand of vomit.
Better she had shut her mouth rather than emit it.