Sunday, 26 January 2014


I think any pretense of order in my posting is pretty much gone now. No beer reviews for a few weeks (having my own beer more means that there's less to review but mainly I've been less inclined to do so, I hope to return to it soon) and no poetry for nigh on a year it seems.

Today, then, is an attempt to post something of use on this here blog. It's a comparison and some thoughts on Watchmen in both filmic and graphic form. If that's your bag then by all means look to know more.

When I read the graphic novel Watchmen the impression that Adrian Veidt's story left on me - the fact that he did all he did deliberately from a position where he had nothing in order to set an example to all people, to prove that anyone could do what he had done - was the most powerful. At the time I knew him mainly as Ozymandias as well, for that was the impression left by the novel. It was at a time when I was feeling over-worked and whatnot and so the fact that his journey was all about showing people what anyone could do, that he could be followed by anyone, anyone was challenging enough, but then this was by Alan Moore, so you know that there's a kicker buried in the narrative.

And, of course, it was that Adrian Veidt was, in fact, different than most people, there was no chance that anyone could have done what he had done. All that guff about giving up his wealth and working hard and such was very cleverly woven into the novel but, being Alan Moore, so was the slow burning realisation that this was part of something larger and much more challenging. The thing about Ozymandias/Veidt is that, according to both novel and film, he was the world's most intelligent man and he had the reflexes that went with that, in one section he catches a bullet. In that sense then, the film has a better perspective on Veidt in that it never actually gives you his journey and so the audience is never challenged to believe that they could do as Veidt has done. And that got me wondering, if the novel was set up to deliberately mislead, was that the only message? In many ways the graphic novel, to me, is a story of Veidt and a challenge - how much of what Veidt does could the reader do in their own lives? You may not be the world's most intelligent man nor may you have the ability to jet around the world the places he went (I noted that he stopped in Tibet which is kinda off-limits to most travellers in our timeline) but you could still do a great deal of what he does.

The concept of having multiple bodies doing multiple things
at once was well-played in the film, arguably better than
in the novel. However, the idea that John sees time as
simultaneous was handled badly in the film. Mainly, I
think, because it is hard for anyone to actually wrap their
minds around that premise. I was able to do so in the novel
but I am hardly indicative.
The film version of the graphic novel is also challenging but from a different perspective. The focus in the film is very much on Dr Manhattan. The principal scene in which we are introduced to the life and times of a man who perceives everything as happening simultaneously (as he is outside of time) are accompanied by a particular tune too (see the video above). And it is this section, although less mind-melting than the synchronicity implied and overtly stated in the graphic novel, that provided me with the impact in the film. There is something compelling and challenging about that concept and about the conclusions that are reached by that character about life in his first instance and, then, again when he speaks to his ex-girlfriend. His growing realisation about the sanctity of life is, itself, a parody. This is Alan Moore. But the humanist impulse that governs his journey is accentuated more in the film than it is in the graphic novel.

And then there are articles like this one, which just kicks off a whole new set of issues that having a film of this novel bring up. I recall something similar with V for Vendetta. I love the film. I love the graphic novel. I do. But I recognise that the slightly cleverer lines in the film ("the same thing that happens when any large group of unarmed people meet armed people" - which is, of course, a moral power that can help to prevent a massacre as much as create one) come at the cost of the central message of that novel - the power and allure of anarchism in the face of real tyranny. In a way, the message is one about the failure of the 'masses' and democracy. Interestingly, this theme is played with again in Watchmen through the vehicle of Nixon and his re-election. Also, the Comedian in the novel is very much not a Nazi, despite being awfully close, he is a parody of society. Oddly, this is made more clear and more brutal in the film. I was not expecting that particular message, that society itself is twisted because we let it be twisted and we're okay with that, to actually be made into a film that was designed to make money. It's a particularly ugly truth.

Now, Rorschach does embody a character who only does
what normal people could do. His difference is his lack of
moral compass. Or rather, his single-minded adherence to
his moral compass. No quarter asked for, none given.
I like Rorschach.
The other thing, apparent in both film and novel, is the question of identity. When dealing with masked heroes the question is easier to show on screen and in art, without needless words littering such an undertaking (novels can't really do introspection on the same level as a personal blog, no one would read it). The scene in question is Dan's apocalyptic dream where he rips off his naked skin to reveal the masked hero beneath - the obvious corollary being that he is more himself when in costume than he is out of it. It was also the only way that he could 'get it up' or enjoy sex with a woman who shared that particular fetish. As Rorschach (another good example of identity when he goes in search of his face in the prison riot) put it: "it's a wonder there are any of us that survive without serious personality disorders".

And that's all I really have for this evening. I would go further but this is not really a place for personal thoughts such as would be required.

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