Click to viewThere's no getting away from it - the smash hit of Comic-Con was Watchmen. In the absence of any presence from the rest of next year's big SF movies like Star Trek or Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, Zack Snyder's glossy adaptation of the 21-year-old comic swept the collective nerd herd off their feet with the free bags, two panels, star guests and giant prop Owlship. But isn't there something wrong with this picture?
I'm not arguing that there shouldn't be an adaptation of the book at all - Let's face it, writer Alan Moore has made that case quite well all on his own, thanks very much - but that the sheer bizarre weight of excitement and expectation about the movie is overwhelming and offputting. The sheer fangasm that followed the release of the first trailer, with website after website putting up panel-to-frame comparisons to show just how faithful the movie is to the comic was insane; I don't care how faithful the movie looks to the comic, it'll still be unable to be replicate the level of depth of writing and experience of the comic, even with the already-announced spin-off DVD of Tales Of The Black Freighter filling in the gaps that they're creating by only focusing on the shiny shiny superhero stories.
Obviously, the hardcore fanbase wants the movie to be a success in every way, for probably the wrong reasons. I can't shake the feeling that there's this uncomfortable undercurrent to the excitement that goes something like "Watchmen the comic made everyone else realize that superheroes aren't kids stuff, so now the movie can make everyone realize that superhero movies aren't kids stuff either," missing out that... well, we already have The Dark Knight, thanks very much. There's a level of worship that surrounds Watchmen (the comic), some kind of lack of critical perspective brought on by its historical importance, that tends to make people realize that, for all of its successes (On a technical level, it's almost perfect, and still unmatched in its ambition to use the medium, for example), it's not actually as perfect as many people think it is. If Snyder really stays as faithful to the source material as he claims, how will modern audiences react to the suspect gender-politics, heavy-handed party-politics or ridiculous ending that seemed so daring two decades ago, but now seem clunky and awkward next to Chris Nolan's more complex (if ultimately as unsatisfying) Batmovie?
Not that any of that seems to worry Warner Bros., who seem less concerned with the content of the movie as much as the fact of its very existence. Comic-Con was owned by the hype for the movie this year, from the banner above the entrance to the line of fans waiting since 2am to get into Friday's panel just in case there was any extra footage like they'd heard rumors of. The trailer shows just how Warners are trying to make this seem like a massive movie "event" instead of just another comic book movie: "From the visionary director of 300, the most celebrated graphic novel of all time," it says in between explosions and punches and people yelling in outfits that give no-one unfamiliar with the book any reason to understand why they should be bothered. Yes, it's only the first trailer, but it seems to sum up the entire, insular, advertising campaign so far: "It's just like the comic! Look at the way the posters recreate the advertisements for the comic! You've not read the comic? Well, it's awesome, just trust us! Don't ask any more questions!"
Don't get me wrong; I would love for the Watchmen movie to be great, and to be proven completely wrong with all this cynicism. But so far, instead of seeing anything to get us genuinely excited, we've been shown slavish devotion instead of creativity and been told that we should want to see the movie because it's very important, and that's really not enough. Who watches the Watchmen? All of us, right now; but here's hoping that there's something worth watching when it finally arrives. Watchmen images from Empire Magazine via SpoilerTV-Movies.