Thursday, July 30, 2009

MAN TRUE--"Three Links To Doomsday!"

Well, I didn't intend for this to happen, buuuut . . .submitted for your further edification, three articles that caught my eye this week:

Courtesy of the brilliant (and, unlike me, funny and insightful) folks at Seebelow, the most concise and plain-spoken explanation of how the Watchmen film managed to be utterly faithful to the source material and still managed to totally blow it. Here's a taste:

"The Russians expect Dr. Manhattan to do things to them. They know he's American. They're afraid of him. The movie spends two hours pointing out that they're willing to go to the brink of war in the face of him. In order for the plan to have worked, New York would have had to have been hit first. So in just this one example of the film deviating from the original story it manages to butcher it and makes itself insipid even if you don't remember the original story at all. You're trying to prevent nuclear apocalypse?

You don't nuke people! The giant squid works precisely because it is absurd, ludicrous, so completely out of the pale that its sheer implausibility forces people to stop before unleashing their own destruction while also providing an enemy that is unfathomable, alien and yet still
possible to defeat (since clearly the body in the New York City aftermath is dead) while Dr. Manhattan as global annihilation is familiar, as nuclear as the other warheads, and provides at once no more threat than the stockpile of warheads we've already had mentioned several times in the film, while also being totally unstoppable.

Why should his act unite the world? They can't do anything about it. There's no 'alien corpse' to give the world a rallying sign, nothing that can be stood up to and fought. There's just a blue god who wipes cities off the face of the earth for the terrible crime of being populated by a species that... was about to wipe those cities off the face of the earth."

Courtesy of the well-regarded Mightygodking, an interesting run-down of how DC totally blew the return of Jason Todd. I hadn't really thought of how bad they'd mishandled things, but MGK makes a very thoughtful case here. He also points out that Red Robin has one of the ugliest costumes ever, which, y'know, he really does. It's well worth a look, even if you couldn't give two shits about Jason Todd (which, at this point, all right-thinking people should)

Finally, and I saved this one for last because it makes me gnash my teeth to admit he has a bloody point, the following rather trenchant observation from an interview with my often-nemesis Russel T Davies, specifically:

"But the people who loved the original series [of Doctor Who] when they were young are now in their 40s, and I’m not remotely interested in making a show just for them. That would be tragic. It’s too good an idea to be pigeonholed away with that small of a demographic . . . If they’d wanted a cult "Doctor Who" for the cult audience, I would have made that. I equally know how to do that. And when the BBC first asked me to bring back "Doctor Who," the first thing I did was make sure it wasn’t for a nostalgic cult audience, and it was going to be for everyone. "

Hands up, everyone, who can think of at least one industry that should desperately heed that advice? Anyone?


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Allow me to present a counterargument re: "Watchmen". :)

There are quite a few problems with the Squid Scenario. For starters, Ozymandias' plan hinges on the acquisition of a dead psychic's brain... except there's no direct reference to psychics even existing in the world prior to this. And if psychics do exist - psychics with enough juice to implant nightmares in millions of minds around the world - doesn't that violate the whole conceit that Dr. Manhattan is the world's only "superhero"?

And then there's the fact that in the comics, New York is the only city destroyed. On the one hand, it's a comparatively smaller sacrifice Ozymandias makes, so he's somewhat less a monster. Fair enough. But Moore's ending - where the Russians instantly stop their aggression because the other side has been attacked - doesn't ring true because we're never given the Russian perspective in the story; we have no reason to believe they'll suddenly call for peace because New York was attacked by aliens. They have no reason to believe they're being threatened at all.

And while Rossi is right that the "alien" is more implausible, and therefore more likely to shock, he overlooks the fact that implicating Dr. Manhattan in the destruction of cities around the world (not just those of America's enemies) has a similar effect - it's a threat both sides can wrap their heads around, and they'd be a lot quicker to join forces in the interests of developing a defense against something they can understand rather than a completely unknown enemy. It's also better for Ozymandias if the "threat" is something conceivable to both government and the common man: even without Rorschach's journal, an investigation of the corpse could eventually uncover the deception.

Anyway... I do agree completely with MGK on the matter of Jason Todd, Fubar Extraordinare: despite his status as a Scrappy, it would've been worth bringing him back just for the enormous emotional impact on Batman (a character who, traditionally, doesn't get proper BSoDs - at least, not for the right reasons). Hasn't quite worked out, has it?

And yes, Russell Davies made a good point. There'll be bacon in the treetops soon enough. :)

Kazekage said...

Well, the handwave explanation for the idea of psychics is that psychic powers don't make a superhero and they only found one cloned from a sensitive or something like that. Heaven knows what they did to supercharge it, but I suppose in the end it doesn't matter--for me, I always thought of it as a way of intruding something more outlandishly superheroic in a fashion in keeping with Watchmen's milieu. In terms of how it holds up (or doesn't) I suppose it lends itself to a glass half-empty, glass half full duality--either it works or it doesn't.

The problem with the movie's solution is that you still have an American blowing up cities. I'm not sure if, for example, should someone have their city nuked with a weapon from a far off country if it much matters whether it's being implemented on their say-so or not--there's probably a natural tendency to imply linkage. So that's why it doesn't work so well for me. I don't intend on seeing the movie ever (if I can help it) so . . .yeah.

Thing is, bringing back Jason has a lot of possibilities--I myself speculated on the idea of him using his Batman-taught skills to unite Gotham's mobs and, in a strange way, police the criminal element in a "Vertically integrated" kind of way, setting up something of a Spidey/Kingpin dynamic (removing Jason means a return to anarchy, but leaving him in charge is a morally questionable compromise) Instead, we get . . .what we got.

You have no idea how I gnash my teeth when I find myself agreeing with him.

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

And that might be the point I find problematic: the notion of an Invasion From Dimension X probably would have worked on any other world, but after twelve issues of rather grim realism with regards to superheroes (they're all horribly flawed people and the only one with any real power is losing what little remains of his humanity), the idea of The Vagina That Ate Mars - fake or no - seems too beyond the pale.

And if Ozzy hadn't taken out New York, America certainly would've been blamed - but by hitting every global superpower simultaneously, he pushed Dr. Manhattan beyond national identity (not that he'd retained any of that to begin with). Seeing New York go up with Moscow, Berlin and Tokyo would discourage anyone from blaming America.

I would've preferred to see him more in a Punisher sort of role, thinning out Batman's not-inconsiderable rogues' gallery. Maybe even have a split within the Gotham PD in terms of helping/stopping him: on the one hand, he's killing people, but I'm sure most Gotham officers wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in the Joker's head if they had the chance...

So that's what that sound was. ;)

Kazekage said...

Well, I suppose if one read it textually, the intrusion of something so outre and very comic-booky could be the final seismic shift that "ends" Watchmen both in terms of climaxing the story and irrevocably "breaking" the world they came from. Even if it does get "undone," it still raises more issues than it answers, and I think in that spirit, it's the ideal ending for a realistic take on superheroes, kind of a forced resetting to normal.

I think, being that it' America's weapon that went rogue, they'd get blamed for letting the genie out of the bottle in the first place--no matter how I look at it, it just doesn't seem to hold up.

That makes a certain amount of sense, unfortunately it leans far too close into the current Jason Todd is a Batman who KILLZ stuff that it doesn't really get us anywhere too novel, I think.

I'm gonna be down to bleeding gums if it keeps up much longer . . .