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Talk about the Watchmen comic book mini-series and film
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:13 am 
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Apparently, after Terry Gilliam had a stab at a treatment of 'Watchmen', Alan Moore declared his GN 'unfilmable'.

What does he mean by 'unfilmable'?

If by 'unfilmable', he means that to make a film version of the GN would result in a film which only fans would appreciate (in the main), and would probably be a box-office disaster (which would not necessarily make it a bad film), then I agree. If he means "Physically impossible to transfer in its entirety to the medium of film", I would have to disagree.

I am by no means a director, or have any knowledge of film direction whatsoever, but I fail to see how the GN would be impossible to translate to film. As I read the GN, it basically reads like a film - I can imagine it in my head. I can see fade-ins, dissolves, symbols morphing into other shapes as scene transitions - and nothing in the GN could not be filmed, IMO. Obviously, I realise this would never happen; it's all about studios and their lack of balls, not the difficulty in actually making the GN into film - not translating or adapting, but actually putting what we read up on the screen. And I mean putting EVERYTHING up there; 'Under the Hood', the magazine interviews, the memos from the toy company - the lot.

In an ideal world, would people rather see a popular adaptation of 'Watchmen', with concessions for the mainstream, or an absolutely faithful recreation of the GN on film, regardless of length, etc - and could it be done?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:58 am 
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At the time the GN fiirst came out back in the 80s, I thought it read like a movie but I also thought it was unfilmable at the time. The tech. was not there IMO to get Rorsachachs mask right, or Doc right. But now we can and are doing it so it looks right.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:05 am 
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KenWMFan wrote:
At the time the GN fiirst came out back in the 80s, I thought it read like a movie but I also thought it was unfilmable at the time. The tech. was not there IMO to get Rorsachachs mask right, or Doc right. But now we can and are doing it so it looks right.


OK, I agree that in terms of technology, there was a point where 'Watchmen' would not have made a good transition to film in certain areas, but these are all visual and FX related. In terms of the story, themes and all the background from the GN, I don't see a problem personally.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:52 am 
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I believe what "unfilmable" means is simply this...

A 100% panel-for-panel translation of the book is simply not a feasible proposition. For starters, it would run 5-6 hours and would cost an unfathomable fortune. It would also be almost impossible to market to the mainstream. It also screams for a mini-series format. Which would mean television. And there goes at least half of any budget (and an even more streamlined pool of audience).

In order for WATCHMEN to be a motion picture (or any kind) it had to be adapted, with things added, changed, removed, moved around, etc. That is what Gilliam and others mean by it being "unfilmable".

The film should be viewed and criticized on its own anyway. Because it's a completely different entity and no matter how it turns out, it will not change or affect the book itself.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 10:28 am 
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It's filmable but only if it's a really long film.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 12:29 pm 
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Comedian Carl put it perfectly. Under the ramifications of putting the entire novel on celluloid, it's unfilmable. Luckily for us, Zack can use a hatchet well :D


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:21 pm 
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Anything is technically "filmable," but whether or it is suitable for going up on a big screen is another topic. A Watchmen film with every panel, thought, and dialogue bubble shot would be roughly 4.5 hours by my estimate, with each chapter taking up between 15-30 minutes of film time, dependent of the chapter. Films that length rarely get a theatrical release, and when they do, it's very limited (Gods & Generals is the only recent example I can think of). Return of the King was 3.5 hours, but that had the benefit of having a huge built in audience, and by that point, it was also the closing chapter of a successful trilogy. ROTK could have been an hour longer and the same number of people still would have seen it.

In terms of actual content, it's of course filmable now with the technology around, but I think it's the combination of length and viability to a general movie going audience that would keep us from ever seeing a 100% faithfully-translated live action film. Look at what's happening with the adaptation we're getting now to get people into the theater (and to get it made): more/beefed up action scenes, subplots/characters deleted, scenes shortened/deleted to get a length under 3 hours, and other alterations to make it acceptable (no alien). This is all being done to ensure butts are in the seats and it makes some bread back. A four and a half hour dramatic Watchmen movie with little action in comparison to its length while made with fantastic Lord of the Rings type production values would cost something like $300 million alone before marketing costs, and would realistically only make back about 50 at the box office due to a lack of interest. It was reported that Snyder originally wanted $150 million for production costs and ended up getting around $100, and he's not filming even close to all the material in the novel, and corners had to have been cut somewhere in order to accommodate the smaller budget.

Now what is feasible? A 4.5 hour animated film. That could be amazing, and the closest we'd ever get to an entirely faithful adaptation.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:06 pm 
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It's the naked lunch of comics.
I agree that it is unfilmable.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:16 pm 
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Well...gonna fall back on my favorite 'good adaptation' example here. Tolkien also said that LOTR was unfilmable due to the epic scope. Jackson's LOTR movies did a nice job proving him wrong.

I don't think that anything is 'unfilmable' - maybe just very, very, very difficult to film!

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:30 pm 
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People give Hollywood a bad rap because of films like Daredevil or Punisher (both of 'em), but don't give Hollywood credit for films like X-Men or Batman Begins. Hollywood is not a monolith whose single charge is to churn out mindless, 90-minute action films. They've proven again and again that, when they put their minds to it, they can take preexisting characters and mythologies and do something truly fantastic with them. Not only that, films that they actually tried to make good usually do 10x better at the box office. The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, Spiderman, and Iron Man are some of the highest grossing films of all time. Studios no longer look down at comic books as an easy basis for a cheesy shooter; many recognize the literary depth and richness of the characters and their stories, and want to tell those stories.

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Last edited by EmPiiRe x on Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:35 pm 
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It's not unfilmable.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:08 pm 
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I honestly don't see the problem with length when it comes to being unfilmable. Just separate it into two or three parts; like Kill Bill.

No need to have an HBO series; it can still be a motion picture albeit a long one with multiple parts.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:32 pm 
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I've never believed it's unfilmable. It was just never likely to be filmed as a four or five hour movie. There was a time, and it wasn't long ago, when it appeared no studio would allow it to even approach it's potential. But those who call it "unfilmable" are either hyperbolizing, or lack the imagination or an understanding of the nature of adaption.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:40 pm 
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As much as I hate to criticize Alan Moore, it's hard not to find at least some fault with his attitudes towards film adaptations of his work. I know, Hollywood has made terrible adaptations of his books (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and a few that are good but stray from the original material (V for Vendetta). But really, how can he expect them to get any better if he completely disowns them and puts no effort into making sure they're done right? I feel that with Watchmen, whatever quibbles we may have about what won't end up in the final product, we're lucky that Zack Snyder really cares about the novel and is doing the best he can to make a great film. Any other director might not have been so passionate. I don't understand how Moore, despite his Hollywood troubles, doesn't try to reverse the trend of bad adaptations and take a more active hand in their making.

I apologize for that long rant. It does have a point: I think Moore labeling the novel as "unfilmable" was his excuse to distance himself from a film version. True, the novel is dense and complex, but many other dense and complex novels have been filmed - and some quite successfully. Therefore, I do not believe that Watchmen is unfilmable; it merely presents a set of challenges that can be difficult to meet. But I do not think these challenges are insurmountable. We'll just have to wait and see if Snyder has overcome them.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:51 pm 
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In recent years, Moore has attacked the very idea of adaptation itself. No book, comic or novel, should ever be molested and brought out of it's original form. He has said that no matter the quality of a film based on something else, it's still just a cheap, unoriginal ripoff.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:11 pm 
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EmPiiRe x wrote:
In recent years, Moore has attacked the very idea of adaptation itself. No book, comic or novel, should ever be molested and brought out of it's original form. He has said that no matter the quality of a film based on something else, it's still just a cheap, unoriginal ripoff.


*Monty Python voice* That's just too silly.

Seriously though...yeah. Much as I love Moore, that's a flawed and stupid viewpoint. 'nuff said.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:58 pm 
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Clearly, Watchmen is film able.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:00 pm 
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This question might have more weight if there wasn't a two-and-a-half hour feature film of it floating around . . .

That film might not be good, to some people, but it proves that it can be done.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:17 pm 
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EmPiiRe x wrote:
In recent years, Moore has attacked the very idea of adaptation itself. No book, comic or novel, should ever be molested and brought out of it's original form. He has said that no matter the quality of a film based on something else, it's still just a cheap, unoriginal ripoff.


League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:41 pm 
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Huh?

He's not just against his works being adapted, he's against all works being adapted. Even if LXG had been a good movie, or if From Hell had won Best Picture, I still don't think he'd be happy. He's long chastised the "lazy" Hollywood practice of using the hard work of authors to do half the work for them. It's a very purist, medium-based argument. If something was meant to be a book, taking it out of it's book form is heresy, no matter how good the result.

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