Monday, March 9, 2009

Sweeping up after the Watchmen



Watchmen
did a respectable number at the box office this weekend, grossing $55.7 million domestically and $27.5 million overseas for a grand total of $83.2 million. How high the number goes will help determine whether any of the studios make any money off the film. Costs are high due to an immersive advertising campaign and the legal dispute between Fox and Warner Bros. that will spread around the money that does come in. It’ll take another week or so to see how well the film holds up business wise.

But the reaction to the film is the most interesting part. It’s all over the place from both fans and non-fans calling it everything from an absolute disaster all the way up to an undisputed masterpiece.

I think it’s all in what you’re looking for in this film — people interested in the plot are pleased to see so much of it in the film, while those who go in looking for the tone, meaning and underlying themes of the graphic novel are coming out disappointed.

What’s undisputed is this all makes for some great debates and discussion. This film has so far brought out (mostly) thoughtful and intelligent comments on all aspects of the film and the comic, indicating that the movie has at the very least succeeded in engaging people’s brains in a way few other movies of this type ever have.

What’s really fascinating is the way even the slightest changes or omissions are noticed and felt by people who read the book. Whether it’s wishing for a scene that better explains how Sally pushed Laurie into being a superhero, to wondering why we don’t see Seymour the intern before the film’s final shot, it’s a testament to the book that almost nothing can be removed or altered without being noticed. It’s also a testament to the film that even critics are willing to admit that even when these elements come up short that the filmmakers’ intentions were such that they’d have put it in if they could.

Many of the discussions have softened my previous position on the film a bit. With a bit of distance, I too am quite impressed by just how much of the book got onto the screen. It certainly could have been a lot worse, and there is hope to be had that the director’s cut will put back in just enough to push this one over the top.



So, what will Watchmen’s impact be on the superhero and comic book movie genre? Unless Watchmen has incredible legs and the box office begins to creep into Iron Man or Dark Knight territory, probably not much. It definitely fits in well with the trend toward more sophisticated fare those two films established last year. But since this is not a franchise that will produce sequels that would extend its influence, it’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of Watchmen imitators. That there’s also not a lot of comic book material out there that stands up to the quality of Watchmen means the film should remain its own, self-contained thing. Instead, look for a slight turn away from the darkness, which X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the potential Green Lantern movie are likely to deliver.

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