Better than the Real Thing: Movies of Alan Moore Edition

Sometimes, watching the trailer is better than the real thing. Within two minutes, some previews get you so excited for a movie that you count down the days until it’s released in the theater and then immediately buy a ticket for the day it comes out. After that? Disappointment, generally.

Alan Moore is pretty famous for being totally contemptuous of any film adaptations of his work. He refuses to see them because they don’t accurately depict his work for one thing, and on the other hand, his stories have more resonance on a comic book (graphic novel) page rather than on the big screen. And to be honest, I agree with him. V for Vendetta and Watchmen didn’t do anything for me on the screen, but reading them was incredible. Watchmen in particular is a novel everyone should read. It single-handedly piqued my interest in reading graphic novels, a format which I avoided because I didn’t think it had any serious or interesting ideas. Since then I’ve read quite a few that have messages beyond superheroes battling supervillains – in a Green Arrow/Green Lantern series, they place the two heroes in a morally murky world that causes them to question their own brands of justice. And what opened my mind to reading graphic novels was the trailer for Watchmen.

Perfectly in sync with the Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Beginning of the End is the Beginning,” the trailer oozes style and a surprisingly adult tone with dark scenes and a gravelly voice-over by the character Rorschach. After watching this, I immediately borrowed the graphic novel from a friend and read it in a week. It got me excited to see the real thing, although in the back of my mind I knew that the exposition-heavy dialogue and multiple sub-plots probably wouldn’t translate to the big screen that well. And it didn’t. The result was a beautiful looking film without an emotional anchor for the audience. Plot twists are revealed without any sort of pay off because we can’t relate to these characters. In the film, they’re just comic-book caricatures while ironically, in the graphic novel, they become something more.

In fact, the only area that the film excels in is a sequence that wasn’t in the graphic novel at all. The opening credit montage, which imagines how the alternate universe of Watchmen came to fruition, provides indelible images that genuinely affect the audience (especially in the scene with the hippies placing flowers in the gun barrels of soldiers, and then the soldiers fire anyway).

Had I just seen the entire film without reading the graphic novel, I probably wouldn’t have understood what all the fuss was about. And when it comes down to it, the film wouldn’t have changed me from scoffing at the notion of reading a comic book. Only the trailer was able to do that.

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