Thursday, March 5, 2009
A response to Anthony Lane's review of WATCHMEN in THE NEW YORKER
In response to Anthony Lane's egregiously ignorant critique of Zach Snyder's forthcoming film WATCHMEN:
Dear Mr. Lane,
Your assessment of the film WATCHMEN shows a durth of any degree of comprehension of the importance of the original comic book series from which it takes its name.
When WATCHMEN was originally published 23 years ago, among other things it was a starkly pessimistic and artistic analysis of the political climate of the day. I grew up in the Reagan years. As a child I feared – like most of my generation – the spectre of a possible nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. Like the America depicted in WATCHMEN, obliteration perpetually hung above me and my world. Like many other children and adults, comic books were a tremendously important aspect of my life. WATCHMEN was among a certain breed of comic book series which did not talk down to its readers and addressed certain intellectual and moral concerns not found in most books. Alan Moore has been hailed as a hero for decades for the depth and emotion of his storytelling. The collected WATCHMEN trade paperback was the progenitor of the entire concept of 'graphic novels,' which did not exist prior to the publication of this item.
So, where to begin when deconstructing your article? Perhaps with your most generally insulting and offensive assertion: "The result is perfectly calibrated for its target group: nobody over twenty-five could take any joy from the savagery that is fleshed out onscreen, just as nobody under eighteen should be allowed to witness it."
WATCHMEN was originally published in a limited series in 1986. That means that very few people UNDER 25 even know what WATCHMEN was, and the fact is that those books were adored by members of many generations. The collected WATCHMEN is in fact the only graphic novel to hold a place on TIME Magazine's 2005 list of 100 ALL-TIME BOOKS OF ALL TIME.
Were those who awarded the book this status the same hypothetical, moronic under-25-year-olds who you believe will be the only people to find merit in the film? Several of my friends and I have been waiting with bated breath for a large portion of our lives to see WATCHMEN made into a film, just like millions of other people from many generations.
Now at the age of 37, I still own my original copies from the 1980s, which are bagged and boarded on bookshelves alongside trade paperback collections of Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA (another series heralded for its innovative and intelligent storyline, which was made into a similarly acclaimed film), as well as a trade collection of Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek's brilliant MARVELS series, the graphic novel of Frank Miller's influential BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, J. M. Matteis and Kent Williams' BLOOD: A TALE, several books of Matt Wagner's GRENDEL, Masamune Shirow's GHOST IN THE SHELL, as well as several books of Frank Miller's SIN CITY and Mike Mignola's HELLBOY. The common thread amongst all of these books is that they have all been hailed by critics for decades, all went on to immense popularity beyond the comic book world, and most of them were adapted for the screen by directors either closely connected to the creators or who strove to remain as loyal to the source material as possible.
The pocked surface of your review is revealed for its ignorance under the dimmest light. Your ridiculous comment in regards to the character of Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl hiding in his basement to escape some infringement from the intellectual property of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego is as hollow as the comments I've read by uninitiated teenagers on message boards on the same subject. DC Comics owns the character of Batman, and WATCHMEN pays homage to several of the classic comic book characters and clichés, using the trappings of a superhero story to comment on an extraordinarily deep and far-reaching range of topics – in particular, the very notions of what topics could and could not be expressed and explored in the pages of a comic book. WATCHMEN changed the world, and just as Dr. Manhattan's participation in the Vietnam War altered the course of history, books like MAUS and PERSEPOLIS could not have existed without the presence of WATCHMEN.
Your references to Alan Moore's glaring lack of participation in the production of this film glosses over the fact that there have been legal issues surrounding Moore's connections to the book and a long-soured relationship with DC Comics since the book was first published. Moore's refusal to participate in DC Comics' celebration of the 15th anniversary of the book back in the first years of this decade was big news in the comic book industry at the time, and the matter of his disregard for the WATCHMEN film is unrelated to his disconnection from its cinematic cousins THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and V FOR VENDETTA.
Whether the film carries the same emotional weight as the book remains to be seen, it is above all a Hollywood film, but the fact that filmmakers like Mr. Snyder are finally making comic book adaptations which don't gut the original source material is as important as the impact that WATCHMEN had on literature. Seeing iconic scenes from WATCHMEN transferred with loving detail from the page to the screen will be an intensely satisfying experience for millions of fans. Your review's criticism of these scenes is indicative of the same lack of understanding shown by those who criticised Zach Snyder's adaptation of Frank Miller's 300 for not being historically accurate. It's laughable that GLADIATOR won 5 Oscars and bore no more relationship with actual history than did 300. As for the inclusion of Bob Dylan's music, his words figure quite prominently within the pages of the book, a fact which would take very little research on the part of the laziest reviewer.
You've missed the point entirely, and in the process, insulted the scores of people who have held WATCHMEN close to their heart for decades.
Lee M. Bartow