Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who Watches

The movie version of "Watchmen," the Citizen Kane of comics, is coming out next March, directed by Zack Snyder, whose last film was Frank Miller's "300." (Miller, of course, is directing the big screen version of Will Eisner's strip, "The Spirit").

A story in The New York Times revealed that in addition to "Watchmen's" main tale, an animated version of the sort-of subtextural narrative that was part of the original graphic series, "Tales of the Black Freighter," will come out on DVD about a week after the main film's theatrical release. Another feature to be included on the DVD, "Under The Hood" (which was the title of yet another fictional subcomponent of the original series — a tell-all memoir by one of the characters — will be a "making of" documentary on the DVD, according to the Times piece.

A few months later, the theatrical version of "Watchmen" will be released on DVD, then an "ultimate" version of the film, with "Tales of the Black Freighter" integrated into the story, as in the comic series and graphic novel compilation. There will also be online webisodes that will offer side-by-side frame-by-frame comparisons of the original story and the film(s), also according to the Times.

"Cloverfield" created a larger framework of a game with multiple online components that added to the anticipation of the film (and functioned as a powerful marketing tool) but was optional insofar as enjoyment of the movie was concerned.

The "Watchmen" producers, if the Times story is accurate, are using different media to tell a fuller and richer story, and the marketing and commercial aspects of the project — though a bit of a gamble — are also being served. In fact, they're making the telling of "Tales of the Black Freighter" commercially viable and, as a result, ensuring that the adaptation of "Watchmen" is even closer to the original than was thought possible.

"Watchmen" writer Alan Moore has pointedly disavowed the project, and given the artistic failures of the film versions of his other graphic stories, notably "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," who could blame him? He's declared on numerous occasions that he writes comics, not movies. But artist Dave Gibbons has been publicly supportive of the "Watchmen" film, and his imprimatur may be justified by the final result. Or results.

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