Archive | April 18, 2009

I Watched the Watchmen!

Some time ago, actually. I’ve been meaning to blog about Watchmen, but I was waiting until I also had a chance to review the two supplemental DVDs – Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic and Tales of the Black Freighter / Under the Hood and discuss them all at once. But although I’ve watched the Motion Comic and Freighter, I still haven’t had a chance to see Under the Hood and I’m not sure when I will, so I might as well not wait any longer.


Short version: a) I greatly enjoyed it; b) it’s one of the most accurate comics adaptations I’ve ever seen – and certainly the most accurate non-Frank-Miller-related comics adaptation I’ve seen; c) Jackie Earl Haley rules; d) some of the departures from the original made sense; e) some didn’t.


As for a longer version – well, I’m mostly in agreement with this review, so that shortens my task considerably. Just a few additional gripes:

  • Rorschach’s last few words were changed. It’s not an improvement.
  • The way Rorschach kills the kidnapper is changed from the book; where the original is chilling, the new version is merely bloody. The common explanation is that the original version (which of course predates Saw) was too much like Saw; but so what? Who cares about Saw? Who’s going to remember Saw in twenty years?
  • Snyder tends to amp up Watchmen in the same way that Jackson amped up LOTR, making everything bigger and more gruesome. (Sometimes it’s an improvement, sometimes not.) Yet Snyder actually, inexplicably tones down the apocalyptic climax; that seems like an odd choice. The original’s sea of dead bodies is far more effective – especially since the bodies are of people we’ve gotten to know.
  • Snyder likewise makes the main characters more like conventional superheroes than they are in the book – e.g., better fighting skills and less dorky costumes. This makes the movie better eye candy, but sacrifices some of the meaning of the original, by turning Watchmen (to some extent) into precisely what it was trying to deconstruct.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic:

This is really good – but let me get the biggest gripe out of the way up front.

Motion Comic and Black FreighterDespite what the subtitle “The Complete Motion Comic,” along with the tag line “The Entire Watchmen Graphic Novel Comes to Life,” might lead one to believe, this is not complete; it’s radically abridged. Which is a shame, because I’d love to see the entire comic done this way.

Okay, so that deficiency aside: what this is, essentially, is a reading of the comic (one guy, Tom Stechschulte, does all the voices – and excellently too, though it’s a bit distracting when he’s voicing the female characters) accompanied by minimally animated versions of the original panels. The way the panels are presented led me to notice certain features of the originals that I’d never picked up on before (such as the moment when Laurie takes the dead cop’s gun).

But what’s done especially well in this version is the whole squidocalypse – the very bit that the movie shortchanges us on. Anyone who thinks the squidocalypse would have been unfilmable should see this scene; it’s so much better than the movie’s version, alas. (For one thing, it has the courage to slow down, a rare trait in action movies.)

Tales of the Black Freighter / Under the Hood:

As I mentioned, I haven’t seen Under the Hood, so I’ll confine myself to Black Freighter. I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by this.

One doesn’t realise how much the growing horror of the protagonist’s situation depends on little details (such as his having first to bury his crewmates and then dig them up again, or his remark that strangling the woman on the beach “took considerably longer than [he] had anticipated”) until they’re removed.

Also, it seemed to me to be a big mistake to follow the protagonist onto the deck of the freighter at the end; we should never see that – it should be left to the imagination. Worse yet, when he gets on board it looks as though the crew are about to attack him – which kinda misses the point.

That is all.

Tea and Sympathy

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Justin D.’s been nagging me to blog about the Tea Parties, so here’s my two pence:

Whichever party is out of power always begins to emphasise its libertarian-sounding side in order to divert anti-government sentiment toward support of that party rather than toward genuine radical opposition to the entire establishment.

By the same token, the party that’s in power employs alarmist rhetoric about the other side’s supposed anti-government radicalism in order to drum up support for its own policies.

mad tea partyThus events like the Tea Parties serve the interests of both parties; people with libertarian leanings get diverted into supporting one half of the bipartisan duopoly, the antistate message getting diluted by mixture with (in this case) right-wing statist crap about war and immigration and the Kulturkampf. Those turned off by this creepy right-wing stew get diverted into supporting the other half of the bipartisan duopoly, with any libertarian sentiments likewise getting diluted into (in this case) left-wing statist crap about gun control and the need to impose regulation on some imaginary laissez-faire economy. And so the whole power structure ends up being reinforced.

I saw this game under Clinton, I saw (almost) everyone switch teams under Bush, and now they’re all switching back again. And so we get Republican pundits and politicians suddenly howling about Obama’s fascism when they’ve never supported anything but fascism in their entire lives; and on the other side we get Democrats ridiculing the very sorts of concerns about oppression and civil liberties violations that they pretended to take seriously under Dubya’s reign.

Is it worth libertarians’ and/or anarchists’ while to participate in such events? Sure; because while the voices at the podium tend to be statist apparatchiks, the crowds will tend to be a mixture of statist yahoos and genuinely libertarian-leaning folks, and outreach to the latter is always worth a try – in Kierkegaard’s words, “to split up the crowd, or to talk to it, not to form a crowd, but so that one or another individual might go home from the assembly and become a single individual.” But of course the organisers of such events are on the lookout for us and always do their best to try to narrow the boundaries of discussion.

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