The Rock Obama.

You knew this was coming. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson was the guest host of Saturday Night Live on March 7, and, well ... American politics will never be the same ... complete with a dead-on impersonation of Obama's chief of staff.

I apologize in advance if you can't see this -- NBC doesn't like people from outside the U.s streaming its show, the network also gets persnickety if they appear on YouTube and unfortunately Hulu is following NBC's recommendations. If you click on this link and the videos from SNL become available, it's about a third of the way down the page, and titled (7) The Rock Obama.

In a show of bipartisanship, they also showed a Weekend Update Sketch where Republican National Committee chairman Micheal Steele was jabbed with an electric shock every time he said something Rush Limbaugh didn't like.

Now I've Watched The Watchman Too!

And I have to say my friend Paul Dechene is, once again, being a big softy. Then again, he's a Battlestar Galactica fan so I can't say I'm surprised.

I liked Watchmen well enough. The effort the director, Zack Snyder, put into keeping the story faithful borders on superheroic (haha) given the complexity of the material. I have no idea how someone who hasn't read the comic would understand half of what's going on in this flick. And that's one of the movie's problems: in it's attempt to honour the source material it stiffens up. You can see this most in the acting but it also permeates scene design--for example, some moments feel overblown, phoney or contrived because they're too focused on slavish recreation to the comic.

Well, the movie isn't a comic. They're different art forms with different rules, and sucessful adaptations of comics neeed to recognize that and be brave enough to play things a little differently. Especially when you're dealing with a comic that has more to it than punching out Lex Luthor.

One big problem Snyder has is that he's trying to adapt this particular comic book--a near-legendary comic that's a deconstruction of comics themselves. Yes, on one level Watchmen is an examination/commentary on superheroes, power, vigilanteism, etc. But on the deeper level Watchmen the comic is about time and its nature, and metaphors about time fill the book.

For example: one character, Dr. Manhattan, is a disintegrated physicist who now exists outside linear "reality". For him, moments are experienced in a non-sequential order: First he's in 1985 having a fight with his girfriend, now he's a child learning about watchmaking (speaking of time and rich, layered meanings) from his father in the 1930s, now he's locked in a particle discombobulatron getting microwaved-up into an atomic superhero, now he's on Mars having another fight with his girlfriend.

Dr. Manhattan's experience of time parallels the comic reader's experience of this dense graphic novel: you can read it in order but you can also experience it in a different but equally meaningful way if you open it to a random page (which you'll end up doing because the freaking thing weighs three pounds and takes a couple of days to read so you'll have to double back through pages just to keep the plot straight in your head).

Comics, because of their structure as sequential self-contained panels depicting a series of frozen moments, are an ideal medium to talk about time, it's relation to space (i.e. the space on a page) and even the fetishism of/obsession over the meaning inherent to a so-called "frozen moment". Watchmen's creator Alan Moore (who has vehemently disowned this movie) knew all this as a very, very clever comic creator, and he dicked around with these themes in Watchmen, his most famous and best-selling work.

In Watchmen, Moore's nudging his readers to ponder the nature of time--which, from what little I understand, the physicists say is wildly different from what we think it is.
Put it all together (like a dissambled watch!) and it's called a thesis: something real art has and something this movie lacks.

So Is Watchmen the movie better than Watchmen the comic? No way. But I got a kick out of it. Rorshach, a deranged Batman-type, and Dr. Manhattan, a big, blue, naked Superman with a big (really big!) atomic shlong, are two great characters. And I liked the action, and the gore, and Ozymandius' genetically-modified lynx and all the pretty colours and how shiny everything was.

And the changed ending was fine although I'm not convinced it makes sense. (I think it could've worked but they didn't sell me on it).

Then again, I'm not Alan Moore. He'd hate this thing.

Final review: "A" for effort. "B" for entertainment. But "F" for thinking this was artistically do-able. (And also for the lame-o"Forrest Gump" classic rock soundtrack. That really, really sucked. Jimi Hendrix? Simon and Garfunkel? Oh, come on. Been there, seen that, knock it off.)

Post Watchmen Watching Thoughts (Not a Review)

Went to see Watchmen last night and wanted to get something on record before I started talking to people and their opinions began to subtly influence mine:

I think I might like the movie Watchmen better than the comic.

Okay, I know. Heresy. "The book is always better than the movie." But I think in this case, as much as I hate to admit it, Hollywood might have gotten an adaptation right for a change.

A lot of people -- fans of the comic -- are going to point to all the things the movie lacked -- the Tales of the Black Freighter comic-within-a-comic, for instance. "But it's essential to the story," they'll say. Sure. Maybe. But truth be told, the first time or two I read Watchmen, I became wrapped up in the main storyline and mostly skipped the Black Freighter stuff. I only discovered it upon rereading -- and Watchmen is one of those comics I've read a bunch of times.

That was one of the innovations of Watchmen. Moore (writer) and Gibbons (artist) packed their comic full of tiny details, subplots, in jokes, oblique references to other comics and lengthy appendices. As guys who grew up on the form, they understood that when someone enjoyed your work, they poured over it and analyzed it. As such, they produced a work that stood up to that kind of scrutiny. Sounds like the DVD is going to include things like the Black Freighter story (as an animated film). And, from what I could see, the main feature will be just as rich a re-watching experience. Snyder (director) understands that nowadays, when someone likes your movie, they'll watch it repeatedly at home, pour over every frame and then analyze it at length online.

Meanwhile, what it might lack in richness because some of the comic had to be condensed or set aside for the DVD, I think it gains a richness from the acting. The leads all bring subtleties to their characters that could only be hinted at on the page.

There is bound to be one big controversy among fans of the comic though, and that's the ending. It was [spoiler alert] significantly changed from what was in the original story. And you know what, I'll have to go back and read the comic, but I think the new ending is better. It's more mature. And seems to tie everything together better. If someone wants to call me on that, go ahead. I'd be happy to respond in detail in the comments.[end spoilers]

Now, by saying I like Watchmen the Movie a little bit better than Watchmen the Original Comic isn't to say I think the movie should supplant the comic. As an art object, I may think the film edges out its source material but that doesn't change the fact that the comic is a much more important work of art. The original completely changed the way comics are written, drawn, read and understood. I may personally feel that the film is the best telling of this particular story, but at the end of the day, this movie isn't going to change the way future movies are made. It's well crafted, sure. But it isn't the most innovative thing to come down the pipe, either. Watchmen is no Pulp Fiction.

Plus, I don't think this film could have ever been made without the comic. When Hollywood attempts to create a gritty, revisionist take on the superhero story, the best it can pinch out is the purpose-built Hancock.

Anyway. I'm done. It's off my chest. I like the movie better than the comic.

Now, commence with the tearing apart....