Monday, March 16, 2009

The Party's (Not) Over

This past weekend, I took in another theatrical screening of Watchmen. I wanted to see it again soon, but after reading David Hayter's open letter on Ain't It Cool News, I figured I should see it on Friday night. Hearing about the box office receipts last night and today, I was reminded of how often futile it seems to get behind any kind of cause.

I don't mean to be all pessimistic, but I have to bring out this idea I've stated here: the true success of any film is that it a) got made b) got released, and c) is available for people to see. In the long run, that's what measures the lasting success of a film, not its box office totals. If you think I'm wrong and believe that only memorable movies make a lot of money at the box office, then forget about Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, Mallrats, Dazed and Confused, and A Christmas Story, to name a few.

In the case of Watchmen, the fact that the movie is a very faithful adaptation (and is a very good movie) makes it already a success in my eyes. You don't have to wonder if I'll pick it up or not when it comes out on DVD. But to the people Hayter referred to in his letter, it seemed like there was an open window for "movies that have a brain, or balls" riding on this weekend's totals. Well, hearing about how the film "plummeted" doesn't necessarily cast a light of hope. But you know what? I'm not surprised, and I'm not one to think the party's over.

Think about the logic behind this past weekend: a very hard-R film in its second week while a PG movie opens its first week. In this PG film, there are no broken bones sticking out of people's bodies, graphic sex scenes, explicit language, or arm decapitation. PG appeals to more people, a more mainstream audience, but this is March, and almost anything could go.

I don't necessarily know what kind of effect this will all mean for faithful adaptations of non-PG-13 comics into films, but at least one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time got a great adaptation. I'd much rather have a film that moves me, no matter how many minor tweaks were done from the original, instead of a forgettable, PG-13 interpretation about Iraq and 9/11. Yet still, people want to complain about the lack of a silly squid monster at the end of a movie.

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