Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Tuesday, 28 October 2003 — 11:58pm | Adaptations, Comics, Film

The big news this weekend – besides the fact that Thailand’s Panupol Sujjayakorn cleaned house at the World Scrabble Championships in Malaysia – was this Aint-It-Cool News rumour about how Revolution Studios has greenlit the David Hayter Watchmen project, and John Cusack might even be attached to play Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl.

If this is true – and that’s a big If at this point – I have some serious concerns.

First of all, if the unmitigated disaster that was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is any indication, people should really think twice before touching something by Alan Moore. Especially when it’s the something by Alan Moore.

What are we toying around with here? It’s not run-of-the-mill comic book material. Even though I am relatively new to the medium, it did not take me very long to realize that Watchmen is the Lord of the Rings of comic books. And as with The Lord of the Rings, although I am concerned with faith to the source material, the top priority is on pulling it off with the artistic, cinematic merit it deserves.

Right now, Watchmen is a wildcard for one reason alone: David Hayter has never directed a movie.

Hayter’s record so far is as the screenwriter behind the two X-Men movies. I do have considerably greater faith in his ability to adapt a working screenplay after seeing X2, but no matter how many chances I give the first film, I still can’t like it. It’s not horrible, but lukewarm at best, and a lot of it was just plain sloppy. However, this is only one concern.

If Hayter is seriously intent on directing the project, my advice would be thus: follow the panels. Watchmen, the book, had a certain mastery of layout worthy of much comprehensive analysis on sites like Watching the Detectives. Follow it. Learn some lessons from the composition and juxtaposition that made it such an exemplar of the graphic novel medium.

It’s a well-known fact that Terry Gilliam wanted the project once, but would only do it if it were in twelve one-hour sections, which no executive in his right mind would consider theatrically releasable – but is a really great idea. Gilliam was the right man for this project, just as he was the right man for Harry Potter and the definitive man for Don Quixote. Lord knows he tried to do Don Quixote. And nobody but Gilliam should be coming within twenty miles of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

As for John Cusack – this is actually a pretty good casting choice. Put him in a big pair of glasses and dress him up in those conservative Dreiberg clothes, and the look is apparent.

Everybody can rattle off their dream cast list for Watchmen, kind of like how people were speculating Sean Connery for every conceivable role in The Lord of the Rings back in the roaring nineties. Everybody recognizes that Dr. Manhattan is the stumbling block. We’re hearing people shout for Sean Penn to play Rorschach, Tom Selleck as the Comedian, Val Kilmer as Ozymandias. At this point, I’m more worried about the script.

But we’ll see. For the time being, I’m going to reclaim my spot in line for The Incredibles.

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