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March 20, 2009

Cassandra should take her own advice

Given my build up to Zack Snyder's film adaptation of Watchmen, Flea-readers might be forgiven for wondering why I have taken this long to comment on success or failure of the project. I think he did a brilliant job, actually, and Snyder's ending - while not canonical and therefore abomination - is actually a more elegant solution to the plot than Moore's own. There is a limit to what any adaptation can accomplish and I believe it is a mistake to nitpick oneself out of enjoying the thing. Not a gripping critique, I realize, and one reason I have taken so long to offer it. But there is a bigger problem.

I am a great admirer of Alan Moore, obviously. Not only for his work as a transformational comics writer but also as an interpreter and popularizer of the work of Aleister Crowley. That said, Moore falls into the same trap as many - perhaps most - intellectuals: simple-minded anti-imperialism coupled with cultural condescension toward the United States.

These views can be as simplistic and ugly as Moore's wrong-headed, crude assessment of American values by way of comment on the American comics industry or they can take a subtler form. Take Moore's appearance on Flea-fav Prisoners of Gravity. Ruminating on Watchmen, Moore poses an hypothetical about how the public would really react to the presence of heroes among them. Would they be grateful for their saviours or would they fear and resent them?

Ask yourself how the free people of the West think about the American military that shields them - particularly since the barbarism of 9/11 - and the question answers itself. It is a shame Moore's attitude reflects the fear and resentment he warned against decades ago. Given the fate of comic book writers in the Dark Ages barbarism on offer as an alternative to what we have got, Moore's anti-Americanism creates an unfortunate subtext to all his work.

Not so for Zack Snyder's Watchmen (small spoiler here). The twin towers of the WTC still dominate New York's skyline in Moore's alternative 1980s. They are not an accident. They are a visual counter-argument to lazy criticism of American civilization; a visual rebuke of the idea it is the best of all possible worlds or nothing.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at March 20, 2009 07:28 AM


Great post. It is disappointing that so many smart people fall into the same philosophical trap - a whiff of hypocrisy and the idea that power necessarily corrupts forever damns the whole enterprise, in the worldview of so many intellectual (and gifted) cynics.

Posted by: Bill from INDC [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 20, 2009 07:46 PM

I found it much better on a second viewing, when I could disengage from the deviations of the storyline and just bask in the film as it is.

I think its the best possible movie to make out from the comics and will likely search for any director's cut.

Still, I wish someone else would pick it up and possibly do original shorts featuring one or two characters at a time. With a freer hand I think it very possible much more accessible movies could be made.

Posted by: urthshu [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2009 10:21 AM