Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nerd-dom Sacred Cows

This last week I saw Watchmen and finished the book, Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson. Not really related, you say. You're probably right, I say. But humor me ... I find it amusing to try and link disparate things. It gives me an excuse to do a blog post.

My premise is that there are several sci-fi/comic/fantasy artistic sacred cows out there that other artists have been reluctant to adapt or expand upon because of the anticipated backlash from "fanboys".

The first of those "sacred cows" that I'm going to discuss is the original Dune by Frank Herbert. It is one of the classic sci-fi novels and probably my favorite book of all time. I read that book and the others in the original series when I was in my teens. Loved 'em.

Starting in the late '90's, Frank Herbert's son Brian, along with co-author Kevin Anderson, expanded upon a lot of the back story that is mentioned when you read Dune. A lot of the information was firsthand from Brian's own conversations with his dad before he passed away and from his dad's notes. Since that time, they've written about 10 books, I believe.

While it is not the original Dune, and lacks the artistry of Frank Herbert, it's still quality sci-fi and serves the purpose of illuminating a lot of events and characters mentioned in Dune. These books chronicle events thousands of years before the events of Dune. I don't think it takes away from the original at all. I'm actually looking forward to rereading Dune with the added info.

With this generation of fanboys, Alan Moore's graphic novel, Watchmen, is held in even higher regard than Dune. A movie adaptation has been bouncing around for years with directors as diverse as Terry Gilliam, Darren Arronofsky and Paul Greengrass attached. Much in the same way that the LOTR movies were entertaining, Watchmen adds on to the world of the graphic novel without taking away from it. They are not meant as replacements but more as one fan's interpretation. And Zack Snyder is certainly a respectful, knowledgeable fan in the same way Peter Jackson was. While the Tolkien family viewed the LOTR movies more favorably than Alan Moore views Watchmen, that says more about Moore than it does about the movie. Moore does not even watch the adaptations of his novels and is openly hostile towards them.

I don't think that Snyder changed anything drastically that hurt the movie overall. Some of the flashbacks to the older super heroes were done in the intro. The comic within a comic about the sailor from a couple of hundred years ago is not included. How could it? It really wouldn't make any sense unless you had read the graphic novel. As it is, I'm sure that there are a lot of people that have seen the movie that don't understand everything because they haven't read it.

The casting in the movie is fine with the high points being Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan and Patrick Wilson as the Nite Owl II, but especially Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. He's fantastic. The low point being Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II. She may be nice to look at, but she can't act.

The look of the movie is very faithful to the novel ... almost shot for shot. Snyder is the right guy to adapt graphic novels as his previous one, 300, did a great job with the look also.

The ending was changed a bit but there has always been some criticism that that was one of the weaknesses of the original story. I had no problem with the change.

So, overall, for fans of Dune, I recommend the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson collaborations. And for fans of the Watchman graphic novel, I do recommend the movie. Fans of all types need to lighten up a bit and not hold things quite so sacred. You're missing out on truly entertaining stuff. And just because you may enjoy an updating or reinterpretation of a story, doesn't mean the original is in any way diminished.

"Sacred cows make the best hamburger" -- Mark Twain


Scott said...

I thought it was really good. Very faithful, and I even preferred the ending (the more direct involvement of Dr M) to the Squid - it just rang better. Blasphemy, I know. I didn't think that the 'meaning' of the comic was lost, but I did think that some of the feeling was, though that was actually mostly the fault of using the comic so directly. Some of the dialogue was very iffy, but it was lifted straight from the comic.

I don't think Rorschach could have been done better especially when he didn't have the mask. The prison scenes were some of my favorite of the movie. Oh, and the credits were sublime. All told, a successful film that I enjoyed watching.

One thing I rolled my eyes at though was that the heroes were too super. The Comedian punched a hole through a marble wall for instance. But I guess that's maybe to be expected to give the film more action.

Also, very much worth seeing in Imax. It was nothing short of a visually beautiful and engaging film.

CyberKitten said...

I too read Dune in my teens (though not since) and still think of it as one of the best books I've ever read. Quite turned my head back then. [grin]

I haven't read any of the new Dune books mainly because I'd heard that they were pretty universially bad. Maybe I should give them a second chance..... and I really must re-read Dune at some point before the book I've had on my shelf for over 30 years self-destructs like in the movie 'Time Machine' [laughs]

Me & the 'Guys' saw Watchmen on Wednesday. I've never read the comic (or actually *any* comics) so I had no pre-conceptions. I still really don't know what to make of it to be honest. It was certainly well filmed and well made but I'm not so sure I *liked* it if you know what I mean. Certainly interestingly different - which is hardly ever a bad thing. [grin]

Funny - The word verification thing is "Zestive" [rotflmao]

Laura said...

I'm probably going to see it this weekend. Thanks for the review... it gives me hope that the bad reviews I've heard are just whiny douchebags who expect far too much from a movie like this.

dbackdad said...

Scott - IMAX would definitely be great. If I go see it again, I'll have to check it out on one of the Valley's screens. I agree with about Rorschach's prison scenes. Those are black humor at it's finest.

CK - What I heard was the main reason that I had avoided those other Dune books also. But I had picked up most of them up for a couple bucks apiece at various used book sales and I wasn't out too much money, so I figured it was worth a shot. I'm not saying that they are anywhere the level of literature of the originals, but I do think they are very entertaining and faithful to the Dune "universe".

On Watchmen, I had never read any comics either, but a year or so ago, I figured if I was going to read one, it would be Watchmen because I knew the movie was in the works. I can certainly see how someone that hadn't read it would not get everything out of it that was probably intended. I think that is going to keep the movie from having really huge numbers.

mark spurrier said...

yes, I am on facebook! Look me up and add me

dbackdad said...

GWB - I couldn't find you on FB. Are you listed under something other than Mark Spurrier?

Laura said...

I finally saw it!! I enjoyed it, though I think it started to drag at points in the middle, and I agree that Silk Spectre was not much more than eye candy. I didn't think there was anything missing that I didn't understand really. One critique from someone I went with was that the journalists at the end were actually supposed to be peppered throughout the story, not just thrown in, seemingly out of nowhere. There were probably some inside jokes that I missed from not reading the book, but such is life.

dbackdad said...

Laura - Glad you liked it. There was also a newspaper vendor that they would flash to several times in the book that was just put up on the screen briefly near the end.