02 November 2007

Not even in the face of Armageddon

I don't mind telling you, I'm a bit concerned about the prospect of Zack Snyder directing Watchmen, especially since he was apparently brought onboard by Warner Brothers bigwigs who'd been impressed by his work on 300. Had they actually watched 300? Or let's put that another way - had they engaged their brains while they watched it?

I'll concede that 300 is a sensual feast, if you're into high-definition homerotic carnage with lots of shouting, but it's not exactly subtle, is it, let alone smart?

I was massively disappointed by the film, and not - before you start making assumptions - because it was historical nonsense. Leaving aside the fact that pretty much all sword-and-sandle films are at best historically dodgy, I'd read the comic. I was basically ready for the Athenians losing all credit for their crucial part in the Greeks overcoming the Persians, for the Spartans being presented as lovers of liberty rather than a society built on state-slavery, and for dozens of lesser problems. I'd made my peace with these falsehoods.

However, I wasn't prepared for the new absurdities introduced by Mr Snyder. The logical ones.

Take the traitor Ephialtes, for example. In Miller's comic he's a hunchback who betrays the Spartans because they won't allow him to serve with them, for the simple reason that irrespective of his individual combat skills his deformity would preclude him from fighting as part of the phalanx, the standard Spartan formation.

All well and good, I suppose, but in the film the Spartans fight as a phalanx for all of, oh, about ten seconds. It's individual combat all the way for these boys. Leonidas could use a warrior as skilled as Ephialtes in that kind of melee, and his rejection of him - with all its repercussions - makes no sense.

Or think of the scene where the Spartans, en route to their date with destiny at the Hot Gates, come across a nightmarish vision straight out of Goya, of a tree decorated with scores of Greek corpses. Horrified at the what the Persians are doing the Spartans march on to hold them off at Thermopylae.

Yes, you read that right. Fully aware that some Persians - even if only an advance unit - are already marauding about mainland Greece, south of Thermopylae, the Spartans carry on to make a heroic stand, despite the fact that the Persians are behind them!

It makes no sense. Really. Parodies such as the forthcoming Meet the Spartans just aren't needed.

I fear for Watchmen. I realise I have a lot invested in it, but surely it has to be conceded that it's more intelligent, more sophisticated, and more demanding than most books you'll ever read, and I'm not sure which directors out there would do an even serviceable job of bringing it to the screen. But I'm pretty sure Zack Snyder's not the man.

Still, I can only hope. And if it's yet another travesty of Alan Moore's work, well, the book will still be on the shelf, treasured and well-thumbed.

As it should be.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Totally agree with your dissing of Leon-eye-das' so-called 'phalanx' warfare in 300 - but to me, this was the movie that 'Troy' should have been. Individual aristeiae, spear exchanges followed by sword melees, the emphasis on individual kleos - this is as Homeric a film as I saw. A missed opportunity methinks!