08 December 2004

Sed quis custodiet?

Clearly when Alan Moore cast a spell to bring him money, he didn't specify that if the money came from Hollywood good directors be attached to the projects.

The Hughes Brothers' From Hell was a tolerably good film, as a film, but one wondered why it bothered to conceive of itself as an adaptation of Moore's comic. The comic was a moody, discursive rumination on Victorian culture and economics, Masonic magick, and the challenges of trying to understand Jack the Ripper across the gulf of time and unsolved mystery. The scholarly endnotes threatened to run longer than the comic itself. The film was a nicely shot thriller focused on contemporary iconography of Victoriana --- gaslamps! fog! cobblestones! top hats! corsets! Yes, the movie scores points for letting Johnny Depp's Inspector Abberline smoke opium, but then loses them again by changing the book to make him into a psychic with visions that drive the plot. And while you might forgive a movie for giving us a Mary Kelly who's not quite as realistic as Moore's ragged, weary drab, sleeping in ropehouses and living on beer and stale bread, making Heather Graham the cleanest, best-groomed prostitute in history was absurd ... and then turning Moore's conceit that she and Abberline crossed paths a few times into and entire romance subplot was unforgivably stupid, even looking at the film on its own terms.

And The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen wasn't even a good example of a stupid Hollywood blockbuster. It was just lousy. (Okay, when a thug discovers that Dorian Gray has mutant healing superpowers like Wolverine --- which I submit is a lame conceit that disrespects my man Oscar Wilde --- and asks him what are you? I'll grant that I chuckled when Gray responds, I'm complex --- but that was the only charming moment in the whole dreary thing.) That it borrowed a few fragmentary shards from Moore's witty, loving pastiche of Victorian literature only made the pain that much worse.

So now we learn that the film adaptation of The Watchmen will finally get made. The director of The Bourne Supremacy is at the helm. Sure, The Bourne Supremacy was nice enough, but to tackle Watchmen you need a super-genius. Recall that Terry Gilliam tried for years to do it, then finally gave up because he thought it was too ambitious. When the man who made Brazil decides that a film project is too ambitious to actually execute, you know you have some fundamental problems.

That said, let's play the casting game, shall we?

Rorschach has to be William H. Macy, who looks the part, can act up a storm, and would steal every scene he was in, as he should

Nite Owl could be a few different actors, but I quite like Alec Baldwin --- you get "famous hero aging gracelessly" for free

Ozymandias shoulda been Redford, but he's too old for it now, so I'd be tempted to cast against physical type and use Jeff Goldblum, the only actor I can think of who immediately conveys the idea of a character who thinks too much --- and I'd love to hear him read the line, "you know, that was another thing I wasn't sure would work."

Doctor Manhattan would be a good Johnny Depp role, since he needs to be both otherworldly and emotionally vulnerable

The Comedian could be Willem Dafoe: sure, he isn't a big beefy guy like he is in the comic, but he would immediately sell that the character is a creep dressed up as a hero, yet still be a bit sympathetic

Laurie Juspeczyk, the daughter of the Silk Spectre, unfortunately isn't much of a role, so any number of dishy actresses could do it, though it occurs to me ...

Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre, could be Lauren Bacall, which suggests ...

Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, really ought to be a Paul Newman cameo, so long as we're wishing


Mike Sugarbaker said...

Embarrassingly enough, I feel strongly about this topic.

Goldblum might make an excellent Rorschach as well. To me Rorschach screams Ed Norton but he isn't old enough. (Hmm... Lance Henriksen?)

Dreiberg = Spacey. No doubt.

I don't agree that just anyone could do Laurie. Someone like Lauren Graham would be awesome, but the part doesn't quite work with someone that age.

I don't think Depp is iron-man enough to be Dr. Manhattan. Val Kilmer would have both the iconicity and the gravitas, I think. (Oddly, my grlfriend wants me to be Dr. Manhattan next Halloween. I don't know where she's getting that from. I think maybe she just wants to wear the Silk Spectre outfit. Me, I am kind of drawn to us being Dr. Weird and Steve.)

Ozymandias is tough to cast. It's too bad about Redford. Maybe this one is where Spacey belongs... but no! Blasphemy! Spacey is Dreiberg, Dreiberg is Spacey!

Indri said...

Brendan Frazier for Doctor Manhattan. Wait, wait: he bulks up beautifully, and look at Gods and Monsters. He's a better actor than some of the crap he's been in would suggest. He does 'noble and injured' well.

It's not just that I want to see him essentially naked and painted blue. Really.Janeane Garofalo could make Laurie interesting.

Lauren Bacall is more elegant than I think works for the original Silk Spectre, but Jessica Lang could do it. Or Goldie Hawn.

As for the SFX, I'd love to see the people who did 'Chronicles of Riddick' doing the design on the island and the monster.

But yes, I'm sure we're all about to get our hearts broken. The story's just too big to do as one movie--the story of Doctor Manhattan and the watch alone is so beautiful, and would be one of the first things cut. If they could pull a Peter Jackson and insist on doing it in two parts, I'd feel better about the whole enterprise.

Jonathan Korman said...

Oh, good suggestions.

I have mixed feelings about Henricksen for Rorschach --- he would nail the voice and the stare. But his face is a bit too dramatic to give you the suprise reveal that under the mask, Rorschach is just a nebbishy little guy.

Spacey would be a good Dreiberg, yes.

I'll grant that Johnny Depp is a tricky way to play Manhattan. It's a tough one to cast. The case for Brendan Frazier is a good one. (Doubters do need to see Gods and Monsters.)

And now that you bring up Val Kilmer, I'm tempted to pick him for Ozymandias --- he plays intelligence well, and can show some steel when occasion calls for it.

I confess that my affection for Lauren Bacall may have gotten the better of me. Maybe some sex-bomb actress from the '50s or '60s would be a good original Silk Spectre? Raquel Welch? Likewise, I wonder if Lynda Carter would step out of retirement for a cameo as Janey Slater.

It's difficult to imagine making the whole thing work. To fit it into a feature length film, you have to strip the story down to who killed the Comedian? And do you set it during the '80s? It's an alien time, deep in the Cold War, but not far enough away that you could really make it feel like a period piece. Set it in the present day? Then how do you make the timeline make sense?

And misuba, I think that if your girlfriend wants to dress up in high heels, a choker, and a transparent dress, you say yes, dear, I'll be happy to paint myself blue.

Indri said...

Kilmer as Ozymandias--yes, the more I think about it, the better sense that makes. From all accounts, he certainly thinks enough of himself.

Lynda Carter. OMG. That is so meta, and so perfect.

Mike Sugarbaker said...


Ozymandias = Kevin Kline.


Anonymous said...

The only answer to Rorsharch is Jeffery Combs. He's should be the right height, and does the voice of the Question on Justice League(who Rorshach was based on) so perfectly.