Bryan Caplan  

The Art of Equanimity

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Alan Moore notoriously refuses to watch the film adaptations of his graphic novels.  His main rationale:
If a thing works well in one medium, in the medium that it has been designed to work in, then the only possible point for wanting to realize it on "multiple platforms," as they say these days, is to make a lot of money out of it.
Even if money were the sole motive behind the Watchmen movie, though, how does it follow that the result will be bad?  Adam Smith might retort, "It is not from the benevolence of the producer, the director, or the actor, that we expect our entertainment, but from their regard to their own interest."

When I read further into the interview, though, I was pleasantly surprised by Moore's equanimity in the face of what he sees as Hollywood's bastardization of his work:
I'm reminded of the remark by, I think it was Raymond Chandler, where he was asked about what he felt about having his books "ruined" by Hollywood. And he led the questioner into his study and showed him all the books there on the bookshelf, and said, Look--there they all are. They're all fine. They're fine. They're not ruined. They're still there. And I think that's pretty much the attitude I take. If the books are as good as I think they are, then they are the things that will endure. And if the films are as bad as I think they are, then they are the things that will not endure.
Personally, I think that Moore should have seen From Hell.  I suspect he should see Watchmen too.  I'll know soon enough - midnight tonight, I'm there!


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Caliban Darklock writes:

I think it also comes down to the idea. If you take an idea, and you implement it well in a particular medium, does that mean it could not be implemented well in another? Clearly not... it could not be implemented the same way in another, but different isn't always bad.

Consider the portrait as an art form. The person has already been implemented in one medium - a person - in a fashion that simply could not be implemented in another. A portrait of Napoleon is not Napoleon. Indeed, most people (especially Napoleon) would say that the person is simply superior to the portrait. Does this mean that portraiture should not exist? That it should not be done at all?

I'd say, again, clearly not. The portrait may be a pale imitation of Napoleon himself, but it will be here long after he is gone, and appeal to an audience that may be completely uninterested in Napoleon as a person.

R. Pointer writes:

I almost always find the book to be more rich. Doubtlessly, this is because 200 pages has much more action and detail than 2 hours of film.

I won't, in fact, watch some films made from my favorite authors' works because I don't want the actors and actresses to get into my head. As Taleb calls this the non-neutrality of representativeness (though in a different context). Future books by them, say Kundera, would never be the same.

Lastly, some things, like "The Wire", I think stand up very well to a book. Though it was never a book. I see that as the true conversion of 200 pages to film. Fifty hours of filming seems to be about right for 200+ pages.

RL writes:

Just as the novel has innumerable "easter eggs"--hidden meanings in the panels, often missed on initial (or even subsequent) readings--so, too, Synder has put large amounts of detail into the film that will flash by, unable to be fully enjoyed until you by the DVD and do frame-by-frame advance. It will be a tedious but highly enjoyable exercise.

Kerry writes:

At least now we know who watches the watchmen.

Pareto writes:

I've never really understood such comments. As Bryan says, "how does it follow that the result will be bad?" If you enjoyed Watchmen as a graphic novel, you will probably also enjoy it as a movie. A (nice) variation on a good thing means more of a good thing.

LemmusLemmus writes:

If I may link to my own blog: Ten films that are better than the book.

RL writes:

If I may link to my own blog: http://web.me.com/rlevatter

It is called "V Is For Veidt: A Watchmen Guide," and gives detailed panel-by-panel analyses of various hidden "Easter eggs" in the graphic novel, as well as discussion of mythological, musical, and historical references.

Jacob Oost writes:

This is a common myth about films, that ones adapted from other sources are *always* inferior to the original. Bull pies. Ford, Kubrick, Hitchcock, etc. made masterpieces based on good, non-masterpiece, source material.

ajb writes:

Perhaps the more accurate statement is that great books usually make less than great movies. I believe that Hitchcock preferred to adapt potboilers and second rate novels for precisely this reason. Of course, since I didn't think the Watchmen comic was all that great, that gives me more reason to see the movie.

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