Monday, February 16, 2009

Q: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? A: Quis Gives a Shit?

I watched the movie version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead when I was 18 or 19 years old. I didn't get it. It had been a couple of years since I'd read Hamlet, and even then I don't think I'd been paying close enough attention. A few years later, I had to read Hamlet again for some other class, so I also read the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I enjoyed it much more, a lot more of the Hamlet stuff certainly made sense to me. But there was still a certain something lacking (in me, not the play). Finally, a couple years after that, I saw a performance of the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Despite the fact that, aside from the three leads, it was really typically as bad as every other community college production I'd ever seen, I finally really got it. This is a play about two characters in a play who realize what shitty roles they have in this play with the help of another character in the play who plays a guy in another play. It's a meta-play, and by the very dint of what that term implies--a work of art that attempts to address the heights and limitations of its own medium within itself--it can be nothing else. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead only works as a play, just as Scream could only work as a slasher-flick, not a TV show or an interpretive dance. It's Garry Shandling's Show was a show; it wasn't ever It's Garry Shandling's Post-modernist Sculpture.

Watchmen is a super-hero comic book about comic book super-heroes.

The first time I read Watchmen, the pirate comic sub-plot confused the shit out of me. I knew it had to mean something, as it was featured so prominently, but by the time I finished the book, I'd forgotten all about it, immersed as I'd been in the rest of it. The next couple times around, I got closer, but still didn't know what it was all about. Then, it finally clicked and I got what I'm sure you who have read it also get: the whole thing is an allegory for Ozymandias and how, in his rush to save humankind, he's lost his own humanity. I dunno about you, but when the gentle delicateness of this imagery hit me, well, to say I was moved would be an understatement. Watchmen is a comic book about superheroes and examines what a world with actual superheroes would truly be like. And how do Moore and Gibbons underpin this? With a comic book within the comic book.

For all the movies I've seen that have changed my life, either drastically or in small doses; for all the film moments that have made me weep until my chest hurt or laugh until my throat was raw; for all the stories, characters, and bits of dialogue that have stirred me, inspired me, helped to shape the very man who writes these words, I am well aware of the power of the cinema. But there is one thing a movie can't do for sure and that's create a comic book within a comic book.

It can be argued that the above trailer shows that Zack Snyder and his associates feel that, while Tales of the Black Freighter doesn't quite fit into the over-all film adaptation of Watchmen for its theatrical release, it is still a highly regarded aspect of the story, which is why they have made a separate animated production of that sub-plot to be released in conjunction with the DVD of the Watchmen feature film, to be enjoyed in your own home.

It could also be argued that the hype machine has been working so much overtime that Warner Bros, et al, know they can sell one and a half movies for (at least) the price of three: when the legions of suckers see Watchmen in the theaters at least one time each, and when they each buy both DVDs.

I'll think I'll just go rent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead again.