Those Goddamn Watchmen Costumes

Oh my God, sometimes I don’t understand you Internet people at all.

Why do a few pictures of actors standing around in rubber muscle suits thrill you so? How can you be so, so, so optimistic? Why do you want this so bad?

I think it’s a real question. And, one of these days soon I’m going to get to it, probably. When the fever breaks, maybe. But in the meantime may I just remind everyone that the American movie machine couldn’t even get V For Vendetta right? Hell, they couldn’t even get Superman right.

I don’t know what you think you’re all so excited about. Watchmen isn’t about the super-killer whodunnit. And when I saw that picture of Laurie in the burning building, I suddenly had such a premonition of total doom, that I can’t really even express it. Something about that picture — maybe everything about it, I’m not sure — seems to bespeak a profound inattention to what movies about comic books about the presentation of time and fate and impending nuclear annihilation in comic books can do, and what they can’t.

But, maybe more on this later. First, gotta lower myself into the tank of Vitamin C…

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12 responses to “Those Goddamn Watchmen Costumes

  1. I agree with you about Watchmen. I’d have hoped that the costumes reflected different movie-approaches to superhero costumes. Specifically, I’d have been OK with Ozy’s be-nippled latex breastplate if it seemed like a sly commentary on Joel Schumacher — and especially if it had been balanced by an Adam Westian Nite Owl.

    But “couldn’t get Superman right?” I thought the first Christopher Reeve movie was pretty spot-on, and positively Elliot Maggin-esque, even if it wiped away Superboy, Krypto, and the rest of the (then-current) Earth-1 trappings.

    And I do have to say that Batman Begins hit a lot of the right notes, even if it too eschewed Bruce’s “superstitious and cowardly” speech. Iron Man looks promising too in that regard.

    Still, yeah … there’s no way to do Watchmen justice as a straight-up adaptation. I guess I’m just being pedantic about Superman….

  2. No, not at all, Tom — I was referring to Superman Returns, but (due to me muddling this post up with another one because of feverishness) I thought that was obvious when it really wasn’t. Agreed about the first Superman movie — ah, c’mere, youth of mine…

    I may have to finish that other post up pretty quick, now.

    I’ve read some people applauding the nipple-armour (ha, ha!) as commentary, but I’ve gotta say I don’t quite buy it, or at least I don’t think it sounds very well-executed — what you describe could serve as pretty good raw ingredients — fancy nipple-suit next to silly Hallowe’en costume next to filthy smelly trenchcoat next to lingerie next to blue naked skin…sure, maybe something could be made from that. But commentary’s got to have a comment in it somewhere, and I can’t imagine what comment would be buried in all this kevlar nipple-rubber. Wow, what words. And yet is it my fault that these are the words? No it is not.

    Batman Begins I think was just absolutely GREAT. But then again, it had some specific virtues I don’t see Watchmen being able to mimic…

  3. I agree with you regarding Watchmen. I was especially troubled by the Silk Spectre, who looked like a character from the old Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl series.

    Now THAT was a super-hero show, I say without irony …

  4. I’m very troubled by how little that actress and that pose remind me of the Laurie character.

    I mean, I know it’s just a picture. But everything people seem to loooo-oove about the Comedian and Rorschach is not present in Laurie. Also, have people just conveniently forgotten that she’s a major, major, major, major major damn viewpoint character in Watchmen? To hear the fanboys talk, you’d think she was only ever just eye candy, so who cares if they get her right. I wish I could say I’m completely amazed, of course…but I’m still a little amazed.

  5. This is the Grazer Problem, really — a lot of people only liked V For Vendetta or Watchmen because they were “kick-ass” — everything else was the sermon, not the soup.

    No, not fair; that’s the fever talking. Also my brain is slightly additionally fried by the weirdness that is re-runs of Disco Buck Rogers from one to two a.m. Holy cats, I never EVER expected to see this again, wow. I may even have to review it, once I stop groaning. And yet…

    This was the one where Jack Palance was a supervillain, see?

    And that’s gotta count for something.

  6. I swear there’s a way to do a Watchmen movie right. But it’d take a cinematic visionary to do it, and I’m not one, so I don’t know what it is; only some rough generalities that such a visionary would have to keep in mind.

    1. The comic book Watchmen was partly about the form. The comics included all kinds of stuff at the back that had only this in common: they could be reproduced or simulated in the comic book form. For a movie, a similar effect could be produced by including all kinds of interstitial stuff that is not movies, but can be reproduced or simulated in movie form: commercials, video games, sitcoms, webpages if we decide to move the timeline ahead, documentaries…

    2. In particular, the whole pirate-comic thing would have to be replaced. The pirate-comic thing was great as a way of commenting on alternate-universe superhero comics from within a superhero comic, but what sense does it make in a movie? We’d need to find a movie equivalent.

    3. What is the story about on a deep level? Nuclear annihilation? The feasibility of superheroism in the ‘real world’? Whatever themes we can isolate, we need to hold on to those, and come up with a story that can present them in movie form. If the story from the comics can be adapted to this end, then great; if not, then it must go, partially or completely.

    The result of these efforts will be an enigmatic art film that will almost certainly not do big business, but will sell on DVD forever. I swear it could be done, though; maybe a teamup of Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman could do it.

  7. I don’t remember Disco Buck having much in the way of nostalgia value beyond Wilma. The last time I watched it (a few years ago), I couldn’t get past the recycled “Battlestar Galactica” elements.

    Yeah, I figured you were talking about Superman Returns, but failed to make that clear. So I knew that you knew, and you knew that I knew that you knew….

    Dirk Deppey, from atop his high horse, has said that of course the “actual” costumes would look stupid, but to me that’s the point of the costumes. Dr. Manhattan is the only “real” superhero, and the others are just working out their psychological issues (at least in part) via their clothes. Plus there’s the characters’ archetypal natures.

    So, put all that together and Ozy’s nipple-armor can represent the overthought, overmarketed, “toyetic” Warners/Schumacher approach to superheroes — Jon Peters wanting Superman to fight a giant spider and have polar bears guard the Fortress of Solitude — but then, does Nite Owl follow a Batman Begins style because he represents a more “pure” approach?

    I dunno. It doesn’t make the Silk Spectre pose work any better.

  8. Biddy biddy.

    Eh, they’re just promo shots. My jury is still out. After listening to interviews with Zack Snyder I think he can get the story right, but I know a good director can’t always save a movie.

    My biggest problem is how young they all look, honestly…

  9. These look so much like overly processed fan-produced Photoshop fakes that I was surprised to see they’d come from the production. At best, they could pass for the modern equivalent of concept sketches and not reflect actual costumes that will be put on real humans. But as I was just saying on another blog, this guy’s last film looked exactly like that anyway. So yeah, it’s quite possible these reflect exactly what you’ll see on screen.

    In an ideal world…well, no, in an ideal world no one would ever make a Watchmen film in the first place, but in a slightly better yet still imperfect world…the promotional shots would function as well as Dave Gibbon’s promo pieces released before the original series came out, the ones that reflected the milieu and personalities of each lead character along with an apposite quote. These have no character, no enticement, no promise of an intellectual puzzle. They’ve squandered an opportunity by making Silk Spectre look like Xena.

  10. How Dirk thinks he gets to have a high horse about this is absolutely beyond me — also, what he says there is bull.

    Also also, does the Rorschach picture really look all that cool? Is it not just a picture of a guy in a hat and trenchcoat, with something over his face that you can’t really see?

    Though I’m a big supporter of filmmakers who are skilled enough or talented enough to slice and dice their source material in the right way to make a movie both a) true to the original themes, and b) good, it’s clear to me that the built-in significance of the costumes has now been taken out — not that I’m saying that’s the most important thing in the world, but it has. In Watchmen itself, only the Comedian wears a practical armour — Dan tries a big superhero exoskeleton once, but it breaks his arm. Dr. Manhattan resists the symbolism of the costume and crest chosen for him by the government, and indeed gradually does away with the pretension of clothes altogether. Laurie’s mother all but forces her to fight crime in a negligee. Rorschach hides his human face behind black and white abstraction. Adrian dresses like an an actor in a bad play. One by one, the costume-fantasies are all rejected, if they don’t actually reject their wearers first. So having armoured Dan doesn’t make any sense — he’s not a practical guy. He tried superhero armour once, and it put him in the hospital. Likewise Adrian — sure he looks like an action figure, but the costume doesn’t seem to signify much of anything about who he is or what he does. Not that these little theme-signifiers can’t be done away with, but the point is that you can’t both have ’em and not have ’em. No one’s going to get rid of the look of Rorschach, in fact I’ll hazard a guess that without the look of Rorschach no one would’ve ever been trying to make this movie…and Dr. Manhattan, well…ha. Do they dare move away from the look of Dr. Manhattan?

    Hmm.

    But anyway, that’s it for the costumes; like ’em or hate ’em, they’re just suits, now.

    As it happens, Disco Buck seems to carry an enormous nostalgia charge for me. Maybe that’s because you only can get the real primo nostalgia effect when the thing you remember was in fact crap? Certain things are actually better than I remember them, if you can believe that. Erin Gray’s Seventies hair, so touchably soft…

    Sorry, where was I?

    I’m gonna have to watch it a bit more, I guess.

  11. I’m SO excited about this movie! I’m almost finished V for Vendetta and I’ve significantly slowed my pace with it because I’m going to be kinda bummed when it’s over. I was looking at the back and saw that Alan Moore had also done “Watchmen” and I resolved to obtain it – the movie is such a coincidence! Anyhow, my e-mail’s not working right now so i figured this was as good a way as any to get in touch with you: do you own a copy of Watchmen?

  12. It’s around here somewhere…I’d be delighted to have you read it, hell I may even buy a new copy just for the pleasure of lending it to you. This was a super-formative influence on me, I agonized for years over how they did what they did — regret to inform you that the movie stands a revoltingly good chance of being CRAP, however.

    I’m getting ready to make a brisk move in the next couple of hours, but will endeavour to call.

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