Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Watchmen - A lucky break

Having been lucky enough to know a good friend who was able to sneak me into an early press screening of the long-awaited, much-hyped, and already close-to-tiresome Watchmen adaptation, I'm somewhat relieved to relate here that the title of today's posting refers not only to the fact that I was lucky to catch the flick before the wave of anticipation crests, but also that it's not remotely as bad as I had feared --indeed, assumed-- it would be. My first sneaking suspicion that I may have been a bit over-zealous in my blanket condemnation of all things Zack Snyder-related came upon re-visiting his version of Dawn of the Dead recently on DVD. Because let's face it: that was another contemporary adaptation of a 'classic' text which throngs of devotees and other assorted naysayers had rejected in advance, only to make a quick about-face once it actually saw the light of day.

My own reluctance to embrace the hype came pretty much entirely from the total failure of the atrocious 300, followed by the first Watchmen trailer made up entirely of slow-motion shots that recreate famous panels from the book. Perhaps I should have taken into account the fact that Frank Miller's 300 comic book wasn't perhaps the most compelling source text to start off with anyway, and that the film's version attendant emphasis on macho violence and kitschy homo-erotica could hardly be deemed all that surprising.

But now that I've actually experienced the thing first-hand, I must admit that I can't imagine a film version that is substantially better than the one that looks likely to become an international phenomenon as of next week: it's extremely faithful to the book without entirely mummifying the source text; the casting is fiendishly clever, with Patrick Wilson a particular stand-out; there is plenty of delicious eye candy throughout; there are a few moments when the film's editing comes close to resembling the book's extraordinary use of symmetrical mirroring devices; and its depiction of Rorschach as the story's 'hero' is neither more nor less problematic than it is in the book (although the one moment of applause in this screening occurred when that sociopathic loner deep-fried another inmate and let the others know that they're locked up with him rather than the other way around).

Yale conference - the rest

A long-overdue update following the terrific 'Politics of Superheroes' conference I attended at Yale a few weeks ago. All the start-of-semester activity got the better of me since my return, and robbed the planned update to this blog of some of its urgency. At any rate, the second (and last) day of the small conference was certainly worthwhile, culminating in a closing round-table discussion, which was sometimes annoyingly unfocused (like much of the conference), but which did re-emphasize many theoretical concerns central to the topic of superheroes in popular culture.

My own paper was a modest success, but since the panel's chair wasn't very strict about enforcing the 20-minute time limit on presentations and the first paper was plagued by a computer crash and other technical problems, there was only very little time left for Q&A, most of which was then directed at another presenter, whose misapplication of Freudian terminology drew some heated remarks.

What I got out of it for my own work was firstly a new network of strong contacts, not only from some of the better universities in and around New England, but also from France and the UK; secondly, a number of tantalizing ideas on re-thinking and conceptualizing the superhero figure and how this relates not only to politics, but also to the city, to digital ontologies, to globalization, and to race and gender. So now the time has come to feed some of those ideas back into a new draft of my research proposal as I begin to catalogue funding options for the next academic year(s).