Friday, July 24, 2009

One JO's Opinion: Every medium can be a large.

I watched "The Watchmen" movie the other night, and it made me think.

This is NOT a movie revue. Let me just start by saying I thought it was a fine piece of work.

It just made me think of something.

"The Watchmen" movie idea has been volleyed about for over 20 years, not since the comic book of the same name hit the stands, but ever since the 12 issues of same had been collected into a graphic novel and the sales results came in.

It was called "unfilmable" by many and I agreed. The book was so dense with nuance that made the story enjoyable, you could never get it all into an hour and 40 minute movie. But that isn't really the problem.

It was the perfect comic book. It told a story in a way that can only be told with the tools that can only be utilized in this specific art form. A film has different tools. They can replicate things, but they do not perform the same way.

Here in 2009 they did it successfully. Clocking in at over 3 hours and using technical innovations that weren't available or cost-effective 20+ years ago, they pulled it off. It was visually true to the comic and kept the story almost completely intact. If they were going to do a "Watchmen" movie, this was the way to do it. And I'm glad they did, it was fun to watch.

But, as I said, it made me think. Why is a creative work only considered truly successful if it eventually evolves into a film? Why is that the pinnacle of success?

Every creative medium has values intrinsic to only itself, that can't fully be translated into a version in another. A painting can be recreated as a sculpture...but they have different values about them that rise above or below each other.

"The Grapes of Wrath" is in the top 10 of my all-time favorite books. It tells a story in a way that you can only tell in the form John Steinbeck scribed it. It needs the novel's length, it needs the breakdown by chapter. In this case, every third chapter is a commentary, a chapter which puts the reader's mind in the mood and the place it needs to be, as well as making parallels to the characters in the story. It could have been called "unfilmable".

"The Grapes of Wrath" is in my all-time favorite top 50 films. It's got differences from the book. It says a lot of the same things as the book. But John Ford understood that film and novel are two different mediums and have values that can only be translated by it's specific form.

"The Far Side" by Gary Larson is in my top 15 favorite comic strips of all time. And it may just be THE PERFECT comic strip. The gags Larson pulled off in this thing are things that could only be done in this medium.

With The Far Side you almost have to read the caption and view the cartoon simultaneously. Try and describe a Far Side to someone, by the time you describe the action and give the verbiage (or vice verse) it loses too much of it's effect.

The elaborateness of the image and the juxtaposition of the subjects would be too unwieldy (cost and production-wise) to do in film or television to make the brevity of the "quick punch" to seem right or to be as funny.

This is an honorable thing. This is the apex of this medium. It wouldn't be "better" just because it was made into a film. John Steinbeck's work didn't became "better" because it was made into a is a great novel.

Let's stop comparing different creative medium by the monetary gain they provide. Comic strips, films, songs, paintings, sculptures, television, etc. are all valuable on their own.

And made greater for those things which make them their own.

This has been "One JO's Opinion". Jeff Overturf or Jack-Off? You decide...but I'll probably keep having them anyway.

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