The ‘Watchmen’ Debate: Special Bonus Coverage!

Nikki Finke and I don’t agree on much, except perhaps that it’s OK to use a wildly out-of-date photo of yourself. But as fate would have it, we simultaneously weighed in today on the question of whether the movie “Watchmen” is too faithful to the graphic novel.

WMD-26573-ccMD Not surprisingly, Finke essentially concluded on her blog that Warner Bros. officials were a bunch of douchebags for allowing director Zack Snyder to make a movie that adhered so closely to the original. My point was that if you were going to gamble on “Watchmen” at all, then fidelity to the source was pretty much the only way to go — and I’m not sure that “opening it up” would have significantly improved the film’s box-office prospects.

Indeed, for some of my friends who know absolutely nothing about the comics, the movie simply wasn’t on their radar, period, so it’s not like the running time or Dr. Manhattan’s blue penis kept them away. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan, meanwhile, articulated what I’d call the anti-Nike verdict — as in “Just Don’t Do It” — in his review, saying “the core of what made ‘Watchmen’ ‘Watchmen’ … is by its nature next to impossible to re-create on screen, even with a 2-hour and 41-minute running time.

Anyway, I digress. In writing my column, which talked about not just “Watchmen” but the creative license taken with the upcoming PBS miniseries based on Charles Dickens’ “Little Dorrit,” space considerations forced me to excise an example regarding how fans crave fidelity in such adaptations, so I figured I’d share it here.

The gist of it was that when PBS’ “Masterpiece” aired its Jane Austen tribute awhile back, I joked in one of my reviews that having the movie adaptations available to watch would represent a boon to “slacker students everywhere.”

This rather innocuous aside prompted a polite rebuke from a past president of the Jane Austen Society of North America, who suggested that watching the impeccably crafted made-for-TV versions of Austen’s works “will give [students] only an inkling of what the novels are like,” adding that the filmmakers “took considerable liberties with each of the novels, especially with ‘Mansfield Park.'” Reading the books, she concluded, will provide students “far richer … intellectual and psychological experiences” than viewing the movies.

“Thank you for the message,” I responded, “and honestly, who would have guessed that a past president of the Jane Austen Society would have an underdeveloped sense of humor?”

I know, it’s juvenile, but these days journalists have to take their laughs when and where they can find them.

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