Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Alan Moore Knows the Score

...or, perhaps, doesn't.

There's an interesting interview with Alan Moore on the website, where Alan talks a little about Watchmen, a bit more about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and plenty about adapting comic books into movies. And, of course, this being Alan Moore, you certainly get your money's worth!

Unfortunately, Alan Moore comes across as a bit of a grumpy old man, knocking down the comic book and film-making industries whilst making out that only he is able to produce great work. You’d think he’d be celebrating the joy that comic books can bring rather than rubbishing them whenever he can.

It doesn't help when he considers all comic books readers to be 40+ years old and calls them, "hopeless nostalgics or... perhaps cases of arrested development who are not prepared to let their childhoods go". To begin with, I think he's confusing the superhero genre with the comic book medium; the two are different. He also seems to think everyone after him has got it wrong and have never been able to place serious adult elements in their compositions.

Saying how stupid and childish comic book readers are isn't really going to help sell your up-and-coming comic book. Actually, it probably won't make a difference. But still, you have to wonder who Alan is aiming his comic book at. Thirteen-year-old kids, who apparently don't read comics any more, or the "40-year-old men who probably should know better"?

Now I'm still not particularly convinced by Alan Moore's reasons why he refuses to be linked to films made of his works. He says, "I really simply don't believe that any of my books could be benefited in any way by being turned into films"

Firstly, I don't think that, when the Hollywood suits decide to create a movie, the idea is to enhance a book. They're there to make money and, to a lesser extent, entertain people (entertaining people actually tends to lead to making more money so it's all linked).

The film can benefit the sales of a book. Those that see the film might decide to go out and buy the original book. Sure, it doesn't change the book itself but it might make the book more successful and might make the creator of the book more money (and, in turn, he can make more books and more pieces of 'art').

Of course, the film can turn out to be awful but this doesn't affect the original book. As Alan notes about Raymond Chandler when "he was asked about what he felt about having his books ruined by Hollywood. ...He led the questioner into his study and showed him all the books there on the bookshelf, and said, Look - there they all are. They're all fine". So it's not like a bad film will ruin his books. So why not agree to have your name place on the credits at the end of a film - and take the money (give it to charity if you want)? It was (loosely) based on your work, after all.

Yes, it's true that it can be difficult to translate a comic book into a movie. They're different mediums so, of course, they'll be different. But you can translate the story, the characters, and the feelings behind the comic book. The Spider-man films kind of managed it. So did many others. It brings a new audience to the story and the characters, which in turn might bring a new appreciation to the original work. That can't be a bad thing, can it?

Perhaps Alan just doesn't like dealing with the Hollywood suits? Perhaps it's easier for him to have nothing to do with it all rather than trying to have a civil, intelligent discussion with them? Or perhaps he doesn't like giving up control of the adaptation to a few dozen other people who all have different ideas to him?

Regarding comic books and films being different, Alan mentions that the comic book medium allows the reader to absorb every image, to read things at their own pace, to flip back and forth between images. And indeed this is a difference between comic books and films (in which you are "dragged through the scenario at a relentless 24 frames a second"). However, with DVDs this isn't quite the case. Films now contain "easter eggs" - little interesting snippets that can only be experienced if you pause the action or slow it down. DVDs allow the viewer to absorb every frame, to watch things at sort of their own pace.

So when Alan says "even the best director in the world... could not possibly get that amount of information into a few frames of a movie. Even if they did, it would have zipped past far too quickly" that's not strictly true any more. The X-Men films had characters appearing on computer screens or in the background that can be seen if you slow down the DVD.

As to comments like "these days I can see half a million Orcs coming over a hill and I am bored", well I think Alan's just being a bit silly. He was awed by Ray Harryhausen's animated skeletons and Willis O'Brien's King Kong. Sure they were (still are!) great. But, for me, I'm also awed by some of the recent CGI, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the Balrog in Lord of the Rings or Spiderman swinging from the rooftops. I think this is just Alan's nostalgia raising its hairy head again.

In fact, the more I read the interview, the more it seems that Alan Moore is just hankering after the good old days and he's now become somewhat jaded in his old age.

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