When Watchmen finally hits the big screen on Friday, every fan of the original graphic novel will flock to the theater, eager to see a movie that’s been 23 years in the making. Every fan, that is, save one: Alan Moore — the acclaimed comic book’s scribe — has been quite vocal in his disdain for Zack Snyder’s adaptation, comparing the movie to “regurgitated worms” and stating he’ll be “spitting venom all over it for months to come.” This attitude is nothing new from Moore, a notorious recluse and cranky eccentric who claims to worship a snake god. He’s always opposed to adaptations of his work — quite often with good reason. Let’s take a tour of Alan Moore’s Hollywood ire.
From Hell (2001)
Moore’s From Hell is a densely layered exploration of the Jack the Ripper case that runs over 500 pages. And to be fair, the 2001 Hughes brothers flick is a moderately watchable procedural, despite Heather Graham’s hideous attempt at a “cock-nay” accent. But most offensive to Moore, he said, is how the movie depicts Inspector Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp), as “an absinthe-swilling, opium-den-frequenting dandy with a haircut that, in the Metropolitan Police force in 1888, would have gotten him beaten up by the other officers.” The graphic novel’s Abberline is a modest — and married — middle-aged man who would never be caught hanging out with Roller Girl.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Stephen Norrington’s (Blade) adaptation of Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic is so bad it drove Sean Connery into early retirement. But, as Moore claimed in a recent interview with Total Film, it was Connery who insisted that more explosions and special effects be added to the movie, depriving it of Moore’s rich characters and intricate storylines: “In The Rock [Connery]‘d blown up an island, and he was demanding in The League that he blow up — was it Venice or something like that?,” Moore recalls. “It would have been the moon in his next movie.” (With all due respect to Mr. Moore, I would definitely see a movie where Sean Connery blows up the moon.)
Moore created John Constantine in the pages of his early ’80s Swamp Thing series (which Guillermo del Toro needs to adapt post haste), and allowed his artists to pattern the snarky British mage’s look after Sting — hey, Gordon Sumner had cred back in those days. But Hollywood cast Keanu Reeves in the 2005 adaptation, completely changing the character’s look and mannerisms. It was after Moore decried Constantine‘s “desecration” that he vowed never again to support a movie based on his work.
V for Vendetta (2006)
The Wachowski brothers’ screenplay for V For Vendetta was certainly more coherent than the one they penned for Speed Racer, but it still simplified Moore’s take on Thatcherism in 1980s Britain and shoehorned in some Bush-era commentary. Moore took offense to both the Americanization of his work (with it’s shades of Guantanomo Bay thrown in between Kung Fu battles), and also to producer Joel Silver’s claims that he was behind the project. Speaking of the movie he had not seen, Moore said, “V for Vendetta…was a way for thwarted and impotent American liberals to feel that they were making some kind of statement about how pissed off they were with the current situation without really risking anything.”
By most early accounts, Watchmen is as faithful a graphic novel adaptation as any that has come before it. But that doesn’t mean Moore has no cause to scowl: Take a gander at these dandy Dr. Manhattan condoms, which circulated in major cities on Valentine’s Day to promote the movie’s release. Between this and the Watchmen halloween costumes, Warner Bros. is practically daring Moore to yank out his beard in bitter frustration. While it’s cute that the fake products and promotional videos come from the comic’s Veidt Enterprises, the irony of it is that Moore conceived of the company as an editorial on commercialization. If anything, his satirical commentary looks as timely now as it did in 1986.
What do you think? Will Watchmen begin a new era in Hollywood/Alan Moore relations, or will it only serve to spike the Scowl-O-Meter?
When not writing for places like The Onion and HBO, Nick Nadel is in line at the comic book store alongside the other geeks, er, fans of speculative fiction. His most prized possession is a 1960s Batman comic wherein the Dynamic Duo are trapped inside a fortune cookie factory. Want more comic book movie news and opinions? Follow Nick Nadel’s column on Twitter.