Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Watchmen vs. Bazooka Joe


When Watchmen came out a couple months ago, opinion was divided — some people, like me, loved it, but some people I respect also considered it overly complicated or pretentious, or felt that the classic original comic book was not meant to be adapted to film in the first place, at least not like this.

For anyone who thinks Watchmen was overreaching, though, I have encouraging news. Hollywood is now poised to adapt a comics character who should not present excessive plot or conceptual complexity: Bazooka Joe. That’s right, the guy in the brief but terrible jokes from the gum wrappers. I pity the scriptwriter who has to figure out which “story arc” to use for the film. Perhaps they’ll take a Bazooka Begins approach and explain how Joe acquired his eye patch. Presumably in a bazooka accident, right? Don’t stand behind that thing! “I lost an eye, but now I see the comedy in everyday events…” Etc.

(I should confess I actually have a Bazooka Joe comic magnetized to my freezer door, since it’s the best one I’ve ever seen. Joe loses a bet with his friend Pesty about whether the Earth is round or flat, so Joe’s dad good-naturedly offers to pay the bet for him, asking how much the bet was, to which Joe says: “A million dollars!” That’s as good as Bazooka Joe gets, I’m afraid. To cover weird scratches that were on my freezer, which came with the apartment, I’ve stuck pretty much any old magnetic thing I had or got for free recently up there, with the result being that it’s now somewhat disturbingly festooned with magnets depicting a tyrannosaurus rex, a polar bear, a tiger, the Red Dress Ink “chick lit” logo, Winnie the Pooh, Curious George in a spacesuit, and Arkansas State Rep. Dan Greenberg. Now there’s a fan fiction crossover premise for you.)

The Bazooka Joe idea comes to us thanks to Michael Eisner, the studio exec who, back when he was running ABC a decade ago and I was a cog there, wanted to revitalize that network with retooled shows such as Mod Squad: Hawaii — and not in the kitschy way that Quentin Tarantino and McG might mean that, I fear. (If they had done the show, I hope they would have cast Peggy Lipton from the original 1970s series, still looking good at sixty-two today and seen here six years ago.)


Anyone who thought Watchmen was overreaching is unlikely to be mollified by my observation that the film had a few overt Stanley Kubrick homages (that’d probably just make matters worse): From the distinctly Kubrickesque slow-push-in-with-room-tone on the “3001″ number on the Comedian’s door in the first scene to a similar push-in on Rorschach talking to the psychiatrist, the pan across monitors in the prison, and the Strangelovean war room. If memory serves, I saw the movie four times. No regrets.

And despite it making a bit less money than hoped (not enough to inspire any lunatic exec to demand a sequel, which is for the best), keep in mind it did make about as much as Slumdog Millionaire, the Liam Neeson action hit Taken, Gran Torino, and Fast & Furious, each of those at about $140 million — and again, the fan fiction crossover writes itself.

If Hollywood benefits from having hits that size with budgets far smaller than Watchmen’s you’d think they’d try really hard to get good scripts and lay off the special effects. You’d think. And that’d be fine even with geeks like me. But until then, July brings the sixth Harry Potter movie, which will probably be fine. Here’s hoping it makes guys who kinda look like Draco Malfoy all the rage.

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