Review, Watchmen

This past weekend, Yufang, Seth, Kolter, Masaya, Brandon, and I went to see Watchmen at the Independence Regal South of Akron.  Having read the original comic, I enjoyed seeing a live action rendition of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel on the silver screen.  I believe that Zack Snyder produced the best possible filmic interpretation of the source material short of the original media and barring a big-budget mini-series.  As in other cases (e.g., The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Right Stuff, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and We Will Remember It For You Wholesale, etc.), I enjoy the experience of seeing someone (or a committee of someones) else’s imaginative vision and interpretation of a story (from whatever media–text, music, art, video games, etc.).  I have my own interpretations from my first, second, and subsequent visitations to a story, as do others who also enjoy those cultural artifacts.  I find it enriching for my own imagination to experience, however tangentially it may be, the imagination of another person.  Snyder definitely has a vision or project that he brings to his films–an almost splatter-gore sensibility tempered with an American erotic titillation–that will color or taint (depending on your point of view) any project that he directs.  I knew this going into Watchmen, and I wasn’t disappointed.  If you dare to experience the mind’s eye of a director capable of loyalty to his source while asserting his own artistic manifesto, then I suggest you see Watchmen in the theater and don’t forget to read the comic series while you’re at it.

I have heard from a number of friends that have taken issue with the film’s dedication to its source, the graphic depiction of violence, the casting, the soundtrack, etc., ad nauseum.  I had almost lost all hope until I saw that Patrick Sharp gave props to the film and Haley’s performance as Rorschach on Facebook.  And today, I ran across Patton Oswalt’s shining emblem of Nerdlore head-smackery in his discussion of Watchmen and film interpretations:

Because Zack Snyder STEPPED UP, motherfuckers. THE WATCHMEN was going to get made, one way or another. And instead of bleating on his Facebook status updates or Tweeting about how shitty the upcoming adaptation’s going to be, he TOOK THE BULLET and tried to do it right. . . . Zack delivered a 2 1/2 hour, honest attempt, and broke his ass cranking out tons of free extras. . . . Plus, he gave you a kick-ass DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, plus 300, plus whatever else he’s got coming down the pike. He’s the best friend the Nerd Mafia’s had since Joss Whedon and Brian Michael Bendis, so everyone please crack the tab on a frosty can of Go Fuck Yourself and go see the movie version of THE WATCHMEN.

You should read the rest of Oswalt’s hilarious and on-target post on his MySpace page here.

In a side note:  I’m currently having my students experience interpretative tension between Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, and Philip Kaufman’s film of the same name.  In these two works, there seems to be more a conversation taking place between them instead of a directly derivative function of the latter.  My students in both classes today came up with some great ideas for their essays on this subject, and I’m eager to hear what more they have to say about interpretations in class on Friday.

Review, Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader

In the next issue of SFRA Review, I will have two non-fiction reviews, and one of those is on Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg’s Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader.  As a WoW player and researcher, I found this anthology to be an indispensable body of work on the W0W phenomenon.  I am currently working on a paper in which I use my own digitally mediated definition of cosmopolitanism to demonstrate how a game like WoW can counterintuitively teach players to be more cosmopolitan in the physical world.  Here is a short except from my longer review:

            World of Warcraft (WoW) is the insanely successful fantasy and science fictional massively multiplayer online role-playing game launched by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004.  It continues to break sales records with its expansion packs The Burning Crusade (2007) and Wrath of the Lich King (2008), and it currently supports a worldwide subscribership of 11.5 million players.  The game, already lush with history and lore, has spawned a collectible card game, books, collectable figurines, manga, and comic books.  Furthermore, it has seeped into the cultural archive.  For example, it inspired an Emmy award winning episode of South Park titled “Make Love, Not Warcraft,” and it was featured in a Jeopardy! question.  Also, the game’s fantasy origins do not prohibit it from being a postmodern mash-up of real world history and popular culture.  Obviously, there is something to the World of Warcraft phenomenon that deserves further investigation and critique, but who has the time to study such an extensive and socially demanding rich text?

            Enter The Truants.  The members of The Truants guild are academics who study and play World of Warcraft.  Digital Culture, Play, and Identity:  A World of Warcraft Reader, an anthology of essays edited by Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg, is the end result of their in-game and online collaboration as players and scholars.  They simultaneously studied the game and its participants, played the game themselves, and used the game as a place in which to meet and talk (in addition to other online and in-person collaboration work).  Their gamer intensity is tempered by the rigor and attentiveness found in each of the chapters in this collection.

To read the full review, click over to sfra.org and join the oldest, professional organization devoted to the study of Science Fiction.  Also, our 40th annual meeting will be in Atlanta, Georgia in June.  Find out more about the conference here, and join us for author readings, essay presentations, and panels on the dual themes:  Engineering the Future, and Southern Fried Science Fiction and Fantasy. 

Paul Kincaid’s What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction

Before a week’s long vacation, I finished reading and writing a review of Paul Kincaid’s What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction.  This is a great collection of Kincaid’s essays on a variety of topics centered around SF and the fantastic.  

In his introductory essay, from which the title of the book is taken, he tackles one of the major concerns of SF scholarship, which is the definition of SF.  He skillfully manages to create a pragmatic definition that draws on Samuel R. Delany’s idea of a SF language, or what Damien Broderick calls the SF “mega-text.”  

The collection is broken down into these sections:  Theory, Practice, Christopher Priest, Britain, the World, Gene Wolfe, and 1 April 1984.  The Priest section is very strong, and there are many other insightful and enthusiastically written pieces throughout the thirty-two essays and reviews in the book.

Keep an eye out for my full review in an upcoming issue of Foundation:  The International Review of Science Fiction.

Discover more of Paul Kincaid’s scholarship online here, and read about his current work on his blog here.