Olio Pop Suey (on the aesthetics of hyperdrives and time machines)

I haven’t seen ‘Watchmen’ yet, but I will. I’m actually reading Alan Moore’s ‘League of Extraordinary Gentleman 3: Black Dossier’ right now and I’m loving it. While Neil Gaiman may be the best writer who does comic books around, Alan Moore is the best writer of comic books I’ve ever read. Actually, my favorite comic book story is the ‘Miracleman’ series, of which Moore wrote the first half and Gaiman the second half. Naturally, it is an intense, obscure and unfinished masterpiece, but that is how I like them; Woyzeck‘Mysterious Stranger’, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Requiem, Good Vibrations, Angel, are just a few of my favorite things. I once dragged Lily to see Stairway to Heaven at a film festival screening where it was playing at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. ‘Miracleman’ is a lot like that; it takes you to strange places at strange times that still seem somewhat familiar, like catching a glimpse of your doubled reflection while wearing someone else’s clothes at four in the morning in the mirror of a bathroom you’ve never been in before.  That’s what I like, Mick; to see the familiar from strange perspectives. I also enjoy seeing the strange in familar perspectives. My favorite TV shows excel at portraying the familiar in unexpected ways. Consider how ‘Lost’ portrays the time machine; Ben literally blows up the cliched ‘time chamber’ to get at the real mechanism, which is an ancient wheel hoary with frost. I believed that wheel. It made more sense than any flashing lights and copper tubing. One of my favorite moments of the final episodes of ‘BSG’ was the depiction of the actual hyperdrive mechanism; without any explanation whatsoever, it totally made sense. I actually appreciate the lack of explanation; when was the last time you conversationally explained how the engine of your car worked? That’s why these shows are able to transcend the traditional sci fi audience and limitations of the genre. 

Gonna go paint now.

8 Responses to “Olio Pop Suey (on the aesthetics of hyperdrives and time machines)”

  1. I cannot wait to see this either – I have such fond memeories of reading sandman on the orch of the castle that summer, I got through most of it, I can’t wait for Coraline either. 🙂 must re read watchmen before i go see it though. all reviews have been favourable 🙂

  2. The Prof Says:

    Winston, Dahlia, and all concerned parties:

    Aurora and I saw it last night.

    They got it about 90% right from the graphic novel–that which they cut, they incorporated elsewhere or truncated in such a way that you still got the idea.

    As for the casting: Rorschach is dead-on perfect. Nite Owl is very believable. Dr. Manhattan is as godlike as he needs to be.

    They did change the evil scheme a little from the graphic novel, but to me it actually makes more sense, and there’s a new shot added to the big confrontation that, while not in the original work, actually makes sense and adds to the scene. Dr. Manhattan’s last line is chilling as all hell.

    I’m still thinking about it, which means it was probably good.

  3. P-
    That’s a very good sign when a film sticks with you. The original book is haunting as hell and I can only imagine what a decent film adaptation could achieve. So, hooray. I’ll probably catch it next weekend.

    I have a copper plate on a bookshelf where I keep the little silver hearts you filled ‘American Gods’ with. I still find them in the oddest places. You are all over my home.

  4. Casual Observer Says:

    I saw this movie, and it is 3 hours of my life I can’t get back. It was not enjoyable. I understand the new underlying theme for comic book heroes is show the dark side. No more cartoons… just the multifaceted aspects of their personalities and the drama that leads them to follow these secret lives.

    But, this movie had too much going on… too much back story it tried to throw at you. Too much nudity and violence that really isn’t required unless the audience you are trying to get is horror fans crossing over into our geekdom. I don’t need to see a supreheroe’s oversized appendage… there are just things that add nothing to the story that get thrown in for, I assume, the cheap thrill of pushing the envelope.

    I was geared up to see this film, and now I am greatly dissappointed in that this movie presented little for me to enjoy and walk away with any satisfaction.

  5. Excellent. It sounds like I will love it. Don’t worry, I’m certain Adam Sandler will be releasing something new soon.

  6. The Prof Says:


    Warning: verbose. I’m curious as to whether you read the original graphic novel before you saw the film–this seems to bear directly on a person’s enjoyment of the movie, in my observations. The original text is extraordinarily dense, with layer upon layer of literary allusion (no kidding–it’s probably the most written-about graphic novel, like, ever).

    Again, not sure how familiar you are with the story, but of course much of it IS backstory. If you’re not, I could definitely see why you might not enjoy the film adaptation–one has certain expectations of super-hero movies: that there’s a clear good guy and bad guy (though you’ve not mentioned the moral ambiguity as a problem), and that there’s a lot of visceral action. Watchmen has neither: it’s ambiguous and cerebral and full of creepy sexuality. And, of course, there’s a naked blue guy (they gave him considerably more schlong in the film than he has in the book–but anyhoo, his nudity stresses the fact that human trappings are no longer interesting to him).

    And actually, if you’re concerned that super-hero movies have become all about why people would dress up in funny costumes and fight bad guys, well, Watchmen IS the reason. That, and The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller’s take on Batman. As per the horror element: again, you’ve made an interesting observation: superheroes are the opposite of horror, as a general rule: their stories are about empowerment. Watchmen is all about DISempowerment: naked blue guy is so powerful that it is, quite frankly, horrifying, and if such a being existed, I would totlly crap my pants. In other words…I think that was the point–traditional heroes up against something that’s really beyond human beings’ power to deal with.

    Just a thought. A really verbose thought, since I’m avoiding grading at present.

    Winston, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. I love talking about this stuff.

  7. Prof-
    I haven’t seen it yet, but your assessment of the novel is spot on; it’s the comic book that allowed us to talk about comic books in a serious way. This particular superhero story is most effectively told as a comic book; only this medium allows for the density of text and the poetry of visual images to adequately express the nuance of the story and deliver the intended impact of the author…


    Here we are, only a few generations after the introduction of television talking about comic books as literature. Isn’t it funny how the worst fears of the reactionary conservatives of the 50’s have been fully realized? A black man is US President, gay people are getting married, and college professors are talking about comic books as literature. We live in awesome times.

  8. The Prof Says:


    The low culture of one century often becomes the high culture of the next. In the 18th century the novel was considered unseemly. Theatre was low-brow in the 16th. The Beatles and Leonard Cohen are now in the Norton Anthology of Poetry.

    And I ain’t kiddin’ myself: three hundred years from now when literary scholars look at the 20th century, they’ll be looking at Steven King.

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