This week we try out for a direct continuation of the highly potent Mrs Doubtfire franchise. We present to you our valiant attempt at developing a darker new chapter in everyone’s favourite quasi-Scottish nanny’s life…
Tom: yeah sure
lets do it
Mrs Doubtfire 2?
John: alan moore style
behind the mask
so it’s definitely a direct continuation, right? same cast?
Tom: oh absolutely
it’s set maybe 5 years later
the kids can be recast
and everything seems normal. Robin Williams is still doing the Mrs Doubtfire show
then one night he comes home to his wife and they’re in bed together. and he starts talking dirty in Mrs Doubtfire’s voice.
they both think it’s hilarious that he’s using an old woman’s voice while in bed. and laugh it off. but then robin williams goes to the bathroom, looks in the mirror and sees Mrs Doubtfire in the reflection
cue titles: Mrs Doubtfire 2: Burning Desire
John: because of the flaming fake breasts?
does that play a role in the next film?
Tom: that’s interesting. maybe in a freak accident on set, the breasts melt and get stuck to him
anyway. so basically robin williams has to deal with the fact that he can no longer control Mrs Doubtfire
also i seem to recall in the first that Mrs Doubtfire is always pining over her dead husband. i forget his name. We’ll call him Norman for the time being
Tom: and Mrs Doubtfire wants Norman back, so she’s on the hunt for a replacement Norman
that kindly old bus driver in the first film gets assaulted
John: ah maybe it could be a case of lost time
like robin williams wakes up and doesn’t remember the last few hours
sort of like a transvestite version of Memento
Tom: yeah, but he looks down and he’s wearing frilly knickers
John: that’s right
as Doubtfire he’s trying to fill the void left by norman
Tom: it also becomes a bit like The Fly. because it gets to the point where he’s physically turning into an old lady
he also needs Sally Field out of the picture as she’s not old enough for him
John: so Brundlefire is gradually morphing over the course of the second act, we’ve set up the schism between him and sally field in the first act, where do we go from there?
Tom: we need a hero
someone to save robin williams
John: the gay couple from the start of the first film?
Tom: oh no. they’re brainwashed by Brundlefire to try and use their make-up skills to make Sally Field look like poor deceased Norman
John: ah yes, of course
shouldn’t take that much work though
of course once she looks like Norman, Brundlefire will have to kill her, as Norman is dead. he/she needs to make things perfect
you know i hope the transvestite community isnt appalled by this film.
John: i think a lot of people are going to be appalled by this film. i’m also not sure how i feel about brainwashing the gay couple
there are so many nasty layers to this film
Tom: it’s a nasty film
John: we’ve still not got a hero though
Tom: the cover of the film though will look like the cover of Mrs Doubtfire 1
the trailer too, will be cut to look like a romantic comedy
John: so we’re really going for a suckerpunch of a movie
i like this
Tom: viral marketing too. Robin Williams dressed up as Mrs Doubtfire will respond to random ads in actual newspapers looking for a nanny
John: i think i’d be pretty terrified if williams turned up at my house responding to an ad
John: can pierce brosnan save him?
Tom: oh god i forgot about pierce
he’s the decoy hero though
John: so he dies?
Tom: like scatman crothers in The Shining
yeah. he comes to save the day, then Brundlefire shoves a pepper down his throat and his allergies kill him
John: can we have pierce get a call from williams right at the very start of the movie? so we keep cutting back to brosnan making his way across the globe
only to be peppered in the final reel
Tom: yeah of course
but we still need a hero
what other characters are there in the first one?
John: just looking through imdb, nothing is jumping out
we might need a new character
shouldn’t be too much of a stretch as we have all the important principle cast intact
John: joseph gordon levitt?
Tom: he’s a bit too good for this
John: paul walker
he’s going to be our muse
Tom: ok how about this
paul walker was raised by his grandma who died
and mrs doubtfire comes along and acts as a grandma figure
paul walker has no idea that it’s actually robin williams in disguise
he feels close with Doubtfire, not knowing what he/she is becoming
turns out that Paul Walker’s grandpa was the bus driver who mrs doubtfire murdered
and paul walker remembers his grandpa talking about an old lady with hair legs
and sees doubtfire shaving them and puts two and two together
John: this is such a tragic story
Tom: well with the help of paul walker, robin williams eventually destroys his alter ego
John: so does paul walker then ingratiate himself into the family?
Tom: if only it was that simple
this is where things get meta
robin williams weakened by mrs doubtfire isnt prepared for what happens next
John: now i’m terrified…
Tom: ALL of Robin Williams other alter egos staart to randomly surface as if he is malfunctioning
so Jack, Patch Adams, Bicentential Man, Jakob The Liar, Peter Pan etc…they all start surfacing randomly
like when the T-1000 at the end of Terminator 2 is malfunctioning
robin williams can no longer control his personality
John: ok i’m definitely in on this project
but don’t forget popeye
it’s kinda like a video game boss battle
with each personality, Paul Walker must find its weakness
John: i think we’ve got this wrapped up, what do you think? i’m confident about this one
Anticipation for comic book adaptations come in very different forms. The Batman movies all suffer from a similar fate in that fans want darker every time, hence the widespread spurning given to Joel Schumacher’s Cyberpunk nightmares during the 1990s. Daredevil suffered a similar fate, although in both cases, little argument can be made for the actual quality of the adaptations, let alone their inability to tap into the desires that fans have of what they envisage for beloved characters. Sometimes, the criticism becomes slightly unfair. Witness the recent news that Fantastic Four is to be rebooted by Fox with a view to providing a darker vision of their super-family strife. The Fantastic Four movies are not great but, admit it, they capture the spirit of the comics very well indeed.
Watchmen is an entirely different beast. You could compare them to other Alan Moore adaptations and the treatment they had, but that doesn’t quite grasp the kind of no-win situation into which Zack Snyder plunged himself by taking on, and subsequently talking up, a film version of Moore’s most revered work. V for Vendetta inspires great love amongst Moore fans but that adaptation seemed doomed from the beginning given the presence in the directorial chair of James McTeigue, the perfect example of what Kevin Smith described as ‘failing upwards’ in Hollywood. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t Moore’s most revered but it is a brilliant, rollicking set of tales. It should have been easy to adapt but, beset by problems across the board, you can understand why that one fell to pieces. None though carry with them the stigma of adaptation that Watchmen has. It is an distinctly mixed desire amongst fans to see the film adapted anyway. It has often been described as unfilmable, not least by Moore himself, while the likes of Terry Gilliam (who was advised not to embark on the venture by Moore himself) and Paul Greengrass walked on past without managing to bring it to life. So, as this beast arrives, the question is raised as to whether Snyder managed to pull it off, and whether he should have tried at all.
The answer to both is a very tentative yes. Watchmen is some achievement, a linear and entertaining action movie gleaned from source material which never gives any concession to such narrative convention. You could never deny that Snyder has pulled off the adaptation, and for that he should be applauded. But he should not be lauded because, while this is undoubtedly something to see, nearly every problem that this film has offsets the positives and, on both sides of that coin, Snyder takes responsibility.
Snyder is undoubtedly a visual stylist, maybe even auteur, and his fingerprints are smeared on every scene. There are a great number of moments from the graphic novel which get lifted into the film wholesale, itself a visceral thrill for any fan watching. In doing so, he manages to include a number of the bigger themes that the book explores, not to mention the moments of humour that Moore often slips in, a welcome addition to what is a big, serious movie. The title sequence deserves a significant amount of praise, given that it manages to provide the alternative history of Moore’s United States with panache and skill without every feeling like important information is being shoehorned in; it’s a lesson for anyone taking on big, difficult adaptations and how to deal with the fact that five-hour movies don’t tend to sell. The other huge positive the movie has is Dr Manhattan, a brilliant CG/human creation which outstanding work from Billy Crudup, joining Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Comedian in bringing the characters to life with verve and skill. Manhattan’s screen-incarnation is so well-judged and intelligently used, he is easily the most fully-realised and well understood adapted creation in Snyder’s universe.
But, for all the good, the bad and mistepping comes streaming through to match. The minor gripes first. The sex scene, itself used in a semi-comic context in the movie, is incredibly poorly filmed and badly judged by Snyder, coming across like the worst form of late-night, Channel 5 nonsense. Akerman is weak as Silk Spectre 2, an undemanding character which she manages to make completely unbelievable, especially in the S&M variation on the original costume which reaks of at-least partial sexism. Matthew Goode too, whilst relatively good in terms of look and attitude as Ozymandias, is slightly out of place and, although reportedly this was an acting choice, his accent is all over the shop.
The real problems though fall to Snyder himself. He is a director with great visual flair and an understanding of action quotients and slickness. However, his addiction to slo-mo fight scenes and, in this case, astonishing violence in given parts (the alley way and Rorschach’s turning point with a cleaver). Snyder seems far too interested in the slo-motion sequences, themselves extremely annoying and lacking in the kind of pace needed, and ends up fetishising the violence in truly disturbing fashion. It seems as though his history on 300, a far less illustrious project but equally strewn with heavy, slo-mo battles, was more indicative of his overall style rather than his adherence to Frank Miller’s work. Any concentration on the violence in Watchmen is to miss the point of the story, especially when he’s putting in the action sequences in slo-mo and taking up time which should be used to bring in other story parts (most notably the magazine vendor and kid reading comic which frame the story in the comic so brilliantly). It seems to me that Snyder was much more interested in amping up the violence and action scenes and producing a linear movie, rather than managing to balance the more difficult moments in Watchmen with those base elements.
As a director, he can undoubtedly make a film in which you are dazzled by the visuals and the gung-ho entertainment value. But it seems he does not have the ability to grasp wider emotional issues. For that reason, Watchmen doesn’t quite manage to ascend to greatness. But, for all the faults that strew the movie, I would argue that this is the absolute best that Snyder could ever have done and, therefore, he can be rewarded on a personal level. But I cannot help but wonder what a more versatile directorial talent would have made of it. Given all the history though, I think I can just be pleased that Snyder managed to adequately sidestep fucking up the greatest work of graphic fiction of all time.