The Day the Watchmen Stood Still.

Warning: There be comic-book spoilers here.

IGN.com has posted the newest video journal for Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons — and around the 1:49 mark, there is a brief glimpse of a theatre that is showing The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

This detail happens to come from the graphic novel itself, but I had forgotten it was in there, so my initial reaction to this part of the video was one of amusement, since the film version of Watchmen was shot in Vancouver around the same time that Scott Derrickson was filming his remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Not only that, but Keanu Reeves was initially offered the part of a godlike superhero in Watchmen, and he ended up playing the Christlike alien Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still instead — but since the two films were being made in such close proximity to each other, Reeves made a point of visiting the Watchmen set while they were both in town. So this could almost be a sort of in-joke between Snyder and Reeves. Almost.

However, as I mentioned, this detail is actually there in the original graphic novel as well, so it’s more of a coincidence than an in-joke. If I’m not mistaken, it first appears in Chapter 11 (out of 12), in the background to a sequence in which a psychiatrist suffering an existential crisis bumps into his wife on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Here’s a sample panel from that sequence:

The marquee with the movie title appears again, later in that same chapter, in one of several images that depict this intersection mere moments before it is hit by a sudden catastrophe:

And then, in Chapter 12, after the catastrophe takes place — a catastrophe that many will go on to believe was part of an alien invasion — we get an even better look at the theatre, and the bodies of those who died on its doorstep; and if you look closely, you can even see pictures of Gort and Klaatu on the wall:

And what is the significance of The Day the Earth Stood Still to Watchmen? Well, for starters, both stories feature a character who wants to bring an end to war on Earth, and who uses the threat of an alien attack to try to get us to stop fighting each other. But where Klaatu only threatens to do us harm, thus giving us time to discover and reveal our better natures, Ozymandius actually launches an attack, thus tricking the governments of the world into thinking that they must prepare for an even bigger battle down the road against an even deadlier common enemy.

The interesting question here is whether Ozymandius is meant to be the polar opposite of Klaatu, or Klaatu’s darker self.

Canadian box-office stats — September 7

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Death Race — CDN $3,920,000 — N.AM $29,909,125 — 13.1%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $17,260,000 — N.AM $136,440,050 — 12.7%

Tropic Thunder — CDN $10,160,000 — N.AM $96,541,629 — 10.5%
Bangkok Dangerous — CDN $802,454 — N.AM $7,783,266 — 10.3%
The House Bunny — CDN $3,730,000 — N.AM $36,611,667 — 10.2%
Pineapple Express — CDN $8,290,000 — N.AM $84,013,748 — 9.9%
The Dark Knight — CDN $48,100,000 — N.AM $511,997,658 — 9.4%

Babylon A.D. — CDN $1,500,000 — N.AM $17,378,536 — 8.6%
Disaster Movie — CDN $659,630 — N.AM $10,602,140 — 6.2%
Traitor — CDN $801,427 — N.AM $17,265,872 — 4.6%

The Black Hole — third time’s the charm?


Jim Hill says Disney is thinking of re-making The Black Hole (1979) — but first, to test the waters, they’re thinking of releasing a brand new graphic-novel adaptation of the original film.

Hill goes on to suggest that what comic-book fans might really want is not a new graphic novel, but a collection of the Sunday strips that were drawn back then by comic-book legend Jack Kirby, whose serialization of The Black Hole was apparently the only movie adaptation of his career:

I had never heard of Kirby’s adaptation before, but I must say that the two panels above look better than just about anything in the magazine-sized Golden comic book that I have had for nearly 30 years, now. Here is how it depicts the scene depicted above:

So, if Disney commissions yet another comic-book adaptation of this film, will the third time be the charm, then?

And does this film really have that big of a cult following?

Barry Lyndon revisited.


Barry Lyndon (1975; my comments) is easily one of Stanley Kubrick‘s most under-rated films — it was even excluded from that recent DVD boxed set which included all of Kubrick’s other films from the past four decades — so it’s always nice to come across a new appreciation of the film, especially one that is written by someone who has just seen it for the first time. The most recent example that I’ve come across is this post by J. Robert Parks, who compares the stunning artistry of Kubrick’s film with the apparently more conventional techniques used by the newest version of Brideshead Revisited. Definitely worth reading.

Will Smith’s Last Pharaoh gets a new writer.


Six months ago, I mentioned that Will Smith was hoping to star in a movie about Taharqa, one of the last Pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty, which is also known as the Nubian Dynasty because its members were of Ethiopian descent and were not quite native Egyptians. (Other foreigners who ruled as Pharaohs at one point or another include the apparently Semitic Hyksos, of the 15th Dynasty, and the Greeks who ruled Egypt for three centuries, from the conquest of Alexander to the death of Cleopatra.)

Tonight, Variety reports that a new writer has been hired to do the screenplay, and it is none other than Randall Wallace, who is best known for his work on historical battle epics like Braveheart (1995; my comments) and Pearl Harbor (2001; my review).

Wallace is an open Christian, and Taharqa seems to make a cameo appearance in the Bible, during the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC — so a Bible-movie buff like me would obviously hope for a little biblical action here. But alas, it is probably not to be. Variety says the film, which is called The Last Pharaoh, will focus instead on Taharqa’s battles with Sennacherib’s son, Esarhaddon, which began in 677 BC.

Ah well. I’ll be happy just to see Assyrian armies on the big screen. It could make for a nice change of pace from all the Greeks and Romans who tend to dominate the ancient-epic genre.

Festivals coming to Vancouver this month.


The Vancouver International Film Festival, which takes place this year between September 25 and October 10, posted its online film guide today, and suffice it to say that I have only begun to figure out which films I will make a point of seeing and when. (Matters are complicated by the fact that I do not yet know which films I will be able to see before the festival begins.)

However, since I am a Bible-movie buff, I will note that this year’s line-up includes not only Albert Serra’s El cant dels ocells, AKA Birdsong — which is based on the journey of the Three Wise Men — but it also features the world premiere of Waiting for Sancho, a documentary on the making of Serra’s film produced by Mark Peranson, a VIFF programmer who also happens to play Joseph in Serra’s film.

Before the big film festival comes to town, there is at least one small film festival that sounds like it might be worth checking out, too. The SPARK Animation Festival takes place September 10-14 and will feature, among other things, the western Canadian premiere of Leslie Iwerks’s documentary The Pixar Story (2007).