books to film

Book versus movie: Zack Snyder’s version of ‘Watchmen’ shows what is wrong with superhero films

The ‘300’ director is obsessively loyal to the landmark graphic novel, but it doesn’t work as a movie.

Alan Moore, often called one of the greatest comic book creators of all time, does not like film adaptations of his works. The British writer has had his name removed from each of the filmed versions of his comic books, including From Hell (2001), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), V for Vendetta (2005) and Watchmen (2009).

Moore recently announced his retirement from graphic novels, saying that he would like to branch out and perhaps explore filmmaking. It’s anyone’s guess if he will direct an adaptation of his books. When Terry Gilliam asked him early on in the 20-year production cycle of Watchmen how he would film it, Moore replied, “I wouldn’t”.

Play
Watchman (2009).

The film rights of Watchmen were sold soon after the first volume was published in 1986. Over 12 issues, Moore, with artist Dave Gibbons, created an iconic Citizen Kane of comics books, that used a wide array of cinematic techniques to deconstruct the superhero genre and place it in a real world setting. The comic created an alternate history of the United States of America, in which disgraced president Richard Nixon was still in power and the country won the Vietnam War. Watchmen channelled the apocalyptic fears of the Cold War era.

Numerous directors were considered for the job, including Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass. Gilliam and Greengrass both wanted altered versions of the original, with the latter wanting to update the Cold War setting to the Iraq war.

Before Zack Snyder’s version hit cinemas in 2009, it was one of the most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. Every casting decision and minor news detail were widely reported on fan sites. Snyder himself frequently referred to his devotion to the source material, saying that he carried around the comic book as a storyboard.

The released film is a faithful-to-a-fault version of the graphic novel, which uses most of the dialogue line-for-line, recreates almost every panel shot-for-shot, and, barring a few visually interesting elements, doesn’t really work as a film. Perhaps that is why Lost and Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof has decided to embark on a new television series adaptation of Watchmen.

Play
Watchman (2009).

Part of the reason for the film’s failure might lie with the fact that it came too early in the superhero cycle. The original comic book not only commented on the politics of the modern world but also on the superhero genre as a whole. What would happen if Superman really existed? Would he, like Dr Manhattan, be unable to really feel any kind of emotions to his fellow man, because of his God-like status? What would his presence mean for world politics and the fate of humanity as a whole?

For a Watchmen movie to be truly successful, it needed to have commented on superhero movies as a whole and the kind of ideologies and philosophies they put forth. In that regard, Alejandro G Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) is a vastly superior unravelling of the superhero myth.

Perhaps, the greatest flaw is Snyder’s devotion to the original. He does not alter a single frame. What is implicit in the original is made explicit in the film, such as a key character’s involvement with the assassination of John F Kennedy and Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, further removing the graphic novel’s complexity.

In the 21st century, the Cold War, or fears of a nuclear holocaust, are hardly as current as they were in a world before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the unification of Germany. By not engaging with the politics of the modern world, the movie simply doesn’t have the power or heft of the original. None of the decisions made by the characters in the Watchmen film is of importance, and completely lose their relevance because we know about the real world outcome.

Play

Because Snyder refused to update or alter the material in any way, choosing to create a kind of motion comic book, the film becomes hermetically sealed. It isn’t in conversation with anything except itself. And much of what works in the comic book feels completely cartoonish when recreated on screen.

Dr Manhattan, a blue-coloured superman who was created in a laboratory accident, can never really be taken seriously. Rorschach, the most iconic character in the series for his hard-boiled narration and take-no-prisoners attitude, becomes a one-note character because Snyder saddles the actor who plays him with the much lampooned Christian Bale voice from the Batman films.

Snyder’s films have always relied on style over substance, a gimmick that worked for 300, and to a lesser extent on his 2004 remake of George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. On Watchmen, Snyder is uninterested in the plethora of ideas on offer in the 12 issues in the series. Snyder uses a jukebox soundtrack that includes the likes of hits such as Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence without ever earning the feelings those songs evoke.

The best example of Snyder’s film references without any purpose is the use of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in the Vietnam war sequence, which was great in Apocalypse Now (1979), but is completely meaningless in Watchmen.

In a way, Snyder’s efforts foreshadowed everything that is wrong with the superhero genre, particularly the movies based on DC comics. Not only are they overly reliant on the source material, refusing to adapt or alter the material in any important way, but they also almost never work as films outside of the genre or their self-contained cinematic universes. It’s always about servicing the characters and their superpowers first and the story second.

Play
Watchmen (2009).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.