Titan Books has become well known as a publisher of magazines and books that tie in to popular Hollywood film and television properties.Â On February 10 the company will add three titles to its catalogue that provide an abundance of background imagery and information on Warner Brother’s controversial upcoming superhero movie Watchmen. They areÂ Watchmen: The Official Film Companion, Watchmen: The Art of the Film and Watchmen Portraits.
Watchmen is a superhero movie with a difference. For one thing, the world in which it is set is very different from the one we live in today. The classic graphic novel on which the film is based (by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins) was published in 1986 and 1987. For the film adaptation, director Zack Snyder (300) kept the story in that period rather than update it to the present day. That is not the only unconventional aspect of Watchmen, though. In the America in which the story takes place, costumed superheroes are nothing unusual (although superpowers are). Some are even employed by the government. When one such character is murdered, it draws other superheroes out of retirement to investigate the killing. What they uncover is a frightening conspiracy that threatens millions of lives.
The first of Titan’s books that will be reviewed here, Watchmen: The Official Film Companion, doesn’t give much background on the original graphic novel. To put the film in context, however, it does devote a chapter to describing the world of Watchmen and the history of the Watchmen universe. Related to this is an extensive chapter introducing the principle characters of the film. The rest of the book is devoted to describing how the graphic novel was brought to the screen. The first chapter covers how the story was adapted and gives an overview of how the filmmakers approached casting and the design of some of the costumes and sets. Later chapters cover production, post-production and the process used to realise the character of Dr. Manhattan. Manhattan has been created using essentially the same combination of acting (by Billy Crudup) and CGI that Peter Jackson used to film the giant ape in King Kong and Gollum in Lord of the Rings.
Watchmen: The Official Film Companion is a 176-page softcover title. It was written by Peter Aperlo, who also wrote the script for the video game 300: March to Glory. Most of the chapters provide limited background information that is non-technical but nevertheless interesting. There are also abundant quotes from the filmmakers. That material is always stimulating to read, although in publications of this sort it tends to provide a somewhat benign impression of the filmmaking process. Where this book really excels, is in its illustrations. Every page is literally covered with them and they provide an intriguing glimpse of the making of this unusual film.
Peter Aperlo is also credited with authoring Watchmen: The Art of Film. As indicated by the title, though, this book is more about pictures than words. This is a handsome 256-page hardback coffee table book that is lavishly illustrated with pictures from all aspects of the production. There are images hereÂ of everything fromÂ storyboards and concept art to sets, characters, production meetings and props. ItÂ gives a fascinating visual insight into the process of bringing a fantasy film. Although some of the material covers the same ground as that given in the Companion, the two books make an attractive set for fans of the film and graphic novel.
Glossy though it is, the last of Titan’s three titles to be published on February 10 may only appeal to real devotees of the Watchmen film. Watchmen Portraits is a 240-page hardback collection of black-and-white photographs of people who worked on the movie. These include actors, characters, production staff and extras. The photos were taken by the film’s official photographer Clay Enos. Aside from their relevanceÂ to the Watchmen film, many of his pictures are impressive examples of the photographic art form. There is grit, glamour, humour or a kind of creepiness in some of the shots. It is fun to try to guess what role the subject played in the production (there is a guide in the back) and it is not always what you might expect based on the picture. Again this is an impressive book, thanks to its content and the high quality of Titan’s production. Given it’s content and recommended retail price of $50.00, however, it is most likely to find a place only on the book shelves of collectors of Watchmen memorabilia.
The Watchmen movie will debut on cinema screens on March 6.