For a giant-sized handful of lucky fans at comic con yesterday, WB screened the first 18 minutes of the Watchmen, as well as an additional scene which has yet to be screened anywhere else. It just so happens AHR and myself happened to be among the lucky few. Now, at this point, I feel like an ass saying "*Spoiler Alert*"... I doubt there are even a few among you who don't know exactly how the Watchmen ends. But for those who don't, or at least for those who want to keep the movie fresh, stop reading.
As an added treat, Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons introduced the film clips. Even though Alan Moore may not be behind the project, Gibbons certainly seems to be. He had nothing but glowing praise for the film and the people behind it. Of course you have to take that with a grain of salt, but to be honest, after seeing the open... I have to say I'm pretty impressed. I've been expecting disappointment-I enjoy keeping my expectations low, but unfortunately that may be a challenge now.
Anyway, let's get to it. The film opens on Blake chilling in his swanky apartment and a series of news clips on tv about escalating Cold War tensions and whatnot. There's a brief Nixon press conference and a few other clips not featured in the comic. I'm always wary of added material, but I'm really enjoying all of this era specific news footage; plus their Nixon is the perfect amount of cartoony Nixon characterization... not too goofy, but just evil enough to be a caricature.
Blake's fight with the shadowy assailant is now a full on scene, not just a series of flashbacks as it was in the comic. The fight sequence is impressively choreographed... though it's a bit dancy for my tastes (in its defense, AHR loved it). I just pictured that fight as a bit more desperate and brutal-no fancy moves or anything, just a good old fashioned ass-whoopin. But it is a superhero movie, and those Hollywood fight coordinators have to do something with their time. There was some impressive knife play, I'll give it that.
Immediately after Blake is tossed out the window and we've held on the requisite falling, blood-stained button; we go into the title sequence. And here is where the brilliance begins; this is what truly impressed me. Set to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'", the title montage is made up of beautifully composed, nearly frozen in time moments of this world's history. Starting with a happy photo of the 1940's Minutemen, the montage slowly devolves into the grimmer reality of the "present day" Watchmen universe. Things were happy during WWII (I mean, who wouldn't be happy punching Nazis?), and then everything went to hell.
A few images worth mentioning: a recast version of the classic V-Day celebration photo of the sailor kissing the woman in the street... now its the sexy Silhouette kissing that lady... hooray for lesbianism. Even though I might find it hard to believe that these times were so forgiving as to celebrate lesbians in the street, I'm not one to ever complain about lesbians. So I won't. The excesses of the 70s are humorously covered as well-one shot features Andy Warhol showing off a Marilyn Monroe-esque print of the night owl. Another features a smug Ozymandias walking into a lavish studio 54. Of course the sad fates of the original Watchmen is covered, as well as some particularly sad shots of a young Walter Kovacs.
Ok, we're past that brilliance. We were lucky enough to see the scene following the titles as well-Rorschach inspecting Blake's apartment and discovering his alter ego as the Comedian. Despite a few well muttered "hurm"s, I have to say I'm skeptical of Jackie Earle Haley's Rorschach voice... its basically an impression of Christian Bale's Batman voice... and I was never really sold on his Batman voice to begin with. I wish he would have gone with a more monotone, emotionless take on the voice as opposed to the gravelly goodness of the Dark Knight.
After the open, we were blessed with the chance to see the cafeteria scene of Rorschach in prison. I've been trying to keep my fanboy cool, but this sucker had me gushing. It was pretty damn badass; despite the fact that if you closed your eyes, you could hear Batman yelling "I'm Not Locked Up In Here With You, You're Locked Up In Here With ME!" But here is where you really see how perfectly Jackie Earle Haley fits the role. He looks perfect (even if he doesn't sound it).
After the screening, Dave Gibbons answered a few brief questions. He guaranteed people that Doc Manhattan's nudity would remain explicit, he apologized to "cephalopod lovers" and broke hearts when he announced there would be no squid monster at the end (though he reassured us that though the MacGuffin may be different, the ending is still the same)... Lastly, he touched upon an interesting point. In response to a question about the potential for the film to change the superhero film genre, he expressed disappointment in the direction comics took after Watchmen. Together with the Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen heralded one of the darkest ages in comicdom (both in theme and quality) Apparently, back in the day, both Gibbons and Moore joked that if they were to work on another DC property, they would have loved to work on Captain Marvel; a decidedly happier and lighter character than any of the others. Gibbons expressed hope that the Watchmen movie wouldn't have the same effect on superhero films. Though it is interesting to note that timing wise, the movie coincides with the darkest Batman movie to date-and one that has already promised to change comic book movies. Hopefully the success of Iron Man and Spiderman will keep things balanced in the future. The last thing the now blossoming superhero movie machine needs, is another early 90's era dark age.
To end on a "positive" note, here is another awesome viral video for the Watchmen, courtesy of The New Frontiersman.