WatchmenComicMovie.com was at the press event that screened several scenes of the movie
I know. You’ve all been waiting to hear my report on the Watchmen footage I saw last night. Well, here’s how the night went down.
As soon as all of the invited guests were seated in the Warner Brother’s screening room at their palatial offices in New York City, DC Comics president Paul Levitz took the stage to get the party started.
Levitz explained that with the exception of Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons, who was also present that evening, nobody had been waiting longer than him for the comic series to be made into a movie.
After praising director Zack Snyder for helping him sell an extra million copies of the trade paperback since the movie trailer was released, he introduced the director who cautiously took the stage.
Snyder told the audience that he got interested in comics by way of a subscription to the über sexy and violent Heavy Metal magazine. After that, he explained that whenever he picked up a regular comic book he would think, “nobody's really fuckin’ or dyin’ in this, so I don’t get it.” So when he saw Watchmen, it immediately appealed to him.
Snyder explained that he knew adapting Watchmen into a film would be very difficult, so he approached the process by using key panels of the comic as his storyboard and then just filled in the shots in between those panels with sketches of his own.
The first clip that was shown was the first ten or so minutes of the movie which included retired hero Eddie Blake being attacked and killed by an unknown assailant in his apartment which lead into the opening credits of the film.
Now, in the comic, the Blake murder is shown as a flashback as police are investigating the crime scene, but in the film, it’s been fully fleshed out as a scene all of its own — and what a scene it is.
It starts with the camera pulling back slowly from a close-up on the smiley face badge pinned to the robe of the retired Edward Blake a.k.a. The Comedian. He’s making a cup of tea while watching the McLaughlin Group on late night T.V. The topic of the show is Russia — are they stockpiling nuclear weapons in preparation for an attack on the U.S, or are they still too afraid to provoke the United States because Dr. Manhattan is on our side? McLaughlin mentions that the atomic board of scientists has even recently moved the Doomsday Clock to five minutes to midnight due to the Soviets activities and asks the pundits on his show to comment on the situation.
As the pundits discuss, Blake takes his tea into his living room and plops into his easy chair. He starts flipping channels and stops on a commercial. Nat King Cole’s song “Unforgettable” plays over a scene with a beautiful couple relaxing and swimming in a pool by a luxurious mansion. It’s a commercial for Nostalgia Perfume. Blake smiles, some of the tension leaving his body. You can tell that he must really like the song.
BAM! Cut to the door of his apartment being kicked open by a dark figure wearing all black with a wool hat. Blake stands quickly than says, “Just a matter of time, I suppose.”
Blake looks down and sees that his gun is on the coffee table, resting atop a copy of “Hustler” magazine. He slowly pours the tea out of his cup, then quickly hurls it at the intruder. The intruder ducks, and the cup smashes onto the open door busting the apartment number which was 3002, to now read 300 (easter egg!)
Blake grabs his gun and points it at his assailant, by he's too quick. He attacks Blake and disarms him, but not before a shot is fired which goes into the T.V. screen which is still playing the commercial. Now the Nat King Cole song continues playing as the soundtrack for the fight.
The fight is fierce and violent with each combatant trading wild attacks that are fairly exaggerated. Walls are punched through, knives are thrown and caught, heads and bodies are smashed through tables and countertops.
As Blake stands at the end of the melee, face covered in blood, he smiles at his attacker and says, “It’s a joke. It’s all a joke.” A blood drop falls from his face and onto his smiley badge. Then, the assailant lifts Blake up with one arm and throws him through the plate glass window.
The camera follows Blake and the button down to the sidewalk where he lands. As blood flows from the dead hero’s body, the smiley badge lands next to him, bounces a few times, then slowly settles face up right by his shoulder.
Cut to the opening credits.
Accompanied by Bob Dylan's song, "The Times, They Are A'Changin'", the credit sequence takes viewers inside the whole history of masked heroes with many shots representing an alternate take on real-life historical events. Some of the scenes shown included:
— The Minutemen assembling for a group shot in their meeting room.
— Nite Owl I brawling with some thugs.
— A young, mustache-less Eddie Blake (a.k.a. The Comedian) posing for the press with two crooks he’s apprehended.
— Mothman screaming wildly as he's being dragged into a paddy wagon.
— Sally Jupiter (a.k.a Silk Spectre I) posing with police for a press photo.
— Masked hero Dollar Bill lying dead on the floor with his cape stuck in a bank’s revolving door.
— The Enola Gay dropping the A-Bomb on Hiroshima with an image of Silk Spectre I painted on it's nose.
— Ursula Zandt (a.k.a The Silhouette), the Minutemen's lesbian member, grabbing a young woman celebrating Japan’s surrender in New York, for an alt-universe version of that famous Life magazine shot.
— The Silhouette found murdered in bed with her lover with the words, "Lesbian Whores" written in their blood on the wall.
— A pregnant Silk Spectre I retiring from the Minutemen set up to look like Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting.
— Kruchev and Castro in a snowy Red Square watching jets do a fly-by over their heads.
— A young Walter Kovacs being patted on the head by a “john” as another heads into his mothers room for his “turn.”
— Doctor Manhattan shaking J.F.K.’s hand on the White House lawn.
— Kennedy being killed by The Comedian who shoots from the “grassy knoll.”
— An Apollo astronaut walking on the moon while Dr. Manhattan standing naked on the moon’s surface video tapes the event.
— Andy Warhol and Truman Capote speaking in front of A Warhol Pop Art painting of Nite Owl.
— A young Laurie standing in a dark hallway as her parents argue loudly.
— Flower children getting shot by American G.I.’s
— Adrian Veidt (a.k.a. Ozymandias) hanging out in front of New York City’s famous Studio 54 with the Village People and David Bowie.
— The Watchmen (Crimebusters) posing for a group shot.
—The Keane Riots on the streets of New York and a molotov cocktail being thrown through a store window.
— Term limits being eliminated on the U.S. presidency, insuring Nixon’s remaining in office through 1985.
The next scene that was previewed takes place after Dr. Manhattan flees to Mars. It covers all of the flashbacks that encompass the past history of Jon Osterman, and the accident that leads to him becoming Dr. Manhattan.
Not every flashback that appears in the comic is in this sequence. Many of the flashbacks that were seen were almost identical in dialog and panel composition as in the comic. Some of the changes included Wally Weaver now being Osterman’s old college buddy and the watch that was left in the intrinsic chamber is Osterman’s not Janey’s.
Now some of the material that was left out of this scene is not cut from the film and will appear someplace else in the movie — like the Crimebusters meeting or the Vietman War sequences. Even the scene where he shakes hands with J.F.K appears in the opening credits instead.
The last scene shown begins right after Dan and Laurie have consummated their love on the Owl Ship after rescuing victims of a tenement fire. Dan and Laurie are naked in each other's arms with their costume components strewn all over the floor.
Dan tells Laurie that they have an obligation to their crime fighting brethren and need to break Rorschach out of prison. Laurie tells Dan that it will be a lot more difficult doing that than saving fire victims. Dan smiles coyly and tells her, “Yes, but it will be a lot more fun too.”
In the next shot the Owl Ship swoops down over the burning prison where a riot is taking place. They both jump from the ship onto the roof and enter the prison where the rioters have gone completely wild and have overrun the entire facility.
Using some fairly coordinated and restrained martial arts moves, they battle their way down a cell block corridor dispatching any prisoners that are foolish enough to attack them.
When the finally encounter Rorschach he has retrieved his costume from (what Zack Snyder told me but was not shown in the footage they screened) the evidence box that his prison psychiatrist kept in his office.
As Dan and Laurie spot him, Rorschach is about to enter a men’s room to confront Big Figure, a diminutive con played by Danny Woodburn who he has a grudge against.
Rorschach greets them addressing Laurie as “Miss Jupiter.” He excuses himself to enter the facilities as Laurie exclaims, “Jesus Christ,” annoyed that he picked this of all times to relieve himself and not knowing he’s pursuing some “prey.” You hear the toilet flush as Rorschach exits and, as they all walk away, a pool of blood spills out from under the door.
After that, they screened some random clips, most of which were shown in the footage at Comic-Con. There were no real surprises or revelations in those clips.
The evening wrapped up with a Q&A session with Zack Snyder and Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons which I won’t recap here as someone from Comingsoon.net covertly recorded it.
So there you have it. Now, if you care about what my impressions were of what I saw, then read on.
Basically, I liked everything I saw. At first, though, I thought Blake’s battle with his “assailant” was a bit overdone and there attacks were very exaggerated and unrealistic. I mean, these are not real superheros with powers, just strong men with great fighting skills. I even brought this concern up with Dave Gibbons after the event and he explained to me that even though they aren’t real superheros, they are incredible people in their own right who have the best of any man’s fighting skills. So, if it's good enough for Dave…
But the reason I came around was I realized, this is one of the very iconic standoffs in the comic. The creativity in the fight scene gave it impact and importance, and as a fan, if Snyder had toned it down and made it a generic fight scene, I think I would have been let down even more. I know some fans will strongly disagree with me.
Everything else looked great and was very faithful to the comic I believe. Yes, we have some added action, and Snyder adds on a layer of his slow-motion/speed-up techniques on these sequences, but you can tell he’s showing restraint — using these techniques sparingly and only to add tension and heighten the drama where it fits.
As for Dr. Manhattan? I liked all of that as well. The one thing I would change would be to put some kind of vocal effect on Crudup's voice when he’s speaking as the Doc. The way the speech bubbles were drawn in the comic demonstrates that his voice is not like a regular person’s voice. It's not a deal breaker that it’s not there, but I still feel I'd like something there tonally — something subtle.
And performances? From the little I saw it looks like everyone has their character down. I’m going to give extra high marks to Patrick Wilson who literally channels Dan Dreiberg. Even dressed as Nite Owl you can see Dan behind the mask. I can’t explain how he does it, he just does. I got to see him do a scene when I visited the set and I felt the same way then as I do now. I can’t wait to see more of him on screen come March.
Also, from the cover of the Film Portraits book that is being released next year:
IT'S GONNA BE AMAZING!