The NY Comic-Con Watchmen Preview

The 4th Annual New York Comic-Con was in full swing on Saturday, and the programming in the IGN Theater kicked off with a well-attended Warner Bros. presentation for their upcoming movie slate. First up was Watchmen with the original graphic novel artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons there to introduce the footage. The fans in attendance got really excited when Gibbons announced they would be seeing the first eighteen minutes of the movie. Mind you, a lot of journalists had seen this opening but no one in the general public, and he also said that those in attendance would see a scene that no one else has seen before.

The first eighteen minutes were essentially the same thing shown to various journalists last year, although it looked a little more finished, particularly the music. It opens on the Comedian’s smiley face pin and the camera moves out to show Edward Blake aka The Comedian enjoying a quiet night at home watching television and drinking tea. President Nixon is giving a speech about the Russians and the country going to war, followed by an episode of McLaughlin report with look-alikes of McLaughlin and Pat Buchanan. As he watches television, he spots someone standing outside the door and when he breaks in, Comedian acts like he knows the person standing in shadow. He spills out his tea and throws the mug at the person, then follows it up by picking up a gun and shooting but missing. In the graphic novel, we only see a few panels of the fight but we see the entire thing played out as the Comedian and the mystery assailant violently duke it out using their fists and knives. Eventually, the attacker gets the better of the Comedian and starts picking him up and throwing him around like a rag doll, smashing him through a glass table and into a wall. We see a close-up of his smiley button as a splotch of blood drops onto it, creating that iconic image we’ve all seen, before the Comedian is picked up and thrown through the glass window, and the camera follows him (and the button) as they fall four to five stories to the ground, ending up in a crumpled mess in a pool of blood.

As the opening chords of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” begin to play, the credits essentially go through the history of this alternate world and the place the costumed heroes have in it. We see the end of WWII and a V-day scene where a sultry heroine comes up behind a nurse and gives her a huge kiss to celebrate; later, we see the same heroine and another woman slaughtered in bed with the word “whores” scrawled on the wall behind them. (Yes, it’s Silhouette… thanks for the heads up, commenters.) We see Dr. Manhattan meeting John F. Kennedy, and then in the next scene, we see the assassination of Kennedy and we learn that the Comedian was the shooter on the grassy knoll. We see Nixon celebrating his election for a third term, and we get a scene representing the Kent State shootings. The couple appearances by Rorschach during the opening credits, even as a young boy, received huge applause from the knowing fans in the audience. The credits end with the first gathering of the new Crimebusters (although it’s rumored that they’re being renamed “The Watchmen” to avoid confusion), introducing themselves to the world on television. The camera pans back to show someone spray-painting “Who Watches the Watchmen?” on the window of the television shop but then someone throws a firebomb at the store window which explodes outwards.

The credits end back on the Comedian’s smiley button in the pool of blood, which is being washed off the streets and the camera zooms back up to the apartment where two police detectives are examining the crime scene and talking about the death of Eddie Blake. The camera pulls back away from them quickly through the window to show the entire city including the Owl Ship floating in the air not too far away. Then we’re back down on the streets as we see Rorschach arrive on the scene, narrated by the entry from his journal similar to the graphic novel, as he finds the Comedian’s button in a grate. He pulls out a grappling hook and uses it to smash through the police tape and then projectiles it up to the floor where the detectives were in the previous scene and rappels upwards, then starts to explore the abandoned apartment looking at various objects. He comes to the closet and starts poking around, finding the secret switch that unveils the Comedian’s costume and his guns, as well as a portrait of the original Minutemen, and that’s where the scene ends, essentially on Page 8 of the original graphic novel.

This extended opening scene was quickly followed by a very short new clip, which involved Rorschach in prison, standing in line for food–we see the kitchen at work including the fryolators as a bit of foreshadowing–and a big black guy behind him pulls a shank on him, but Rorschach slams him in the head with his food tray, smashes the glass and grabs the fry basket full of French fries and smashes it over the head of his would-be assailant who falls to his knees as his face melts away from the blistering heat of the oil. The scene ends with Rorschach growling, “I’m not locked in here with you… you’re locked in here with me!” as he’s grabbed by the guards. Needless to say, this short clip went over very well.

The first question from the audience asked about the rumors about the end of the graphic novel being changed for the film, particularly the absence of the “squid monster” that many have been clamoring about. “The outcome is exactly the same as the graphic novel, but the MacGuffin, the gimmick, is a little different,” Gibbons told him. “I think you know what I mean; there’s no squid. I’d rather not say too much about it, but I certainly wasn’t at all upset or disappointed or offended. I think that’s the most important thing about the movie adaptation is that it has to stand as a good movie. The reality of it is that you have to make changes and you have to take things away, add things on, amalgamate things to make it work in a different medium.”

The next question also asked about the squid, to which Gibbons exclaimed, “Why is the squid so important?” but he mused a bit more about the change for the movie. “In a sense, in the comic book, the squid is kind of a huge special effect that Adrian Veidt pulls, a practical joke, a trick, but if you have a movie that essentially is full of special effects, than the squid is just another special effect, if you see what I mean, so that I think that wouldn’t have worked as well in the movie. That’s my personal feeling about it. Sorry for all your cephalopod lovers out there.” This got a great laugh, as did Gibbons’ suggestion that after the premiere, they could all go out for calamari.

Gibbons also fielded a question about any stipulations that Warner Bros. might have in terms of making a prequel or a sequel to the film if it proves successful. “If they want to make a prequel or sequel there’s nothing I can do to stop them from doing it,” he admitted. “At least on one occasion, DC was once tempted to do spinoffs and a sequel but wiser heads prevailed, and they left it alone, and I think ultimately, that was completely the correct decision.”

“If you try to add anything to Watchmen, you’re not enriching it, you’re diluting it,” he continued. “Sure, you can tell another adventure of Batman or Spider-Man, but (“Watchmen”) is like a complete story, and certainly, while I’m very supportive of this and I’m very thrilled by what they’ve done with it, I think if someone mentioned to me about doing a prequel or sequel, my impression is that you won’t get Zack Snyder directing it, so my counsel would be ‘Leave well enough alone.'” (This got a big cheer, so take note, Warner Bros.)

When asked, Gibbons also confirmed that Alan Moore is the most rational and sane person he’s ever met and is not “batsh*t crazy” as some people in Hollywood might think due to his unwillingness to be involved with the movie or accept any of the profits if the movie proves to be as big a success as many think. Furthermore, Gibbons confirmed that his first experience in Hollywood has been very good and that he’s been treated very well by everyone, though he also confirmed (as most expect) that Moore’s name will definitely not be on the movie.

To conclude the presentation, Gibbons talked about the history of turning his graphic novel into a movie including the proposed version with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Manhattan, the Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass attempts at trying to get the project off the ground over the years, and how after meeting Zack Snyder at the London premiere of 300, he had a gut feeling back then that he “got it” and that “nothing’s changed in that gut feeling.”

Watchmen opens in conventional and IMAX theaters on March 6.

Source: Edward Douglas