Watchmen is set in an alternative 1985, and if you glance at the photos of the Owl Ship and Oxymandias, you'll see the evidence in a lost landmark, and a president long gone. Like most comic book realities, costumed superheroes ( or "costumed adventurers" as they're called in the book) are real, but most have a pronounced lack of superpowers. Watchmen centers on two generations of them -- the Minutemen, and the Crimebusters. No one is actually called "the Watchmen" in the story; the title refers to any group who's goal is to protect society from themselves. Hence the phrase, repeated throughout the book and film, "Who watches the watchmen?"
[ Continued after the jump ... with more pics! ]
The heroes of Watchmen are anything but. They're flawed and conflicted individuals, recognizably human. There are several that populate the book, but the main stars are introduced here: Dr. Manhattan, Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Ozymandias, the Comedian, and Rorschach. (Check them out in our gallery, it's pretty easy to figure out who is who.) When our story begins, costumed heroes have actually been outlawed thanks to unpopular opinion, riots, and the passing of the Keene Act. All but one have given up crime-fighting. That one is Rorschach, a violent vigilante who fights crime in his own unique way. He's the famous figure in a brown trenchcoat, fedora, and ever-shifting blot mask. It's his investigation into the death of one of their own (right through a plate glass window -- the sharp-eyed can figure out who) that kicks off the story. He's also the only voice you hear in the trailer.
There is one hero who does have superpowers, and they're pretty impressive: Dr. Manhattan, whose origin story kicks off the trailer. He was once a brilliant physicist named Jon Osterman. He's accidentally locked into a nuclear chamber, stripped apart in a horrific accident, and taken from the physical plane. But he begins to literally reassemble himself, scaring a few humble lab employees in the process:
He finally manifests into a blue glowing figure who no longer abides by the laws of physics. He can split into multiple versions, grow or shrink according to need, sprout multiple limbs, and manipulate matter. Oh yeah, and he can also incinerate the unfortunate. The morality of his actions escapes him.
The arrival of Dr. Manhattan alters the world forever, particularly on a technological and socio-political scale. He is quickly co-opted into the Crimebusters, and when costumed heroes are outlawed, Dr. Manhattan begins working for the government. One of his tasks is to end the Vietnam War, with the help of another character called The Comedian. The two make a perfectly amoral pair, although only one truly seems to enjoy the carnage:
The heroes are called out of retirement after one of them is murdered. Rorschach, a reluctant Laurie, and Nite Owl take it upon themselves to investigate, but it soon becomes apparent that someone is deliberately eliminating heroes. They find themselves caught up in a massive conspiracy as the world edges closer to nuclear war. As America looks to Doctor Manhattan for help in averting nuclear disaster, he exiles himself to Mars, and it will fall to Laurie to convince him to return.
I honestly don't now if all this makes the trailer any clearer to the newbies, but that's a very loose gist of the book as filtered through this first clip. I'm talking around most of the major plot points, as I really don't want to spoil the story. But, it won't be long before someone does. Get yourself a copy of the book, enjoy, and then wait for March 6 with anxious anticipation.