Watchmen was, hands down, the best panel I've seen at con this year. (It also had the best swag -- a "Who Watches the Watchmen?" t-shirt!) I don't think I have been as stunned by preview film footage since Zack Snyder brought 300 two years ago. I don't think even Snyder's detractors can deny that he can turn out some cool footage. And let's just cut to my paltry description of it, as I know all many of you out there would have killed to be in my place. If you haven't read the book, here be spoilers.

The Watchmen scenes were literally goosebump inducing, and so much more than an extended trailer. It was set to a really eerie choir piece (any attendees know the name of that?) and began with a close-up of a certain smiley-face button dripping with blood. We saw a more gruesome version of Vietnam, with Dr. Manhattan's incineration being just a little more vicious somehow, and an extended version of his being stripped away, intercut with Osterman assembling clock pieces, and knocking down milk bottles at a state fair. Rorschach was the center of an especially chilling scene of his examination of the Comedian's apartment, and we saw his mask in action. It looks fantastic and very organic, not CGI at all.


The other character to really shine in the footage was Nite Owl. Yes, he does have a paunch! I was very skeptical about Patrick Wilson's casting, but what we saw looks like Dan Dreiberg stepped off the page. There was a glimpse of him sitting woefully next to his enshrined Owl suit, wearing the hideous green suit of the panels, and a scene of him looking down at the Comedian's grave, complete with enormous 1985 glasses. It sounds odd, but these two scenes ranked high on the favorites scale, simply because it was two quiet book moments brought so perfectly to life.

We also saw the first footage of Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre. she's rubbing her eyes as the flash of the camera goes off, and smiles down at the Comedian, who glances up at her with the sleaziest and most telling of looks. Gugino is stunning with Jupiter's red hair, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is just so pitch perfect thus far as the Comedian.

Laurie also got a few telling scenes -- a kiss with Nite Owl as a mushroom cloud exploded in the background, and her unzipping her top, presumably in his apartment. We also saw her pulling the cover off Archie the Owlship. But Oxymandias was bizarrely absent. I remember one scene of him, similar to what is in the trailer, in front of a bank of tv screens, but that's it. I get the impression they're afraid to show him -- hopefully it's because it will give too much away, rather than a uncertainty about his performance. We actually saw more of Dollar Bill than Oxymandias -- and poor Bill was caught by his cape in a revolving door.

And now, for a few tidbits from the Q&A:

-- Wilson misses Dan, and credits Dave Gibbons' artwork for helping him bring the character to life. "He's so down, but he has a light in his eyes ... he's fighting for it so bad." He felt like a badass once he put on the Owl Suit, and he understood immediately how it helped shape Dan's identity and confidence.
-- Jackie Earle Haley not only studied Watchmen for getting in touch with Rorschach, he read blogs and message boards to see what we geeks had to say about the character.
-- Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the Comedian: "Every day was a challenge. I found getting in the costume and sticking a cigar in my mouth really got me in the mood to kill people."
-- Matthew Goode learned about the book via its Wikipedia entry, which was read aloud to him by an American friend. "Looks like you're playing another gay, but this one's a stoner." He plays Veidt with an American accent when the character is out and about in his public CEO persona, but with a half American, half German accent when he's in his Oxymandias outfit. And when he called himself a "skinny little shit" now that he's given up the Veidt method, Billy Crudup could not stop laughing.
-- Crudup turned to Malin Akerman and said "You laughed in my face [the first few weeks]" as he tried to act before her wearing a suit covered in light up dots.
-- The actors weren't daunted by green screen as there was little of it, most of the sets were real.
-- Snyder wanted to get as much supplemental material in as he possibly could, even at the expense of action. He felt it was more important to get shots like the aforementioned one of Dollar Bill, because it was so instrumental to the deconstruction aspect.
-- When offered the chance to direct, he too felt it was unfilmable, but he realized he would still feel responsible for the project if someone else did it and bungled it.
-- And about the Smashing Pumpkins' song on the trailer, which was bizarrely the topic of the Q&A, Snyder said he just liked it, felt it was right tonally, and liked the irony of it being from Batman and Robin. It is not in the film and won't be on the soundtrack.