"I'm most excited that it's brought people into comics."
-- Dave Gibbons, when asked what his favorite part of this Watchmen journey has been.

Last night, Cinematical was lucky enough to attend a private screening of Watchmen footage hosted by director Zack Snyder and Watchmen co-illustrator Dave Gibbons. There was a reception before and after (where they served this really great sushi), and in a separate room off to the side they set up a sort of Watchmen museum, with costumes worn in the film, as well as drawings, set design stuff, character posters -- the works.

Once inside the theater, Snyder introduced the first twelve minutes of the film by giving us a little background on his past with comics (started reading Heavy Metal as a kid, and was immediately turned off when he read other graphic novels because there wasn't enough "f**king or dying"). His work on Watchmen began while they were still finishing up 300, and originally they wanted to update Watchmen to the War on Terror. Eventually, though, Snyder chipped away and convinced the studio to remain faithful to the source material, which meant a film that took place in 1985, included the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon and all the scary realities which make the graphic novel so intriguing to read.

My thoughts on the footage and notes from the post-screening Q&A after the jump ...

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The Footage

Note: If you haven't read the graphic novel yet, what I'm about to say might be spoiler-ish ...



The first twelve minutes of the film consisted of:

  • The Comedian's murder inside his own apartment at the hands of an unknown assailant
Thoughts: This scene was longer than I anticipated, but I loved every minute of it. We spend some time with Comedian, disheveled and wearing a bathrobe, as he watches the news talk about the threat of war before switching to a Veidt commercial set to the tune Unforgettable. That's when a shadowy figure crashes in, and as the two fight (in that hyper-real sorta way -- half slo-mo, half full speed, a la 300) , the music seems to get louder. Eventually, Comedian is thrown through the window and falls several stories to his death. The final shot (of the smiley face pin surrounded by blood on a sidewalk) is the very first image on page one of the graphic novel.
  • A very long and detailed opening credit sequence set to Bob Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changin'" -- featuring a heavy amount of visual backstory, a lot of which concerns The Minute Men, who were the very first set of masked vigilantes.
Thoughts: First off, when have you ever heard a Bob Dylan song in a superhero movie? Fantastic opening credit sequence in my opinion, and one that tells a story within a story, visually, without dialogue and through re-creating several memorable images from the graphic novel. Among some of the images are the original Minute Men photo, Dollar Bill's death, Silhouette's lesbian-ism and subsequent death, Dr. Manhattan shaking hands with JFK, Comedian killing JFK from the grassy knoll, Ozymandias outside Studio 54, Andy Warhol displaying a painting of Nite Owl, Manhattan on the moon with the first astronauts and more.



Snyder then came out to introduce the next scene:

  • If you've read the graphic novel, then this sequence takes place when Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) first arrives on Mars after leaving earth following accusations that he (inadvertently) killed those closest to him.
Thoughts: This entire sequence -- including the flashbacks to Manhattan's early days with Janey Slater -- is pretty much word for word, image for image, from the graphic novel. There's the relationship with Slater, the accident, the affair with Laurie (aka Silk Spectre, as played by Malin Akerman) and then, finally, the huge palace-like structure Manhattan creates for himself on Mars. This was probably my favorite of all the footage shown, only because I'm most drawn to Manhattan's character in the graphic novel -- his being, his questioning life, his search for self, his communication with others; I find it all rather fascinating and fun to read.



Snyder then introduced the last piece of footage:

  • Following the tenement fire, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre lie naked after a post-rescue, love-making session. Worried Rorschach was right and that someone is trying to get rid of masked heroes, Nite Owl suggests they break Rorschach out of prison. The two then travel to the prison, where there's a full-on riot taking place. Once inside, they battle several prisoners before picking up Rorschach, who has a little unfinished business to take care of in the bathroom before leaving.
Thoughts: Fans of the graphic novel will notice right away the differences between the film and what's on the page. When Nite Owl and Silk Spectre arrive, they don't sound any horn that immobilizes security while they gain access to the inside. Instead, they just hop off the ship, arrive inside and proceed to fight off a bunch of prisoners before bumping into Rorschach, who, conveniently, is all dressed up in full Rorschach gear. I thought the scene itself felt a little rushed, but the new fight sequence was definitely fun to watch (and man does Akerman look good as Silk Spectre).

Following this last scene, there was a brief montage of scenes from all throughout the film -- most of which are already featured in the current trailer.

Q&A

Snyder was then joined by Dave Gibbons for a Q&A on stage, and here are a few snippets from that:

  • Snyder said they did not "puss out" on the ending.
  • Snyder wanted the line, "We've discovered God and he's American" on the poster, but the studio wouldn't allow it.
  • The scenes that were hardest to shoot were Comedian's funeral (because of all the flashbacks), Manhattan on Mars and Rorschach's flashbacks to his childhood.
  • The story of those two detectives, who, in the graphic novel are trying to connect all these murders and disappearances to one another, did not make it into the film. Although they do show up, they don't spend a lot of time on them.
  • They turned The Black Freighter comic into an animated tale and it will arrive on a DVD along with a mock doc-type news program chronicling the original Nite Owl's memoirs, Under the Hood. This DVD will hit shelves when the film is released in March.
  • On the Watchmen DVD, there will be a longer cut with The Black Freighter animation worked into the film itself. This cut, Snyder believes, will run at about three hours and twenty five minutes.
  • When asked whether he thinks Alan Moore will ever watch the film, Dave Gibbons said "it's not my job to convince Alan, and I don't know what he'd think of it."
In addition to all this, the latest Watchmen behind-the-scenes video has arrived online, and it talks about creating Dr. Manhattan. Watch it over here.

Watchmen
arrives in theaters on March 6th.

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