Posted on Saturday, February 7th, 2009 by David Chen
When Devindra and I sat down at the Warner Brothers panel this morning, I don’t think either of us were expecting too much. While artist Dave Gibbons (who seems like an extremely nice and talented individual) was here to answer questions, Zack Snyder was not going to be making an appearance, nor would any cast. I was thinking, at best, that they’d show us a slightly longer version of the footage and trailers we’ve all already seen. That’s when Gibbons dropped a bomb on us:
We were about to see the first 18 minutes of Watchmen.
Hit the jump for a detailed description of the segment we were shown, plus an extra bonus scene from later on in the film that Gibbons claimed we were the first ever in the world to see. Note that the following could be considered SPOILERS.
The film opens with a shot of a smiley face, which pulls out to reveal that it’s a pin attached to Edward Blake (AKA The Comedian). Blake is watching television, flipping through various channels. We catch glimpses of the current political climate through talk show discussions about “the likelihood that Russia will attack America” (0%, according to Pat Buchanan) and President Nixon speaking about the doomsday clock. Dr. Manhattan is also mentioned as a major player on the political stage.
A serene commercial featuring the song “Unforgettable” comes onto the television and that’s when the iconic scene begins: The assassination of The Comedian. A large, powerful man, darkened by shadows, barges into the door and Blake stands up. “I suppose it was just a matter of time,” Blake groans, still holding his cigar. He sees his gun and dives for it, somersaults backward and aims it at the doorway. But the man is already upon him, and grabs at his gun.
A thrilling hand to hand fight scene begins between Blake and his assailant. Both men are incredibly strong, with walls being punched out, knives being thrown and caught, and characters being thrown through tables. This is what 300′s action scenes would look like if it was between two guys, and done using only hand-to-hand combat. The kinetic visuals of that film are replicated, where the action rapidly alternates between fast-motion and slow-motion.
Eventually, the Comedian’s assailant smashes Blake’s hand into the kitchen counter. Blake chokes out something along the lines of “It’s a joke. It’s all a joke. Mother forgive me…” A drop of blood falls on the smiley face pin (and a chill went down my spine), and the comedian is thrown out the window in ultra-slow motion. He falls to the ground below in a shower of shattered glass, as blood slowly engulfs the smiley face pin on the sidewalk.
The opening credits begin, a highly stylized and beautiful sequence which shows re-imaginings of moments from U.S. history (again, often in ultra-slow-motion) as Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changing” plays. JFK’s assassination is revealed to be Blake’s doing. We see the troubled household of a young Rorsharch. The Enola Gay drops a bomb on Hiroshima, and a different and much hotter version of the famous WWII victory kiss is shown between a dark-haired, goth-type woman (Silhouette) and a nurse. There is arguing in Silk Spectre’s household as the camera zeroes in on the television screen and we see the self-immolation Vietnam protest. The Minutemen are shown together at the beginning of the credits, but then later on are shown in various states of distress, or dead. “Happy retirement Silk Spectre” is shown as a “Last Supper” tableau.
Basically, the opening credits are an incredible visual wonder to behold, and if a Comic Con volunteer hadn’t tried to remove me from the hall for taking notes during the screening, I’d have even more to report. But I reveled in this sequence and I can’t wait to see it again.
The credits end and detectives show up at the crime scene and discuss Blake’s fate. A camera pull-out reveals a zeppelin advertising the Gunga diner flying slowly through the city. Then Rorschach shows up, his gruff, grizzled opening voiceover playing as he discovers the Comedian’s bloody smiley face button. On a big screen with a huge subwoofer blasting, the Rorschach voiceover is utterly badass. Rorschach delivers his classic monologue, which includes the lines: ”The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up against their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout ‘Save us!’… and I’ll look down and whisper, ‘no’.” (again, another chill went down my spine). He uses his grappling hook to get up to the Comedian’s apartment and investigates the scene, discovering The Comedian’s costume and weapons in his closet.
The footage ends, and the audience goes wild. Then we were treated to one more “world premiere” scene:
This scene happens later on in the film. Rorschch is unmasked and in a prison dining hall line, a short man who’s a bundle of rage. Another prisoner begins, to taunt him and prepares to shiv him. As he’s about to make his attack, Rorschach counters with his meal tray, smashes open the sneeze guard glass in front of him, grabs a bucket full of grease from the fyrolator, and throws it all over the guy’s face. The camera pauses to let us revel in his agony. As the prison guards start to overtake him, Rorschach screams his classic line: ”You don’t seem to understand. I’m not locked in here you with you. You’re all locked in here with me!”
In all, seeing the footage was a thrill and definitely made me more excited for the film than before I went in. I’ll be very interested to see what other tricks Snyder has up his sleeve to convey the multiple, overlapping storyline in Watchmen but this footage certainly made me believe that he’s up for the challenge.
[Finally, one last tidbit: During the Q&A, someone asked David Gibbons, how explicit will the Dr. Manhattan nudity be? "Total," responded Gibbons.]