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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘Watchmen’ teaser

Take a break from work: watch a movie trailer…

This is playing with The Dark Knight — I dunno if it’s everywhere, but I did see it when I saw the Batman movie for the second time this weekend:


It’s been a few years since I read Watchmen, but it seems to me that some of the images here are lifted directly from the graphic novel (if I remember correctly). The Batman-esque masked crusader is particularly potent, especially considering the placement of the theatrical debut of this trailer, before Dark Knight.

Big plus for the movie: Billy Crudup. He continues the excellent recent trend of casting real actors (Edward Norton, Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale) in “comic book” movies, which can only be a good thing. Another plus: director Zack Snyder. His 300 is fantastic.

Worries: The graphic novel is long. This should probably be a TV miniseries. I hope they don’t condense it too much. I also wonder whether the filmmakers will feel they have to lose much of the mid-80s late-Cold War paranoia about nuclear armageddon. The primary audience for this movie will be people who have no memory of, or weren’t even yet alive, in the 1980s, when global nuclear war felt very close and extremely possible. They won’t know what it felt like to be alive then and absolutely convinced you would die under a mushroom cloud, as I did as a teenager. I can’t imagine Watchmen working without that feeling, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood won’t feel it’s outdated and hence worth dispensing with.

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  • I also wonder whether the filmmakers will feel they have to lose much of the mid-80s late-Cold War paranoia about nuclear armageddon. The primary audience for this movie will be people who have no memory of, or weren’t even yet alive, in the 1980s, when global nuclear war felt very close and extremely possible. They won’t know what it felt like to be alive then and absolutely convinced you would die under a mushroom cloud, as I did as a teenager. I can’t imagine Watchmen working without that feeling, but that doesn’t mean Hollywood won’t feel it’s outdated and hence worth dispensing with.

    I’m choosing to hope they decided not to tamper with that. Otherwise I’m not sure why they would bother leaving the movie set in the 1980s.

  • I also wonder whether the filmmakers will feel they have to lose much of the mid-80s late-Cold War paranoia about nuclear armageddon.

    I have heard many independent reports indicating that the movie retains the Cold War setting and the ending.

  • joe

    as clichet as that movie looks i have to see it…i miss those days in the 80s when a few boxes of dominos pizzas and like five movies would carry the night…now its more like some mcdonalds and youtube…not bad considering its free…but id pay for that movie for sure

  • Mark

    Worries: The graphic novel is long.

    Indeed. Even at the purported 145-minute running time, I have to wonder what — besides the pirates and the appendices — they cut.

    But my main worry is that Watchmen is so fundamentally a comic book that any attempt to film it may just reduce it to something empty; in many ways it makes as much sense to film Watchmen as it would to film the Georges Perec novel A Void (whose central conceit is that it’s written without the use of the letter ‘e’). So much of the comic book from is integral to Watchmen that, even though I’m looking forward to the movie, I’m also kinda dreading it.

  • Ryan H

    After much worry I have fallen into the optimistic camp based on this trailer. I do not believe that a true adaptation to the screen is possible, but I have come to believe that a good movie can be created form the same building blocks.

    Also, the trailer that is posted here is depressingly poor quality. Check out the original on the empire site.

    Besides, I love how they fuzzed out Doctor Manhattan’s naughty bits for the trailer. If you thought Dark Knight was inappropriate for kids Watchmen will be something else again. With the ending intact it is going to be hard for them to get anything but an R rating.

  • Hdj

    Couple of things I didn’t care for in the trailer was the song, I know what they were going for like a gloomy feel but, it should be more epic type music. also I feel it reveals couple of key scenes that I didn’t want spoiled. I found it to be misleading to, that scene where Dr.Manhattan smokes that Vietcong guy, thats like one of the few times he revolves to violence.

  • also I feel it reveals couple of key scenes that I didn’t want spoiled.

    I’m curious in what sense you mean spoiled, since you clearly already know the plot.

  • Jurgan

    Probably he mans he didn’t want it spoiled for other people.

    I’ve worried for a while about how Watchmen would work as a movie, but I think I know. The plot alone could probably fit within a regular length movie. A lot of Watchmen is character studies of the individual heroes. By cutting those out, they can probably make it work. The problem is that the character studies are the most interesting parts of the GN, so will it still be a good movie?

    Then again, I thought Order of the Phoenix was great, so who knows?

  • PaulW

    My biggest worry about this movie is that based on the trailer everything seems to be in slow motion.

    Thudding, ponderous walking across a small room. Flames taking 3 hours to burn a piece of paper. A head turn that takes an entire Teamster coffee break to complete. Oy. Vey.

    From what I’ve heard, the movie is still set as 1985, and will play out as a What-If alternate universe much in the way the comic book was (in real life, Nixon never ruled for 20 straight years… it just feels that way).

    Alan Moore’s name is of course nowhere on it. His previous run-ins with Hollywood has alienated him somewhat (the travesty of From Hell would do that to anybody). But word is he’s seen the script and he *hasn’t* summoned a Demon Lord to curse the entire production in response so… take that as good news…

    I dunno if they can cut the background stuff from the film: the character flashbacks were what defined them, and explained their motivations that propelled the plotline along (especially for Rorshach and Ozy: get rid of Rorshach’s origin and you ruin the character completely and turn him into a basic psycho). I’m not even sure cutting the two Bernies out would be a good idea, as they were the normal human observers of the impending doom throughout most of the story.

  • Pardon my French, but Alan Moore is a dick.

    He’s a great writer. I love Watchmen, almost as much as I love V for Vendetta. The guy clearly knows how to write.

    But he’s still a dick.

  • Hdj

    Bill- come to think of it, your probably right, since I know what scenes are occurring in the trailer, I know significants of the scene, rather then John everyman wouldn’t know a thing,he’d just say “whoa.. can’t wait to smoke up to that one”. The trailers simply just trying to show cool parts in general. Not much Rorshach of thankfully, since he was my fav character, I still can look forward to his scenes.
    I remember the whole Nixon thing, I couldn’t figure that out, the timeline was 1985 yet Nixon was still president. The real life Nixon hasn’t been running for 20 years, not in a ghost like conspiracy way either. I certainly rather have Nixon then Bush though.

  • MaryAnn

    But he’s still a dick.

    And this has what, exactly, to do with the trailer, or potentially with the movie?

  • I know that the two Bernies are in the film as I’ve seen stills of them.

    The Tales of the Black Freighter will be done as an animated DVD to be released before the movie. This seems appropriate to me since Tales of the Black Freighter in the Watchmen universe was as familiar a tale as the origin of Superman.

    The movie will be clearly set in 1985 and the trailer gives us a clue that a lot of the flashbacks will be there. Jon Osterman’s work at Los Alamos, The Comedian in Vietnam, The cop strike/Riots with Owlman and The original Watchmen super hero group are all shown in the trailer.

  • Karen R

    I have to say I’m not intimately familiar with “Watchmen,” but when I saw this trailer yesterday at TDK, I got that tingly feeling. That feeling that this will be different from anything we’ve seen before and it will deal with big questions and big issues and it will talk about the world in a way that makes terrifying sense.

  • And this has what, exactly, to do with the trailer, or potentially with the movie?

    What it has to do with the movie is that he’s such a prima donna that he refuses to work with anyone to make movies based on his work. Hell, for that matter, he refuses even to acknowledge that people are working on movies based on his work. V for Vendetta was a great flick, but it could have been ever better with Moore’s involvement. The same is true of Watchmen.

    Harlan Ellison is another writer who’s a dick, but at least he’s willing to participate in the hopes of preventing anyone from screwing up his work. Philip K. Dick, another great writer, was not a dick (ironically), and sadly his presence has been missed for too many of his big screen adaptations.

  • PaulW

    I didn’t mean for this to turn into a debate against Alan Moore himself. All apologies.

  • MaryAnn

    What it has to do with the movie

    Fine. So say as much off the bat, instead of just dropping a little vulgarity bomb that does not appear to be related.

  • Sorry ’bout that.

  • Jennifer

    “Probably he means he didn’t want it spoiled for other people.”

    Speaking as someone who has read Watchmen once, several years ago, and has since forgotten just about everything about it — this trailer spoiled absolutely nothing. To people who are familiar with the novel and can thus recognize what’s going on in the various scenes, it may seem to be very spoilery, but as someone whose knowledge of Watchmen is pretty thin, I saw this trailer as nothing more than a series of meaningless images. Not one thing in the trailer so much as hinted to me what the movie was even going to be about! Not even what its starting premise was going to be or anything.

    In other words, my view of this trailer is that it was not well designed for bringing in people who are unfamiliar with the work on which the movie’s based, which makes me a bit worried that the movie is going to be similarly made, and thus a bit incomprehensible to the rest of us.

  • Toph the Eggman

    That’s probably because this isn’t the actual TRAILER trailer. This is just the teaser to get everyone going “what’s this now?” As the resident Comic Book Guy at my workplace, I can tell you that’s already happening. And I’m kinda looking forward to the plot-revealing trailers they’ll drop in the months just before the release, because trying to sum that book up to the uninitiated is a pain in the ass. (or it would be if I didn’t REALLY enjoy playing the comic book know-it-all)

  • I’m sorry, I really take issue with the insults lobbed at Alan Moore. He doesn’t like the movies that have been made of his comics (and it’s not like they were begging for his help–they just went ahead and made them without him). He’s made a personal, and in fact quite admirable, decision not to take any money for the films of his movies, based on his own personal convictions. As far as I can tell, none of the filmmakers involved have beat down his door, begging for his opinion; I strongly suspect most of them would have wanted to keep him out of the loop, given a choice. So Moore takes his name off their movies. This makes him a “dick”?

    I’ve seen this kind of attitude elsewhere, and it really bothers me. It sort of seems like comic fans get validated by seeing their favourite comics turned into movies, and they get angry at Moore because he refuses to give this process his stamp of approval. But who cares? Who cares what he thinks, and who cares if they never make a movie of your favourite comic? Movies aren’t “better” than comics. If the comic is great, that should be enough.

  • Hdj

    The smashing pumpkin songs growing on me, I think it fits fine. After seeing the trailer on big screen before The Dark Knight. The trailer really had an effect on me. The whole trailer just puts a big smile on my face. Till it was over, then 2 teenagers sitting behind me remarking ” yeah that looks really dumb”. The biggest reaction came from ” The day the earth stood still” *sighs*, I was going shout “Klattu verata NU * cough , cough* ok then , because as far as majority of teenagers that were there probably wouldn’t get the joke plus they’d think its some new idea like the matrix not some old idea like from the 50’s , like an idea driven by world war 2 propaganda, its gotta be new. Everyone was just eating up with straight face Keanu dull as he can be ” I Know…. , I’m an alien, your going to die” duhduh DUUNnnnnnn…. the day the earth stood still, who gives the fuck. I’m gunna call it the day my ass stood home and decided to go see Watchmen instead.

  • Matteo

    Prankster, actually, from what i’ve read, both The Wachowski brothers, Terry Gilliam (at first he should have directed Watchmen, then they chose Snyder instead) and Snyder HAD beat down his door begging for his opinion, and the answer can be pretty well resumed into “F*** you”.
    They ADORE him, all of them being comic books fans, and he treated them like rabid dogs.
    Read their interviews.
    Snyder said “I respect Moore’s decision not to be involved in the movie”, while Moore said “I can be at least neutral about the movie if they stop trying to involve me into the project. If they don’t, i’ll talk trash about it for years. Gilliam once asked me how i would have directed it as a movie, and i answered it can’t be directed at all. It isn’t a movie, it’s a comic book, and it will suck as a movie.”.
    If he’s not a dick, he’s probably the true definition of a dick. He’s THE dick.
    Please note that Dave Gibbons, the other author of Watchmen, was involved and said that he liked the movie very much and said it will be great, therefore proving you don’t strictly have to be a dick just because you created the original one.

  • MaryAnn

    It seems like Moore has made his position clear: he does not want to be involved with movie adaptations of his work. Perhaps it feels to him that he’s being harassed when people, no matter how adoring, ignore his plainly stated wishes and bug him.

  • Matteo, I know for a fact that Moore is on good terms with Terry Gilliam. Gilliam said so. Yes, he was against a film adaptation, but I’m fairly sure they were able to discuss it like adults (and Gilliam obviously came around to his way of thinking, so I’m not seeing the problem). And while he’s criticized the Wachowskis and Snyder, his complaints seem pretty reasonable to me. I mean, “rabid dogs”? As MaryAnn said, he’s made his position clear; complaining (fairly mildly) when people go against these wishes hardly seems like “dickish” behaviour.

    You seem to be upset just because he feels that comics don’t need to be turned into film to be vindicated, which is a position I find completely reasonable. He’s under no obligation whatsoever to participate in this process, particularly since he’s been given so little control over it in the past (in the sense that DC takes his comics and options them off as movies without asking him). We’re getting into the realm of fanboy entitlement here.

  • And could it be that Gibbons has different opinions than Moore? Possibly? Again, you seem to be saying that liking the process of making a movie from your work makes you cool, and not liking it makes you a dick. What if Gibbons is wrong, and the movie sucks? Does that make him a dick too?

  • I doubt I’m the only one on this site who has seen this but just in case you haven’t:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I33IuPXEou4

    As for the trailer, I want to be optimistic but, jeez, after Dawn of the Dead ’04, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in this guy.

  • I thought Snyder’s DotD was pretty damn good, actually. And 300 was even better. I think he’s worked his way up the ladder, as it were, by demonstrating that he can produce quality work if he’s given access to larger and larger budgets and special effects houses. In this respect he is quite similar to Bryan Singer, who started small (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) and worked his way up to stuff like X-Men and Superman Returns.

  • TanookiMan

    In regards to Alan Moore, I definitely think he’s entitled to his opinions, particularly when it’s his work at stake. However, I find it ironic that he writes off movies, particularly those from Hollywood, as low-brow and not worth his time. Didn’t people say the same about comic books, before he changed so many people’s minds about what the medium is capable of?

  • JoshDM

    LXG was a HORRIBLE adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In fact, I hear they had a terrible script, swapped a few characters to fit the mold, and applied the “LXG” branding to it instead of actually doing a proper adaptation.

  • Grant

    What’s a “proper adaptation”? If it is one in which all characters in a work are retained in their original roles, if the plot progresses scene for scene as it does in the original work, if dialog is lifted verbatim, then what you are describing is better called a “recreation” or perhaps a “faithful adaptation.”
    Faithful adaptations are extremely rare and seldom work. I forget where I read it, but some well known author/screenwriter observed that adapting a 300 page novel into a book means condesning it into less than 100 pages. In the process, scenes are cut and created, characters are eliminated or combined, subplots are excised, whole plot threads are altered, in an attempt to create something that works on screen.
    As an adaptation, LXG is of middling quality at best, to be sure. But LXG is a bad movie for a number of reasons, its faithfulness to its source material being perhaps the least of these.
    For reference, my favorite example of a very good adaptation is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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