Saturday morning at the New York Comic Con brought me to the screening/panel session from Warner Brothers, and while I was excited for the Watchmen segment, I didn't expect a lot from it. Maybe the trailers, and the viral videos that had been popping up. Besides, the segment was to be hosted by Dave Gibbons, who was the co-creator and illustrator of the Watchmen graphic novel. While it's great that he approves of the film so wholeheartedly, where was director Zack Snyder or any of the stars from the film?
My excitement raised, however, when he said that we weren't only going to get trailers, but instead the first eighteen minutes of the film, which had been shown to some members of the press earlier, and in addition, a bonus clip from later on in the movie.
Before the clips aired, however, Gibbons discussed how pleased he was with the work on the film, and he praised Zack Snyder and company for their work. He also asked that the audience give the same round of applause he received up for his fellow creator, Alan Moore.
The following contains spoilers about the first eighteen minutes of the movie, so be warned.
The movie opens up with the murder of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian. We see the Comedian in his apartment, flipping through channels as President Nixon is re-elected for his third term. The apartment is full of details that will thrill the hardcore fans, with posters, pin-ups and news articles all reflecting the world of the film, many of which are taken straight from the pages of the comic. The assassin smashes his way into the apartment, and after a beautiful, brutal fight between the two men, the Comedian is finally thrown through the window of his apartment. As he is being beaten, we see the iconic blood drop fall on his smiley-face pin, which comes lose as he is thrown through the window. The button fills the screen for a moment as it follows the Comedian to his death.
We then cut to the title credits for the movie, which take us through the history of Watchmen. I literally was unable to keep up with the sequence of shots, and in all likelihood fans of the movie will watch it again and again to catch all of the details. While Bob Dylan's classic The Times They Are A-Changin played, we saw the first vigilantes emerge, then the taking of the photo of the first superhero group, the Minutemen. The montage continued, with highlight shots including a Victory Day-kiss between Silhouette and her girlfriend, the death of superhero Dollar Bill, Mothman being taken away insane, a Last Supper-esque photo showing the retirement of the first Silk Spectre from when she was pregnant with her daughter, the first meeting between Dr. Manhattan and JFK, Andy Warhol showing off his painting of Nite Owl, and much, much more.
The action resumes with the investigation of the murder, with the cops baffled by what happened. Rorschach then appars to do his own investigation, where he finds the information proving that Blake was the Comedian, and he finds the Comedian's gear in a hidden compartment in the closet.
The bonus scene takes place much later in the film, when Rorschach is in jail, and about to be shived in the lunch-room. Rorschach easily defeats his would-be-assassin, complete with throwing a pan full of boiling french-fry oil on his face. As he's being dragged away, he delivers the classic line "I'm not locked up here with you... you're locked in with me."
Finally we went to the Q&A session, where Gibbons confirmed that yes, the squid ending from the comic has been replaced with a different ending. However, Gibbons said of the squid that it was just a special effect, and it wouldn't work as well in a film. But he does say that while the gimmick may have been different, the outcome was the same.
Regarding the possibility of a sequel, Gibbons was fairly philosophical about it, stating that Warner Brothers has the rights to the property, and if they want to make a sequel or a prequel, there's nothing he can do about it. But he also believes that wiser heads will continue to prevail, and that he is quite certain that you wouldn't see him out at conventions discussing such a film, nor would you get Snyder or any of the cast of the movie to do so. "Leave well enough alone," Gibbons said.
Other highlights of the Q&A session include the fact that in Gibbons's opinion not only is Alan Moore not "crazy", he's very sane and rational, and that Gibbons respects Alan for his stance on the film. He also said that he hopes that Watchmen doesn't change how people make superhero movies. He wants to still see hopeful, colorful, optimistic superhero movies like Spiderman and Ironman.
Finally, when asked about the fact that Dr. Manhattan is nude in much of the comic, and wondering how explicit the nudity would be in the film, Gibbons said "Total. (pause) Good answer?"
The fan reaction to the footage in that room suggests that any and all fans of Watchmen will be thrilled when the movie opens on March 6, 2009.