Back in September we received word that Zack Snyder would be presenting a "first look at footage" from WATCHMEN in both Los Angeles and New York. We at JoBlo.com decided to send two people to the events - one who hadn't read the graphic novel and one who had read the graphic novel numerous times. The first installment in this duo of reviews comes today from Rusty Eltringham who caught the footage this past Wednesday in LA. Next week Mike Sampson will report on the footage from the NYC screening. Here's what Rusty, who has not read "Watchmen," has to say.
First off, let me come clean. I am aware of "Watchmen," the legendary Alan Moore / Dave Gibbons graphic novel. I know the basic storyline. I am familiar with the characters, what they look like and their histories. However, I have never read it.
So when I sat down tonight to watch the clips Zack Snyder was screening, I honestly did not know what I would think. The footage I saw at Comic Con was impressive. It felt like Zacks stylized sense of motion worked well with this material and I was a fan of 300, so I was cautiously optimistic.
Zack set the stage with some thoughts on how he decided to take on the material, a similar story to what he told in San Diego last July. The fact that there was already a script made the task a little less daunting. That script required work; it was set modern day and took on the war on terror, an approach that didnt sit well Zack. I think his decision to return it to the 80s timeframe was wise.
Okay, SPOILER ALERT - Im gonna give some details here. Clip #1 was the first 10-12 minutes of the film. It starts with the Comedian making tea and smoking one of his trademark cigars. News on the television reports of exercises being conducted by the Soviet Union and Nixon proselytizing that America doesnt pick fights, that our power is there to maintain peace. A report on the Doomsday clock being set to 5 minutes to midnight. Then a very humorous talk show with Pat Buchanan and Eleanor Clift discussing the prospects of The Soviets using their nuclear weapons. Edward has seen enough; he switches channels, settles in on something romantic and the senses something at the door.
The door bursts open and a shadowy figure enters. Edward states it was only a matter of time and a brawl ensues. It was violent. It slowed down at just the right moments so you could marvel at the good stuff. It was filled with feats of super human strength. And it ends badly for the Comedian as hes launched from his high-rise window and drops majestically to his death; the infamous bloody smiley face button trailing behind.
Cool so far, right? Well that was just the beginning of the clip. Set to Dylans "The Times They Are A-Changin" we were treated to the title sequence. Utilizing super slow motion in some scenes, they played out like photos that were changing right before your eyes. Other scenes incorporated an alternate take on historic events. Ultimately, it was a montage of back-story, but done so artistically it ended up being my favorite part. Some notable clips embedded into this gem. A twist on the sailor kissing girl photo from World War II. Dr Manhattan meeting Kennedy. Kennedys assassination with a familiar face holding the rifle. Peace protesters lined up in front of riot police, with one girl cautiously placing a flower in the tip of the rifle. Boom, Boom, Boom! Warhol showing off his new work featuring the Nite Owl. Chock full of goodness, this is a clip to see.
Clip #2 was the origin of the blue dude as Snyder called him. Honestly, Dr Manhattan is the question mark in this film for me. Im aware of his roll in the Watchmen universe, including the way he looks on the page. I think this is a decent representation, but Im not sure the blue dude translates that well to the screen. I had that feeling when I saw the footage at Comic Con and this honestly didnt change it much.
Jon Ostermans story begins in July 1959, where he is introduced to Janey Slater and falls in love. A mere month later, a lab accident locks him in a test chamber and his body is completely disintegrated. He soon regenerates with superpowers. America is all too eager to claim him for our own, Superman does exist and hes American. He is even dispatched to Vietnam by president Nixon and within days the conflict is resolved. Manhattan splits with his girl, fools around with Laurie and ultimately tires of mankind. He retreats to Mars, allowing the time to meditate on his life a bit. In what was the most graphic scene, two gangsters draw guns on him and he obliterates them with a blast of energy, leaving their girls splattered with blood and their entails hanging from the ceiling.
In setting up Clip #3, Zack gave some really funny thoughts on the preceding events. As things heat up between Dan and Laurie, Dan cant get it up. At Lauries suggestion he heads down to the basement and puts on his costume. The two rescue some people from a tenement fire and now all fired up themselves, they get it on in the Owl Ship. Zack promised, for comic book fans this will be really cool.
The clip began with Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II in a post coitus embrace, making the decision to break Rorschach out of prison. It cuts to the Owl Ship descending on the chaos of the prison yard. They break in and our faced with a riot. Inmates break from their battles and charge the superheroes, but are dispatched with ease. This sequence too is very stylized. The take down moves are spectacularly choreographed. There is building passion between Nite Owl and his Silk Spectre as they admire each others moves. They find Rorschach and he makes them wait, as he follows a midget into the bathroom. Theres a really cool shot from their POV, as Rorschach moves in on the midget seen only in glimpses through the swinging door. A flush and Rorschach returns. The three escape as blood sweeps under the bathroom door.
There was also an extended montage sequence comprised largely of the Comic Con footage.
Overall I was very impressed. I think the film will exceed the expectations of Watchmen fans. I personally am not sure about Dr Manhattan and hope I am wrong, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing the completed film in March.
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