On the heels of putting up my Watchmen set visit preview, I’m able to bring you a look at what you’ll be seeing this Friday when the trailer for Watchmen unspools in front of The Dark Knight.
I think you’re going to be blown away.
First up, this is a trailer – not a teaser. It’s over two minutes long and it contains footage from throughout the film. And it reveals Dr. Manhattan.
Second, it’s a trailer that’s going to leave mainstream audiences with a lot of questions. Which is incredibly cool. The trailer isn’t narrative – you wouldn’t know what the fuck this movie is about just from watching this trailer. There’s one line of dialogue in the thing, and it’s Rorschach. Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach voice sounds cool but not contrived – he’s not putting on some ridiculous rasp or anything.
If there is a narrative thread in these two minutes, it’s the origin of Dr. Manhattan. We see Jon Osterman stuck in that particle chamber, and then getting disassembled. Later we see his nervous system reconstructing itself in a hallway, scaring a janitor. Then we see him completely forming himself in the commissary, big, blue, naked and in a Jesus Christ pose, hovering above the floor. We see three Jons in one shot, and we see Jon and Laurie kissing in a shot that was so beautiful it gave me some goosebumps.
This trailer seems cut to emphasize how similar the movie is to the comic – there are a lot of moments that look like comic panels, and I bet that we’ll see people doing side by side comparisons as soon as the trailer is available online (I hear next week). Adrian hitting a would-be assassin with a golden ashtray, Dr. Manhattan vaporizing a North Vietnamese soldier (this is what I saw in animatics on the set visit, brought to amazing life!), the Comedian standing on the eye of the Owlship during a Keene Act riot – all iconic moments brought to vivid, painterly life.
There’s a lot here – the trailer is dense and packed to the gills with information. The suits look great in motion, and Dr. Manhattan – well, it’s Dr. Manhattan, but with Billy Crudup’s face. There have been few times when I’ve been so impressed at seeing something brought to life so meticulously, and this is one of them.
We also see a number of action sequences; as I surmised on my set visit, the Snyder-style speed ramping is here. I think this is one of two things that will divide audiences after the trailer. The other is the soundtrack – it’s late-era Smashing Pumpkins playing over the trailer. Some will complain that it’s not period appropriate (neither was the Nine Inch Nails on the 300 teaser, and that slayed us all. This song won’t be in the movie), while others may draw comparisons with the last superhero movie to have a Pumpkins song – Batman and Robin. But I liked the song on the trailer; it has a driving, industrial drone but cut with the plaintive voice of Billy Corgan. The emotion in his voice is the key to me.
What will make the hardcore fans most excited is how the trailer scenes are cut together. The interstitial scenes are a POV flyby of the inside of a watch, and the trailer ends with the scene of Manhattan building his great watchwork palace on Mars. The bloody smiley face is there, but only at the end and only as one of the dots between the date logo: 03-06-09. To me the way that the trailer emphasizes the clockworks over the more mainstream smiley face shouts ‘They get it!’ Snyder and company get the themes of the piece and they’re placing them front and center over the more obviously marketable aspects.
There’s more. A lot more. We see everyone in action, but I don’t recall seeing Rorschach’s mask in motion. I wish I had been taking notes during the trailer, because like I said, this fucker is dense. It will reward a frame by frame analysis for sure. As for the look of the footage, the color scheme and palette is well represented in the character pictures that came out a few months ago – in fact, the image of Silk Spectre in front of the fire is in this trailer, as she drops through the roof of the burning tenemant. Everything looks painted, and every shot is gorgeous.
And it bears repeating: this is a trailer for us. This trailer speaks to the fanbase in a huge way. Your friends and neighbors will be damn impressed by what they’re seeing, but they’ll also be slightly baffled. They’ll want to know more – who is that blue guy? Who is flying that ship coming out of the water? Are they on Mars? Why is that guy getting thrown through a window? – so get ready to start lending out your book. And get ready to start drooling for whatever else they’re going to show at Comic Con – if this is what they’re giving us in the first trailer, I can’t wait to see what they have in store in San Diego.