Director Zack Snyder unveiled a series of completed clips from his upcoming adaptation of 'Watchmen' on Wednesday to select members of the press. They included the opening credits sequence, a montage covering the origins of Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and a prison break scene featuring Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) and the second Silk Spectre (Malin Akerman). The clips ran a total of about thirty-five minutes. According to Snyder, the current cut of the film is a little over four hours, and he seemed hopeful that it would remain so. Whether or not Warner Bros will ultimately demand a shorter cut has yet to be determined, but given Snyder's success on 300, he appears to have the leverage to keep a great deal of the movie intact.
Snyder also stated that the film would likely have a rating of R, to better preserve the novel's adult themes. This was apparent in the clips, which featured (among other things) graphic shots of numerous crime scenes, a nude post-coital Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, and a full-frontal Dr. Manhattan materializing above a group of scientists.
The clips themselves stick fairly close to the graphic novel, though the fistfights and action scenes run longer than they did in the original. The first depicts the death of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), thrown out of his high-rise apartment window by an unknown assailant. It segues into the opening credits montage, which briefly covers the history of the Watchmen universe since 1940. Over the sounds of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," we see the exploits of the Minutemen, the birth and coming of age of the novel's "second generation" of superheroes, and the slow lead-up to the movie's "present day" of 1985. It intersperses certain key moments from the graphic novel--such as Dollar Bill's (Dan Payne's) death after his cape gets caught in a revolving door--with moments from actual history such as JFK's assassination and the opening of Studio 54 (attended by Matthew Goode's Ozymandias).
The second clip shows Dr. Manhattan's arrival on Mars, followed by a flashback in which he recounts his origins. It includes the atomic accident which gave him his powers, his relationship with Janey Slater (Laura Mennell), his agreement to intervene in Vietnam, and the consummation of his affair with Silk Spectre II. Much of the dialogue--performed in voice-over by Crudup--is lifted verbatim from the graphic novel. It ends with Dr. Manhattan's creation of the clockwork fortress from the Martian sands.
The final clip shows Nite Owl and Silk Spectre vowing to free their colleague Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) from prison. It includes an extended fight scene with rioting prisoners and ends with Rorschach's murderous assault on Big Figure (Danny Woodburn). As with the earlier clips, this one adheres fairly closely to the novel, with a few minor changes here and there (Rorschach appears in costume rather than in prison coveralls, presumably recovering his mask from impound after escaping his cell).
All three of the clips demonstrated a keen attention to detail, as well as a reverence for the novel's visual style. The fate of lesbian Mintueman Silhouette (Appolonia Vanova), for example, is covered concisely but effectively in a few shots over the opening credits--including a riff on the famous V-Day photo of sailor and nurse locked in an embrace on the streets of New York. You can spot a copy of Hustler on the Comedian's coffee table, along with a framed picture of Sally Jupiter (Carlo Gugino) on a nearby wall. A cheesecake image of Jupiter also appears on the side of the Enola Gay as it drops the atomic bomb. Like the novel, such details are so dense that it's hard to spot them all in a single viewing, a fact which Snyder stated will help convey the texture of the source material.
In addition to Watchmen itself, Snyder briefly discussed a pair of direct-to-DVD movies whose release will coincide with the film's theatrical run. The first is a version of Tales of the Black Freighter--a fictitious comic book which one of the characters reads in the graphic novel. The second is a Sixty Minutes-style faux documentary covering Hollis Mason's (Stephen McHattie's) autobiography, Under the Hood. Snyder expressed hopes that a future DVD release of Watchmen might find a way to combine the three into a single whole.
Watchmen is due for release in March of 2009.