Just got back from what is likely to be the 2009 New York Comic-Con's biggest panel: Watchmen. I arrived over an hour early for the panel, and already the line was like a triple-coiled snake. But the wait (and the crowd) were worth it.
The panel featured none other than Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, who was on hand to screen the first eighteen minutes of Watchmen, plus debut a never before seen clip from the film featuring fan-favorite, Rorschach.
But more disturbing than that: I learned first-hand from Gibbons himself that if Watchmen is a box office smash, there's nothing to stop Warner Bros. from putting out Watchmen prequels, sequels, or spin-offs. We can all now collectively shudder at that thought.
I won't take up too much time talking about what was included in the first eighteen minutes of footage, since Screen Rant's own Vic Holtreman already did an excellent job covering that at last year's San Diego Comic-Con. But for those who haven't heard anything about it yet, here's a quick rundown:
The film opens with the Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan) sitting in his swanky apartment watching the news. And the news isn't good. While President Richard Nixon is talking about the threat the U.S. is facing from the Soviets, scientists are moving the "Doomsday Clock" (which calculates the world's proximity to the threat of nuclear annihilation) to the eleventh hour. A news panel discusses the likelihood of the U.S. being nuked while the super-powered Dr. Manhattan is around to protect the nation. The Comedian just smirks at all.
Sudden a mysterious assailant breaks into The Comedian's apartment and the two engage in a brutal, knuckle-dragging (and very well choreographed) fight, which ends in The Comedian being tossed through a window, falling many, many, stories to his death (the iconic blood-splotched smiley face following his descent).
After that the opening credits roll to the tune of Bob Dylan's "The Time's Are a Changing." We see key events in Watchmen's alternate history (the formation of the original super-group The Minutemen, Richard Nixon being elected for a third presidential term, etc.), which culminate in the anti-superhero movement and the current precarious state of the world.
Finally, the clip concludes with Rorschach infiltrating The Comedian's apartment and discovering that the murdered man, Edward Blake, was in fact The Comedian.
After viewing those first eighteen minutes, I have only this to say: Watchmen is as awesome as everyone has been saying it is. Period. Kudos to director Zack Snyder and Co. for a job VERY well done.
Next up was a short clip debuting for the first time anywhere: Rorschach, unmasked and imprisoned, having a violent confrontation with a another prisoner while in the jailhouse lunch line. If you've read the graphic novel, you know what a hardcore scene this is; if you've never read Watchmen, prepare to cringe. This movie is rated R for good reason.
(Oh, and Jackie Earle Haley is THE MAN as Rorschach, with or without the mask.)
Dave Gibbons is a good sport for putting up with the legions of fanboys who came to kneel before him in praise. I'm a big Watchmen fan myself, but some of those kids scare even me (just a little too devoted).
I preferred to stay cool headed and reportedly: I asked Mr. Gibbons if, in the event that Watchmen kills it at the box office (and it's looking that way), did he as co-creator have any contractual stipulations in place to prevent Warner Bros. from making a prequel, sequel or spin-off Watchmen film.
I'll paraphrase Dave Gibbons' response the best that I can from my notes:
'At one time DC [Comics] thought about making [Watchmen] spin-offs , but cooler heads prevailed. I think that anything you do to try an alter the Watchmen story that Alan [Moore] and I told would only take away from it. But I'm in no position to stop Warner Bros. from making any other Watchmen films. However, if they did so I doubt you'd see me sitting up here and I doubt that Zack Snyder would involve himself in it. Sometimes I think you should just leave well enough alone.'
Amen, Mr. Gibbons--though it freaks me out to think that Warner Bros. is free and clear to make whatever subsequent Watchmen films they'd like down the line. Something tells that if this film does the kind of business that The Dark Knight did, this issue will be rearing its ugly head soon after the last box office receipt is tallied.
Other amusing bits from the Q&A included Gibbons answering one fanboy on the subject of whether or not "Alan Moore is bat-shit crazy." Gibbons replied that Alan Moore insists that his name be taken off any of his works that get adapted into films, and refuses to share in any profits made from those films. According to Hollywood standards, Gibbons said chuckling, that IS bat-shit crazy.
Gibbons also insisted in another answer that no matter what impact the Watchmen movie ends up having on the industry, he doesn't want to see all comic book films "go dark." In fact, he said, after he and Alan Moore finished Watchmen, they had planned for their next project to be revamping a more lighthearted, fantastical character like Captain Marvel. Gibbons stressed that the best thing about comic book heroes is their variety, and that same fact applies to the movies based on those characters.
Well, that's about it for the NYC Comic-Con panel on Watchmen. Let us know your thoughts.