Saturday, July 26, 2008

That Watchman trailer that's gone mostly unnoticed...

The first Watchmen trailer aired before The Dark Knight, and I was more excited than I was apprehensive. (This might have something to do with the rather good Smashing Pumpkins song it was paired with - “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” - which was both lyrically appropriate and had the added bonus - and liability - of being used in a previous superhero movie. But I think that was the point - more on that later.) From what I can see, there are at least four obvious aesthetic touchstones in play: the source material itself (Zack Snyder has lifted several of the trailer shots directly from Dave Gibbons), Frank Miller film adaptations (both Snyder's own 300 and Sin City), the Burton-Schumacher Batman films (though the color and contrast, and the Pumpkins song, are more suggestive of the latter than the former), and Dark City (the Rorschach scenes and comparatively drab and washed-out urban backdrops seem to suggest this source). Drawing these connections seems doubly important because Snyder has apparently claimed that just as Watchmen consciously draws on the history of the superhero tradition in order to revise and reimagine it, he plans on reappraising the superhero film genre.

All that said, it's difficult to judge whether the film is actually
any good based on the trailer. Rorschach looks exactly like he does in the comic and Jackie Earle Haley seems like a good choice, just as Jeffrey Dean Morgan strikes me as perfect for the Comedian; Billy Crudup and Matthew Goode I'm not so keen on, especially the latter, though I'm willing to wait and see. (Were budget not an issue, Ozymandias would seem like the perfect role for an aging pretty-boy star - like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt - or perhaps a former star on a career downturn, preferably someone who's played a superhero before like Michael Keaton or Val Kilmer.) The importance of Dr. Manhattan's visual presentation to the success of the adaptation probably can't be overstated - if it doesn't look 'right' (and who's to know what will look 'right' until we see it?), it'll be nothing but a distraction. Though I think, for instance, that this one looks pretty cool:

One last thing: apparently, there was some sort of youtube contest connected to the film where people were encouraged to make their own in-story commercials for a Veidt (Ozymandias' company) corporate product. I haven't looked at many, but this one is hilarious in its perfect reproduction of 80s toy ads:


Dav said...

Man, Val Kilmer as Ozymandias is an inspired bit of dream casting, especially now that he's got that Alec Baldwin, bloated-with-age thing going on. Now that you mention it, Tom Cruise would be great, too, for that almost frightening/ almost laughable intensity that he has.

(Geez, I like all three of those actors, but none of that sounded complimentary, did it?)

Streebo said...

"Dark City (the Rorschach scenes and comparatively drab and washed-out urban backdrops seem to suggest this source)."

Neil, may I suggest The Crow - over Dark City - as a visual influence on Snyder's film? Both were directed by Alex Proyas.

Seeing the direct lifts from the comic book gave me hope for the coming WATCHMEN movie.

neilshyminsky said...

dav: I get what you mean, though. Ozymandias should be someone that's veered into the realm of self-parody. Tom Cruise fits the bill unintentionally, whereas I chose Brad Pitt because he's incredibly self-reflexive about himself.

streebo: Maybe. I went with Dark City because the city only ever seems to be a simulation of a city, and the settings in the trailer for Watchmen also has a bit of a seemingly artificial edge to it. The landscape in the Crow, on the other hand, feels weighty and real. To me at least. (I'm probably just splitting hairs, but there you have it.)

Jason said...

I think Crudup as Dr. Manhattan is great casting! I really loved what he did with his role in Mission: Impossible 3.


Can't think of anything more intelligent than that to add. Sorry. :(

Streebo said...

Neil: I see what you're saying.

On another note regarding the visual aesthetic of the film - I think Zack Snyder needs to pay Robert Rodriguez royalties for pioneering this CGI enhanced comic book look.

James said...

I like Crudup as Manhattan, not too happy about the effect though.
-Too PUMPED. I mean, jeez, his muscles look like balloons. Should be more graceful, I think.
-Too literal. Err, I always assumed the black marks around his eyes were shadows, but they've painted them on his skin there.

It's a real mixed bag for me. Rorschach's mask looks a million times better than stills suggested, but most of the other costumes still look silly. And no, not in the same way they're supposed to look silly in the comic book.

I actually think the Vietnam stuff everyone is going crazy for looks really bad, all green-screened and horrible shiny skies. And that shot of the Comedian! He looks like some cheerful cosplay dude, rather than a scary, detestable old fucker.

But yes, the real problem: Ozymandias. Sheesh. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer are all excellent choices. Even Jude Law would have been preferable to Goode, who not only looks 100% wrong (what, they're not even trying to maintain the mystery of who the bad guy is?), but according to this interview, is going to slip into a German accent the more his duplicity is revealed. What a frightful cretin.

I'll go out on a positive so as to seem less grumpy: the use of music in the trailer really is brilliant - the Batman & Robin gag is funny, and apparently the song was edited to get that lyrical commentary going, which is just perfect.

neilshyminsky said...

jason: Not a problem. :)

streebo: No kidding. It's weird that Sin City is some sort've standard, isn't it? It seems like that aesthetic was meant to identify the film as belonging somewhere on the margins, but it's being dragged into the mainstream. And i'm not sure that's a good idea.

james: Regarding how pumped Doc Manhattan looks, I'm reminded of how everyone seems to think that the Hulk should look like an Olympic bodybuilder. Which strikes me as equally wrong, and shows a decided lack of imagination.