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Comic Con 2008: Watch Out for the 'Watchmen'

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Jul 26, 2008 | 4:35pm EDT

Being at San Diego’s Comic Con for the first time is quite an experience. Thousands upon thousands flock to the city’s convention center to gawk at those dressed in their fanboy, geekdom best. I mean, who knew Edward Scissorhands was still a major player? But there he was (actually, I think it was a she) dressed in the whole getup, scissor hands and all.

But I’m not at Comic Con to stare--well, not completely. I’m here to see the first-ever preview of the highly anticipated Watchmen, the film adaptation of the dense graphic novel by Alan Moore, coming to theaters March 2009.

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Watchmen is a film that nearly didn’t get made. Several directors had been attached, including Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky--even United 93’s Paul Greengrass, who held onto the property the longest. But eventually it landed in the lap of young buck Zack Snyder, the creative force behind the visually rockin’ 300--and judging from the clip, he really is THE only choice they should have gone with. Sitting in this massive preview hall, I feel incredibly hip and in the know, experiencing this amazingly stunning footage from a movie that has some serious hard-core fans. Wow. Let’s just say the Watchmen trailer, playing right now on Hollywood.com, only scratches the surface.

“It’s watching this crowd and blowing their minds that does it for me,” Snyder says about premiering the clip at Comic Con. “You can go anywhere in the world, but you’re never going to get this type of group in a room that understands what you are trying to do. It’s a special thing.”

Part of what we saw was the film’s wild title sequence: “It goes back to saying there’s a lot of supplemental material in Watchmen”, Snyder explains. “I wanted to explore a little of that. So having the title sequence be this little crazy adventure through the 20th Century allowed me to get into some of that material and help the audience along.”

Tackling this material, Snyder keeps very much to Moore’s story, which centers on a group of superheroes long forgotten who come out of retirement to solve the murder of one of their own. The eclectic cast includes: Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy) as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl; Jeffrey Dean Morgan (TV’s Supernatural) as Edward Blake/The Comedian; Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) as Laurie Juspeczyk/Silk Spectre; Matthew Goode (Match Point) as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias; Billy Crudup (Mission: Impossible III) as Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan; and finally Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) as Walter Kovacs/Rorschach--who were all in attendance to give n it’s proper introduction to the Comic-Con crowd.

Even for the actors in the movie, this was the first time they were able to see some finished product--and they, too, were completely blown away. “F**k me!,” Goode  exclaims. Morgan adds, “We were all up on stage, going ‘Holy s**t! This is insane.’”

Some of them give a little insight into their characters:

--Billy Crudup on playing the omnipotent Dr. Manhattan: “I’m blue and I’m naked. [Laughs]. But the most relevant thing for me is how to be someone who has been eviscerated by some kind of particle accelerator and allows their consciousness to remain intact so they put together the constituent parts of their bodies back together as a super human. I don’t have a template for that, but it’s not so black and white that I can’t use my imagination.”

--Jeffrey Dean Morgan on The Comedian: “What I found fascinating about The Comedian is that his actions are completely immoral. He does some of the most horrendous things I’ve ever seen, ever. But after reading the novel, I didn’t hate The Comedian, which fascinated me. That fine line he balances; he almost becomes a sympathetic character.

--Jackie Earle Haley on extreme vigilante Rorschach’s sadistic behavior: “In my head, I can justify pretty much everything this guy is doing.” [Morgan: “Wow, that’s kinda creepy!”]

--Malin Akerman on the humanistic qualities of Silk Spectre: “She is just this wonderfully vulnerable woman, so lovely to play, who could also kick ass!

--Patrick Wilson on why Nite Owl isn’t at all fat: “The whole weight issue with Dan, he’s really not as fat as everyone thinks he is. He’s gone soft, as I like to say--a linebacker who’s just gone soft.”

And don’t worry, folks, Zack Snyder has no intention of keeping anything really juicy out of the film--even it goes three hours. “The truth is I can only cut out so much before it stops being Watchmen and I’m not going to do that.”

I am not a Watchmen fan, but I feel compelled to become one after watching snippets of the movie. (Note to self: Go to Borders and buy book.)

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