Watchmen - the hype machine begins

Warner Bros has kickstarted its viral hype machine for what's being billed as the ultimate superhero movie

Now that the legal battle over who owns Watchmen is over, the Warner Bros hype machine has spun into overdrive. Last year's big comic crossover, The Dark Knight, benefited hugely from the proliferation of advance internet material in the form of viral sites, newspaper reports and news footage. Alan Moore's graphic novel, upon which Zack Snyder's film is based, covers a 50-year timespan, so lends itself perfectly to such background and archive material being "unearthed" on the web.

Above you will find a public information film about the 1977 Keene act, a law passed in Watchmen's alternative universe to outlaw the "costumed adventurers" who began to emerge in the 1930s, inspired by comic book superheroes. Is the red-bating House Un-American Activities Committee still in existence by the late 70s, in Moore's original tome? The idea that it might be tallies well with a universe in which Nixon is still in power in the mid 80s, and America was spared the backlash over losing the Vietnam war.

Second up is archive news footage from 1970, 10 years after the arrival of Watchmen's only real superhero, Dr Manhattan. We hear about his abilities, superspeed, superstrength and the ability to manipulate and even synthesise matter at the atomic level, and it's hinted that the great blue loon is about to start kicking Viet-Cong ass to save Nixon's.

Finally, the latest trailer gives us a longer glimpse of the opening scene in which the Comedian, a sort of nihilistic Jeremy Clarkson-in-a-cape figure, is thrown from the window of his apartment by an unknown assailant. We also see a bit more of Dr Manhattan and there's a good deal of framing going on as Rorschach, Night Owl and Silk Spectre discuss the looming prospect of nuclear war with the USSR. I don't remember some of these conversations from the original book, so it looks like Snyder may be dumbing things down a little for his audience. On the other hand, this might just be an example of trailer shorthand; the finished film could feature more complex dialogue.

Elsewhere on the Watchmen front this week, the blogosphere has continued to mull over the confirmation by Dave Gibbons, original comic book illustrator and consultant on the film, that (link contains spoiler) Snyder has changed the ending. The general consensus seems to be something along the lines of, "Yes. And?". Personally, I'm in agreement. It was always somewhat incongruous, no?

We've yet to see the finished film of course, but Aint It Cool News has a couple of reports from the New York Comic Con, where the opening 18 minutes were screened to slavering fans no doubt wearing Rorschach-style masks and/or nowt but Dr Manhattan-blue paint. Both suggest that Snyder has got the visual aspects of the comic book spot on, although the same could be said for his adaptation of 300, and despite the Watchmen trailer's proclamation, I found that film less than "visionary". The second respondent does at least report that the footage isn't full of trademark Snyder slo-mo, which would most definitely be a blessing. Perhaps if we're lucky, The Comedian's untimely departure will be the only part of the film which looks like the projector snagged for a couple of seconds.

Watchmen debuts on March 6. From what you've seen so far, are you expecting this one to drive all before it, Dark Knight style, or is it likely to be just another thorn in poor old Alan Moore's severely ravaged side?


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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