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  • Exclusive Preview: Watchmen at NY Comic-Con

    Tue, 24 Feb 2009 18:02:42

    Exclusive Preview: Watchmen at NY Comic-Con - ARTISTdirect sat in on a preview of <i>Watchmen</i> at New York Comic-Con, and we bring you an exclusive report

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    At New York City's Comic Con 2009, Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons, with his black glasses, button down shirt, and charmingly cheeky British humor, likened the 18-minute opening footage and additional, never-before-seen clip from the hotly anticipated, much bandied about Watchmen movie, due in theaters on March 6, to being a kid on Christmas Eve. Not Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve.

    Gibbons' parents would allow him to open one present on Christmas Eve in hopes of quelling some of his pre-Christmas excitement and get him to go to sleep so they could go about their business. However, like most anxious kids, one present only served to make him ten times more psyched for Christmas.

    When Warner Bros. allowed a packed theater of fanboys and fangirls at New York City's Javitts Center to view the opening 18 minutes of the film, plus an exclusive 45 second clip of an incarcerated Jackie Earle Haley tossing cooking grease into a fellow inmate's face and barking, "I'm not locked in here with you. You are locked in here with me," it was a bittersweet tease. Clips of the stylish and stylized film only proved the notion that the story, which was long considered unfilmable, translates from the graphic novel medium to film beautifully and seamlessly. It looked like the comic book panels were mirrored on the big screen. From viewing only 18 short minutes, it's apparent that Watchmen has rightfully earned its "event" status. It left me drooling, and it was torture to view only that golden footage and not the whole film.

    'Everything in every frame is relevant,' says illustrator Dave Gibbons.

    During the Q&A session, Gibbons answered a question plaguing many Watchmen fans: What is self-effacing, elusive author Alan Moore like? The exact phrasing of a fan question was: "Is Moore as batshit crazy as he looks?" Moore, who wrote the story, considered one of the 100 best novels of all time for the ingenious way that it deconstructs the superhero genre and makes the characters "darker" in nature, was not involved in the film whatsoever. His name isn't even attached to the credits. Gibbons says his cohort is perfectly sane, "doesn't do things in halves and he is not involved in the film at all." According to Gibbons, Moore hasn't had positive experiences with the Hollywood machine and "doesn't want to play ball."

    Moore, like many authors who detach from their work when it's made into a movie, initially adopted a laissez faire attitude, allowing his name to remain attached to projects despite removing himself entirely from the process. He hoped the end result would satisfactorily adhere to the comics and allow him to profit. He became sour toward Tinseltown after a legal tussle arose over The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen script. Two writers claimed the movie borrowed heavily from their separate script for Cast of Characters. Since Moore had nothing to do with the script or the film at all, having to testify in court and defend his graphic novel and having the studio subsequently settle the case bothered him to his core. He had similar issues when V for Vendetta was being made and promoted, and he has since turned his back on Hollywood.

    Gibbons admits he loves how the film has turned out and suggests fans play close attention to the opening credits montage, when the back stories are told and "everything in every frame is relevant." The montage is visually arresting and dense, encapsulating tons of key details to the tune of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing."

    There are a few flourishes added in that weren't in the graphic novel–such as a lesbian kiss during Victory Day—but this touch was warmly received by the crowd. As for the changes, Gibbons says that while there are a few omissions, "the outcome is the same as the novel. It just had to work in a different medium." The Squid is not a part of the movie, and Gibbons reasons that "that would have been a huge special effect in a movie full of special effects. It wouldn’t work in the film."

    He also contends that with a story like Watchmen you can’t add too much new content because it dilutes the existing story. "It's a complete story already," Gibbons said. When responding to a fan's query about the Hollywood machine stepping in to commission prequels and/or sequels contingent on the film's success, Gibbons intimated that he would like to see well enough left alone, since Watchmen is already comprehensive on its own. He also revealed that he met director Zack Snyder at the 300 premiere and that the pair chatted for 30 minutes about Snyder’s vision for Watchmen. Gibbons said he was impressed at how faithful Snyder had been to 300 and his gut told him that Snyder “got” Watchmen and that “nothing about that feeling has changed” now that there is a final product.

    March 6 will be an event, indeed. At the end of the day, the film's hype will only cause more people to pick up the graphic novel, and that’s what's most important. DC has printed up nearly a million more copies of Watchmen in anticipation of higher demand in the perfect storm of art meeting commerce.

    — Amy Sciarretto

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