Watching the Latest Watchmen Trailer: A Detailed Analysis

Weekly Ketchup's (and Watchmen expert) Greg Dean Schmitz walks us through the new trailer.

by | November 24, 2008 | Comments

Hey gang, I’m back again with my analysis of the latest Watchmen trailer, following the great reaction that my first such piece got, watching the trailer that was attached to The Dark Knight in July. This trailer is less about imagery, I think, and has more dialogue, but there’s still lots to be interpreted, so… here we go.



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Here’s the MPAA rating screen for Watchmen, which tells us that it is Rated R for “strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.” That sounds about right.



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This trailer starts with images from the murder scene that starts the Watchmen story. Someone wants to kill Eddie Blake, AKA The Comedian, and that someone is seen standing here. The question of who this person is drives the mystery of the entire story, so yeah… I’m not going to identify Eddie’s unwelcomed visitor. I’m not even going to point out the clues in this image.



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Meet Edward Blake, The Comedian, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who with Harry Dean Stanton, sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster and myself belongs to an elite little club. The four of us should have lunch sometime. Anyway, Morgan is probably best known as the dad on Supernatural and as Izzie’s weak heart quasi-boyfriend patient, Denny, on Grey’s Anatomy. Jeffrey Dean Morgan went through a lot of makeup work for various scenes in Watchmen because his character (along with Carla Gugino’s) is seen at various points over a 40 year period, from World War II until his death in the 1980s. His line here, “Just a matter of time, I suppose” isn’t in the Watchmen book, because, well, Eddie Blake didn’t have any lines in the flashbacks to his death scene. Whoever it is that narrates those scenes attributes Blake as saying things, but there are no direct quotes. Also, note the “smiley face” pin on Blake’s robe, which is not yet bearing the trademark red blotch.



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And here we see Eddie getting thrown across his apartment by his mystery guest. Please consider how strong someone would have to be to hurl a muscular man over 20 feet through the air. Oh no, that was a hint, wasn’t it? Since I don’t have much else to say about this image, this is a good point to say that the song for this second Watchmen trailer is Take a Bow by the British band, Muse, although it is incorporated with other music (the movie’s score?). I don’t think it’s anywhere as good (as a background song) as the Smashing Pumpkins song in the first trailer, but there the strange rhythm does sort of match a few shots later on. The song itself is awesome, but just strange as a trailer song.



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And… SPLAT! That’s not ketchup. The blood hasn’t yet drip down the smiley face pin to form the 11:00 clock hand that it symbolizes in Watchmen artwork. The only other thing I get from this image is that Eddie’s thick robe looks really, really comfy. Fighting the bad guy in that thing couldn’t have been comfortable, though.



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Eddie’s unpleasant departure from his apartment. This image was also in the first trailer, but since it’s one of those shots where director Zack Snyder makes great effort to replicate an image from the comic book, it can’t be ignored. Here, not only does the villain throw Eddie, but this time, he breaks the glass of a skyscraper penthouse apartment, which you’ve got to figure is not easy to break.



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Here the Muse song starts up, as Rorschach, the masked man walking here, says “Watchmen.” That is great for the trailer, but problematic for fans who know that in fact… the word “Watchmen” is never actually said in the book. It appears as graffiti (“Who Watches the Watchmen?”), but unlike what you might think, our group of costumed adventures isn’t actually called that in “Watchmen.” The original WWII-era team of heroes was called the Minutemen, and the second generation group, during their brief time under a team name, were called the Crimebusters. Devin Faraci of CHUD.com noticed the same thing, and asked director Zack Snyder specifically about it. Basically, it sounds like the term “Watchmen” is being used in the movie, but as a generally symbolic term, and not as a specific hero team name. Also, notice on the right what looks like a scantily-clad prostitute in the background talking to either a john or her pimp, and on the left, is a person wearing what looks like an umbrella hat.



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Following images of Rorschach picking up the smiley face pin and Rorschach against the moonlit cityscape, we get this look at the Crimebusters having their picture taken against a wall of black and white pictures of their Minutemen predecessors. Over all this, Rorschach says, “Watchmen, one of us died tonight…”, which I suspect might actually be two different lines edited together to sound like one sentiment for the trailer. It also sounds like he might have said “*if* one of us died tonight.” Anyway, the group shot is from left to right: The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley). The aging hero who actually started the Crimebusters in the comic book, Captain Metropolis, is actually not in this movie version of the group shot (he’s the sad guy in red in this image. Internet rumors suggest that Captain Metropolis was written out of that scene, with Nite Owl II taking his place as the Crimebusters organizer.



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Grappling hook guns sure are handy for a costumed adventurer. Here we see Rorschach getting zipped up to Blake’s penthouse apartment with great speed. Also visible, hovering above the building is an airship (AKA a zeppelin), which in our world never really caught on as a common means of transportation, but because of what Dr. Manhattan brought to science in his world, never went out of style because of safety issues. So, airships floating in the sky are pretty common visuals in Watchmen. It’s how you know you’re in that world.



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Here we see Rorschach discovering the secret closet in Eddie Blake’s apartment where he keeps his Comedian costume and related weapons and gadgets. On the right, you can make out a funny little 1980s touch that the design people threw in: that’s a Patrick Nagel poster. Like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Eddie Blake was exactly the kind of guy who would have had a Patrick Nagel print in his place. Rorschach’s narration continues with “Somebody knows why, somebody knows.”



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A better shot of the inside of the Comedian’s secret closet, showing a keepsake newspaper headline of one of his early adventures, and one of his guns, with the smiley face logo.



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Here we see Rorschach and Daniel Dreiberg, AKA Nite Owl II, who at this point has gone soft and chubby after years in retirement. This is actually an important image because after seeing the Nite Owl II costume in action in the first trailer, many fans had expressed concern that Daniel wouldn’t be portrayed as being “out of shape.” This image addresses that. Talking about Edward Blake, Daniel says, “I heard he’d been working for the government.”



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Eddie Blake as the Comedian, mowing down Viet Cong with a flamethrower, with Dr. Manhattan’s feet visible in the background. This scene was in the first trailer.



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Another shot of the same scene shows us Eddie appearing to take joy in the massacre. His face is obscured by cigar smoke.



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As Daniel says “Maybe it was a political killing,” we see Eddie Blake’s flag draped coffin next to his grave.



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In a bit of backwards framing, here we see the soldiers draping the flag on the coffin that we just saw already covered by the flag. It looks good, but doesn’t make much sense.



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Okay, this shot, for me is the best in the trailer. Rorschach is walking away from Daniel (the scene is in his house), and he says “Maybe someone’s picking off costumed heroes.” What makes this little glimpse great for me is very subtle: look at the way Rorschach swaggers as he says that. Jackie Earle Haley is covered by a mask, but conveys Rorschach’s personality so well in just a little bit of body mannerism. Well done.



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The Comedian’s blood splattered “smiley face” button, about to be tossed (with a little “ding” sound) into…



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Eddie’s open grave by Daniel Dreiberg. We can also see the tombstone that tells us his full name was Edward Morgan Blake, which is a nice coincidence since the actor playing him is Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I went back and checked the book to make sure they didn’t add the Morgan, and yep, that’s his middle name in the book too.



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The Comedian wasn’t alone in Vietnam. Here we see Dr. Manhattan taking a giant-sized stroll through the jungle, with helicopters on each side, and the trails of missiles over his shoulders.



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Here’s Malin Akerman as Laurie Juspeczyk, AKA Silk Spectre II. She starts saying “Jon thinks…,” as she’s sitting in a nice restaurant. Who she’s talking to could be perceived as a very minor spoiler, but we see them kissing later in the trailer, so… it’s Daniel Dreiberg, AKA Nite Owl II.



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Continuing her sentence, Laurie says “…that there’s going to be a nuclear war,” as we see what looks like New York City’s Times Square, circa the mid-1980s, getting blown up by a big blue-white explosion. Are nuclear explosions normally known for being blue? Anyway, there is no scene in the book like this. Not exactly like this, anyway.



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As Rorschach starts to say “What if that’s why someone wants us out of the way?,” we see Daniel and Laurie in their hero costumes, with Rorschach, walking down stairs with an Egyptian statue in the background. Laurie has an inquisitive look on her face, and Daniel seems stuffed into his old Nite Owl costume, as he walks kind of stiffly.



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Several police officers are rushing into a building.



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Close up, the cops look like S.W.A.T., with big guns ready to blow someone away. Over this, Rorschach continues, “So we can’t do anything to stop it.”



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Although you can’t really make out his face, that’s Adrian Veidt (AKA Ozymandias) as he’s swinging a tall floor lamp, about to take out that gunman. It looks like the Comedian wasn’t the only one that someone wanted to kill?



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Rorschach continues, starting to say, “An attack on one is an attack on all of us,” as we see a flashback to the 1970s, as an angry crowd of anti-vigilante protesters yells and throws molotov cocktails at Nite Owl’s “Owlship” (AKA “Archie”).



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And here we see one of those molotov cocktails hitting one of the Owlship’s large glass eyes, with Nite Owl sitting behind it, steering the ship over the crowd.



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Rorschach may not have super powers, but he’s stayed very nimble over the years, as we see him here, jumping over bars on top of a building.



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Nite Owl turns towards us in a nice “heroic stance” shot, with the Owlship behind him. A voice starts to say “Watchmen… are over,” but I don’t know sure who’s saying that, because a line like that was never said in the book (as noted before, no one in the book ever says “Watchmen”). My guess would be that it’s probably Adrian Veidt saying that, as there is a scene in the book where he talks about how costumed heroes are a thing of the past.



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Laurie in her Silk Spectre costume walks down some metal stairs in the same scene we saw in the first trailer, to better effect because of the Smashing Pumpkins song. Someone says “What do you suggest we do about it?” I can’t place for sure who’s saying that, either, but my best guess is that it might be Daniel Dreiberg/Nite Owl.



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Rorschach lurks on a rooftop with rain and lightning around him, looking all cool and menacing, as he replies, “Retribution.”



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The Muse song starts up here as the Owl Ship comes flying out of the water, with New York in the background.



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That’s Adrian Veidt, back when he was still the adventurer known as Ozymandias, complete with his odd golden crown around the back of his head. Ozymandias is saying “We can save this world” (although with his strange accent, the “save” kind of sounds like “sink/sank” to me). The Comedian is sitting in the foreground, smoking his cigar, and smiling.



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There’s Dr. Jon Osterman, getting blown up in the strange event that leads him to becoming the nuclear-powered god-like figure known as Dr. Manhattan. This shot was in the first trailer too.



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Dr. Manhattan appears in front of his former coworkers in their cafeteria, floating naked as stuff whirls around the room. Director Zack Snyder has talked about these trailers, remarking that he had to digitally obscure Dr. Manhattan’s “privates,” which in the actual movie are visible, which is part of why the movie has an R rating.



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The lyrics of the Muse song kick in as we see this floating intersitial over clockwork, “THEY WATCH OVER US.” The lyrics that play over the next few shots are “Corrupt. You’re corrupt. Bring corruption to all that you touch.”



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Silk Spectre fights some convicts in this prison riot scene.



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Remember that grappling hook shot earlier? Here’s the pay off, as Rorschach jumps through the broken window that Eddie Blake was thrown out of.



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A close up of Rorschach’s mask, as rain drips down from his hat. This shot doesn’t follow the previous, since there wouldn’t be rain in Blake’s apartment.



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The flying interstitial continues with, “BUT WHO WATCHES OVER THEM?” This echoes the grafitti in the book of “Who Watches the Watchmen?”, but for us as a movie audience, I don’t think this is really the sentiment we will necessarily have, since I think we see events from the heroes’ perspective more than the general populace who protests against them.



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Laurie and Dr. Manhattan (well, little CGI versions of them) stand on his glass clockwork palace on Mars, as the lyric finishes the line “Bring corruption to all that you touch.” The surface of Mars is pristine. Does Dr. Manhattan bring corruption to it by transforming the Martian sands into his glass palace?



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This is a nice close up of Dr. Manhattan’s face, so we can see how CGI and makeup combine with Billy Crudup’s performance to give us a living, realistic Dr. Manhattan. Manhattan asks, “Why would I save a world I no longer have any stake in?” What Dr. Manhattan means by that question is definitely a spoiler.



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Dr. Manhattan’s glass clockwork palace rises from the face of Mars. The Muse lyrics continue over this and the next few shots, “Cast a spell. Cast a spell on the country you run.”



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Laurie replies to Jon’s question, “Do it for me.” That seems like a very romantic answer, but she sort of doesn’t get what Dr. Manhattan is talking about, I don’t think.



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The Comedian jumps down from Nite Owl’s Owlship, down to the crowd of protesters below.



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The Comedian continues his slo-mo jump down, and we get a wide shot with a lot of nice detail. Two of the signs say “Bring back our police” and “Clean up our streets.” The reason for the protesters rioting is a police strike, and our heroes are trying to control the riots, but they themselves are not particularly loved by a population who sees them as controlling the world. There’s also a large American flag hanging on a building in front of a basketball court.



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The Comedian lands in front of the rioting crowd, as we see a sign on the right that says “Police Not Masked…” (probably “Men” or “Vigilantes”). We can also see the nice 1970s period work that the costume department did. I can’t help but be reminded of the current hit TV show, Life on Mars, which is also thick with 1970s nostalgia.



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The flying interstitial continues with “FROM THE VISIONARY DIRECTOR OF 300.” The Muse lyrics that play over the next couple of shots are “You will burn in Hell, yeah, you’ll burn in Hell for sins.”



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Two figures stand in front of some sort of pod-like-looking vehicle on a desolate Arctic tundra. Now, for a more accurate description, that’s Nite Owl on the left in his fancy “snow suit” and Rorschach standing next to him, with the Owlship crashed behind them, and that’s Antartica, not the Arctic. Why in the world would these two guys be down there? A better question might be why did Snyder choose to put this shot in the trailer?



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Remember that S.W.A.T. team from earlier? Here, one of them is shooting off several rounds with his sniper rifle.



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I couldn’t really get a GREAT capture of this scene, but Rorschach is running away from that gunfire, as it tears up a stairway banister, and Rorschach jumps out a window.



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This is a very cool shot of Rorschach jumping out, amidst broken glass. But what I would really like to point out is the yellow neon sign on the left. Under a skull-and-bones sign, it says “Rum Runners,” which is probably a sign for a tavern, but it also reminds us that in the world of Watchmen, society is obsessed with (of all things), pirates. Keep in mind that for decades (until Pirates of the Caribbean), pirates were not particularly popular in our world. Author Alan Moore speculated that in a world where superheroes are real, they would not be the object of popular affection that they are in our world. Instead, people love gory and disturbing pirate comic books like Tales of the Black Freighter, which will be included on the eventual Watchmen DVD. I should also point out that both the sign and the lamp are yellow. Zack Snyder is striving to keep a very certain color palate in the movie, and yellow is a very prevalent Watchmen color.



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The flying interstital reminds us that Watchmen is “THE MOST CELEBRATED GRAPHIC NOVEL OF ALL TIME.” That sounds like an exaggeration, a promotional hyperbole, but it is actually quite accurate. Anyway, right after this is when the trailer really starts to kick in with awesomeness.



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Nite Owl jumps down from the Owlship as the crowd runs away. A shorter version of this shot was in the first trailer, and I’ve heard that some people not familiar with Watchmen thought that he was actually Batman. There is some similarity between the movie version of Nite Owl’s costume and Batman’s, but really he is inspired by the Charlton Comics character, Blue Beetle. Of course, I guess Blue Beetle was sort of “inspired” by Batman, so… okay, it’s a valid point from the perspective of the Watchmen newbie.



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There’s Dr. Manhattan walking through the jungles of Vietnam again, in his super giant form. That sparkly blue stuff is what’s left of a Viet Kong soldier after Manhattan blew him up. I suspect, however, that this scene is not exactly what we will see in the movie. We saw this shot in the first trailer, and it was different (showing more guts and bones), and I’ve heard that the Vietnam scenes are very graphic in the movie. So, for this trailer, we get lots of sparkly blue stuff.



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Rorschach is using a can of Veidt Industries hairspray as an impromptu flame thrower. This shot was in the first trailer too. It’s important to note that through all this, the Muse song is saying “You will burn in Hell for your sins,” while we see images of fire: Jon in Vietnam, Rorschach with his flaming hairspray can, Laurie in that burning building, and others. Also, Rorschach’s twirling inkspot mask, in this shot, looks like a big black “X” over his right eye.



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Some of these action scenes are difficult to screen capture! Anyway, here we see Nite Owl jumping through the air, and kicking a convict square in the chest, sending him flying.



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Laurie/Silk Spectre’s got an “oh crap” look here, leading up to the next shot. Something I notice here is how this shot highlights Laurie’s hairstyle, with the odd center part in her bangs. Something that Watchmen tried to establish in the comics is how fashion and styles might be different in a world where Dr. Manhattan’s powers pushed science and chemistry ahead quite a bit in the 1960s. They smoke funny cigarettes, wear plastic see through stuff and ride around in blimp-like airships.



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Director Zack Snyder chose to put a slo-mo stop on Silk Spectre’s hair floating in front of her face as she turns to run from this inferno, so that’s what I’m left to take a screenshot of. The scene plays much better than a screenshot can capture. I’ll also say that this particular scene seems to be reimagined a bit for the movie to make it more exciting.



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Well, lookie lookie here. That appears to be Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, about to engage in a fairly passionate kiss!



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Dr. Manhattan usually comes across as a cool, detached, unemotional, god-like figure, but here we see that he can indeed get quite angry too, shouting, “Leave me alone!” What becomes of those people behind him is rather strange. Also, check out that nice suit he’s wearing, which makes his blue skin seem even odder somehow.



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This is one of the Dr. Manhattan origin story scenes that was in the first trailer, but here it’s positioned to make you think it has something to do with Jon’s “Leave me alone!” scene, which it totally does not.



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Nite Owl is screaming about something that has clearly made him very upset. There is no scene in the Watchmen comic book like this, but I think it’s pretty clear when and where this scene probably takes place. And no, I’m not going to say, because that would require spoilers, I think. Also, at this point, Rorschach starts to repeat something he said in the first trailer, “The world will look up and shout, ‘Save us!'” As I noted in my first trailer analysis, what Rorschach *actually* says in the comic is “all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us!'” Changing it to just “the world” really sanitizes Rorschach’s sentiment, but I guess the generality makes it more damning.



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Ah, making trailers must be so much fun. As Silk Spectre and Nite Owl stand kissing, a massive orange nuclear mushroom explosion looms behind them. The thing is, this image is taken incredibly out of context. It’s still cool looking though.



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Back to the rioting crowd, one of the signs says “Badges Not Masks,” as a burning effigy of a costumed hero burns. The funny thing about that effigy is that with the blue costume and red cape, it resembles Superman (also published by DC Comics, the company behind Watchmen). In the world of Watchmen, there is such a thing as Superman, who was a hit in the comic books in the early 1940s just like in our world, but the difference there is that people were inspired to actually put on masks and become heroes. Eventually, this led to fictional superheroes like Superman seeming silly in comparison to real world superheroes, and so, pirates (of all things!) took over as the most popular comic book characters.



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A man that looks a lot like Rorschach (but I’m pretty sure isn’t) throws a molotov cocktail into the window of an electronics store, as protesters hold signs that say things like “Give us our police,” “No more masks” and “No vigilantes.” The ironic thing to note about all this is that in the real 1970s, there were protests alright… often against the police! Alan Moore twisted things around, so that instead of protesters often fighting with the police and calling them “pigs,” in the world of Watchmen, the police are seen as the good guys whoses jobs are made more complicated by the presence of mask-wearing vigilantes like Rorschach. Also, at this point, Rorschach finishes his line with “And I’ll whisper…”



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Rorschach kicks in a door, and then stands there, looking all cool and menacing, as he says “…NO.” That is an awesome shot.



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And now we get a very nice close up of Rorschach’s shifting mask. I will make this prediction now, 11 months ahead of time. Come Halloween 2009, Rorschach is going to be one of the most popular costumes. He’s the star of Watchmen, and people are really going to connect with him. Rorschach has been around 20+ years, but isn’t quite yet a cultural phenomenon. I predict that’s going to change in a few months.



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Your feature presentation’s title. Remember how I said earlier that yellow is a very important color in Watchmen?



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The Comedian’s smiley face button starts to slowly fall down over a New York street.



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The smiley face button becames the dot in 03 . 06 . 09, the movie’s release date. As I close this analysis, let me say that it’s humorous somehow that Warner Bros had to put a little “Smiley Logo TM The Smiley Company” credit at the end of the trailer. As I was writing this analysis earlier, it occurred to me that whoever came up with the Smiley face stood to make a lot of money from Watchmen. Only if they start selling them with red splotches though!