In front of “The Dark Knight” last night was a teaser trailer for “Watchmen.” To quote another geeky staple, “I have a bad feeling about this.” The Smashing Pumpkins music didn’t rattle me — very often there’s temp track music used for teasers to drum up a certain kind of audience, and this is something to which the “300” crowd would probably respond fairly well. The visuals look stunning, especially in that they seem to be extremely faithful to the original book, as worked well in “Sin City” and “300.” But I have grave misgivings about the screenplay after reading articles like this one.
The 1989 script by Sam Hamm — who, among other atrocities, was responsible for that year’s “Batman” script — was laughably bad. But David Hayter’s 2003 version was everything Hamm’s wasn’t: smart, sly, and ultimately moving like the original book. Some elements had to be condensed to fit a movie running time, of course. (I always wanted to see “Watchmen” done as a HBO miniseries, but I think the production costs would be prohibitive.) But the sensibility of the book was there in every page.
But if Alex Tse’s work is as bad as it’s made out to be in that article, I can only hope that the rewrites have eliminated the problem. It’s very possible that Tse attached the unnecessary chaff to distract clueless studio executives (is there another kind?), with the filmmakers fully intending to simply ignore or excise that material later, with the material being unharmed in the process. I’m pretty sure having to do that kind of double-dealing is fairly common in the moviemaking industry.
But it’s a slim spot on which to pin one’s hopes for a decent film, especially given the excessive use of slo-mo fight scenes I saw. I would like to see a more mature look at the story in a later trailer, emphasizing the mystery of the Comedian’s death and the troubled lives of the latter-day masked vigilantes, subtly weaving in the “Nostalgia” ads that were so effective in the book. Also troubling is the March release, meaning the studio could be hedging its bets to bury “Watchmen” if the executives in their limited imaginations can’t figure out a way to sell it. I do hear, though, that the studio is already looking at a greatly expanded DVD edition of the film, which might do it justice in the same manner as Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” benefited from its longer cut.
So all I’m saying is, the teaser looks visually impressive, but don’t get your hopes up too much at this point.