Who Watches The Watchmen Trailer?

Monday, July 28th, 2008 Horrorthon Posts

I’ve been going nuts over the Watchmen trailer since it first appeared. This is actually the first time I’ve ever gotten a song stuck in my head (an unfamiliar song) just from a trailer; I’ve watched it that many times.

I know that some Horrorthon regulars have not read Watchmen (and I’m not going to talk about the story) but I’m awfully curious how all this looks to the uninitiated.

Somehow it gets back to the effectiveness of the title. I vividly remember crossing the campus in Chicago back in 1985 and seeing Tyler (a girl I knew who collected comics) carrying a bagged version of “Watchmen” #2, which was the first time I’d heard of the book. The title leaped out at me, because (unlike nearly all comics) this cover exhibited a modicum of design sense: the title was in a cool font and was yellow and was turned 90 degrees along the book’s spine. (Dave Gibbons gave an interview where he talked about the Watchmen title typography and how comic book stores’ domination of newsstands made that kind of cover design possible.) But “WATCHMEN” leapt out at me instantly and conveyed the whole tone of the project: an ominous, uneasy view of superheroes who have been given this strangely paternal, dangerous-sounding epithet.

The same thing happened again at the end of the trailer, when the same yellow font formed the same word…on the movie screen…and made me and many others very happy. It’s the same strange phenomenon as the Lord of the Rings movies, but even more so: in that case, we got all excited about a movie, but we already knew the whole story. In the case of Watchmen it’s even worse: not only do we already know the whole story, we already know what everything looks like (Tolkien’s version wasn’t illustrated). And the movie appears to be so faithful that I (and anyone else who’s read the book) can tell you exactly what’s going on in every single shot of the trailer.

Has anything like this happened before? The trailer says “The Most Celebrated Graphic Novel of All Time” (which is obviously true, if a bit strange since Watchmen is essentially the first graphic novel). It’s also the book that famously introduced the element of real time into the comic book world, which is why it’s significant that the story takes place in 1985 (and an explicitly divergent 1985 at that). So we’ve got a faithful period-piece movie made from comics. Seriously, has anyone done anything like this before?

On message boards, many people “admit” they haven’t read Watchmen and then gush about the trailer. This intrigues me, because I can’t imagine seeing this thing and not knowing what’s going on; I’m too familiar with the story and the images. But the trailer (and its uninitiated viewers) are bringing me back to the excitement of 19-year-old Jordan seeing the word “WATCHMEN” sideways on a comic book. Nothing like that comic had ever happened before, and now, 23 years later, it’s going to happen again.

Am I even making any sense? You tell me. Watchmen is special, and I have a feeling this movie will be special too, not just because of its quality but because, just like the book, it’s something happening that’s never happened before.

Are any of you Watchmen neophytes excited? What does the trailer look like to a Horrorthoner who hasn’t read the book?