There was a massive line of humanity waiting since early Saturday morning to enter the main exhibit hall for perhaps the most anticipated panel at the 2009 New York Comic Con, the Warner Bros. Watchmen/Terminator Salvation panel.
The studio saved the best for first, the Watchmen presentation. Anticipation is building to ridiculous levels for Zack Snyder’s adaptation. All signs indicate Warner Bros. knows it has a potentially huge hit on its hands. And perhaps as a sign of that confidence, the studio didn’t feel the need to bring in any cast members or even Snyder to talk up the movie.
Still, the fans that poured into the hall received a nice treat when “Watchmen” co-creator Dave Gibbons walked onstage.
Gibbons spoke of his fondness for New York City and mentioned how one of his first visits to Manhattan was to attend one of the legendary early Phil Seuling conventions. He also said he also tried to get work with DC, but was given the old ‘thanks but no thanks’ treatment.
Then he introduced the first 18 minutes of Watchmen.
The opening scene with the Comedian, and the credit sequence followed. As we detailed in our write-up of the Watchmen presentation last year, the movie begins with the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) fighting for his life with the mystery man who breaks into his apartment. Its brutal, and Snyder’s mix of quick-fire edits and slow-motion enhance the beating Blake takes.
Then the opening credits began, and it was just as powerful the second time. Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin’” is so perfect for this sequence, giving it just the right sense of melancholy nostalgia. Snyder’s attention to detail here is evident. Pay close attention and you’ll notice everyone from the Village People to David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust era standing outside Studio 54.
The audience received a special treat right after the credits ended. We see Rorschach sneaking in to Blake’s apartment to investigate the crime scene and discovering the Comedian’s secret room with his entire arsenal.
Then, after it went to black, we enjoyed a special treat. We see Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) in prison, in the food line. He takes down a prisoner who made the terrible mistake of trying to shank him before breakfast. The scene ends with Haley – who is delightfully creepy from the footage we saw – uttering one of the many standout lines he has in the original series: “You all think I’m locked inside here with you. But you’re all locked in here with me!”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jackie Earle Haley look to have a firm grasp on their characters. It’s obviously impossible to judge the entire movie from just 20 + minutes of footage, but as I’ve written before, Snyder seems to really be locked in on the tone, the look and the mood of the graphic novel.
On to the audience Q & A. The first question, predictably, was about the change to the ending. Gibbons stated the finish of the story remains the same but the McGuffin; the plot device (in this case, the Squid) has been changed. He also said the reality of adapting a comic book to the screen means there have to be some changes made to the story for it to make cinematic sense.
And if you think Gibbons is in favor of a possible sequel or prequel (something that’s been bandied about in online reports almost since production on the movie began), think again.
“You won’t see me at a comic convention in the future talking about a prequel or sequel [to Watchmen], and my feeling is you won’t see Zack Snyder talking about it either,” Gibbons adamantly stated.
“My feeling is, leave well enough alone.’”
The legendary artist earned big laughs from the audience when a fan tiptoed around a question about Alan Moore and whether he’s as intimidating as his appearance implies.
“Are you asking me if Alan Moore is bat-shit crazy?” Gibbons playfully replied.
He went on to say what he’s said many times before. Moore wants nothing to do with Hollywood, asked for his name to be taken off the credits, etc. But he also said he is still close with Moore and that the two still exchange Christmas cards (wouldn’t you like to check those out!). One other benefit Gibbons pointed out is the film is going to help sell tons of copies of the Watchmen graphic novel, which means many new readers will read Moore’s work.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Dr. Manhattan? Gibbons confirmed he met with producer Joel Silver years ago, and that Silver did propose the Governator as the walking talking nuclear man.
After a few other questions, the panel wrapped and the overwhelming mood in the room was that March 6th couldn’t come quickly enough for Watchmen fans.
Following up one of the most eagerly awaited comic book films ever isn’t easy. WB wisely sandwiched the re-imagined Friday the 13th in between the two massive Fanboy event pics – Watchmen and Terminator Salvation.
After showing the trailer to the film, the director introduced the star of the movie and the gentleman behind the hockey mask, Jason himself. Then they unspooled the first five minutes of the movie, which were downright disturbing.
If you’re a fan of inventively sadistic ways to kill off clueless teenagers stupid enough to go alone into the woods, then Friday the 13th is right up your alley. A nice cozy campfire will never seem the same after this movie, I promise you.
After taking a few questions from the audience, the Friday the 13thcrew exited stage right, and made way for Terminator Salvation, which opens May 21st.
Director McG walked onstage and the first thing out of his mouth was, Hhow great does Watchmen look?”
Then he told the audience, which was rather subdued for a big Con crowd, they needed to get more excited. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. McG should be hired by every studio with a Fanboy pic to promote it. He’s a master at working the room.
Having just wrapped up the Terminator road show presentations last month, McG has this routine down pat. He addressed the James Cameron issue, how the man who launched the franchise told him he would reserve judgment on the fourth film until he sees it, and how he hopes to show the movie to Cameron in a few weeks.
Then he recapped the recruitment of Christian Bale to the project. He also had a little fun at the expense of Bale’s recent audio rant.
“You guys know how Christian is, he doesn’t like to talk much, he’s very soft-spoken,” McG joked.
After calling Bale’s house and talking briefly with the actor’s wife Sib, McG showed a six-minute montage from Terminator Salvation.
While still partially incomplete, with green screens visible and computer graphics in place where some of the machinery in the movie, the sequence gave a hint to the technological mayhem McG has promised to unleash in theaters in May. It was also well received by the fans in attendance.
The Bale tirade was addressed as soon as the audience questions began. McG mentioned that the fallout from the widely played audio rant has been minimal. I’m sure he’s glad Christian apologized publicly Friday for the outburst. It gave McG the out he needed to discuss it, state how things happen sometimes on movie sets, and that was that.
There was no mention, however, about whether McG had a talk with his DP about keeping a lower profile on the set after the incident.
One of the most interesting questions found McG defending his work on the Charlie’s Angels movies, saying he wanted to show female action heroes could work.
He also admitted that getting kicked off Superman Returns was one of the most humiliating moments of his life. For those who don’t remember, he was fired from the project because his fear of flying kept him from flying to Australia.
He likened it to an alcoholic hitting bottom. McG said he sought professional help to get over his flying fear, and it’s one of the reasons why he directed a movie about a plane crash (We Are Marshall.)
When a fan mentioned “the more Michael Ironside, the better”, McG praised the popular character actor and said fondly, that he’s out of his mind. “In his mind, [Ironside] thinks he’s 6-4 with a six-pack of abs and a full head of hair,” he joked.
McG reiterated the timeline and mythology of T4 won’t pay attention to the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series.
The panels wrapped with McG letting someone from a Terminator fan site ask if Schwarzenegger will make an appearance.
Just as he hedged when asked if Linda Hamilton would pop up in the movie, McG tap-danced around the question. He did mention they are trying to create a new special effect dealing with the T-800, one of the central issues in the movie’s plot.
McG added cryptically that he does not want today’s Arnold, he wants mid-80s Arnold. Whether his special effects guys can pull it off, remains to be seen.
One other concern may be that the fanticipation for a new Terminator movie is nowhere near what it is for Watchmen. Understandable, given Watchmen’s comic book roots, the history of the project, and also the general apathy regarding T3.
Still, Warner Bros. should be concerned that a large part of the crowd at the panel emptied out immediately after the Watchmen presentation.
As more footage is released, maybe that will change. Christian Bale is obviously a huge draw on his own, but if today was any indication, Terminator Salvation may need a bit more than his star power (and audio taped outbursts) to have a blockbuster debut in May.More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page