As many of you no doubt already know, Watchmen is coming out early next year, and last night I was invited to a limited preview/short Q&A with director Zack Snyder, production designer Michael Wilkinson, and costume designer Alex McDowell. Before showing us the footage, Snyder assured the audience that he tried to stay as true to the comic as possible. Unlike previous drafts of scripts that set Watchmen in the modern era, Snyder has kept it a period piece, maintained the alternate 1985 setting, as well as most of the book’s controversial final act. (Watch the trailer for the movie here.)

The first clip shown was actually the first 12 minutes of the film. After cycling through the Warner Brothers, Paramount, Legendary and DC Logos (all done in the classic black-on-yellow trade dressing of the books) the movie begins the same way the comic does: The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) meeting his grisly end at the hands of an unseen attacker. Even with the decidedly 300-like stylistic trickery (all the fight scenes have that same speed-up, slow-down effect), it was refreshing to see the visual language of the comic remain largely intact, thanks to some clever camera angles that pay direct homage to the opening panels of the comic.

Following the opening scene was one of the more fun credit sequences I’ve seen in a while. Snyder effectively tells the history of the alternate universe of Watchmen through a highly stylized moving photo montage set to Bob Dylan’s “Times Are Changing.” Showcasing some particularly black humor, the tone seems to veer slightly more towards satire than the original work.

Snyder then showcased a series of clips from various points in the movie, in no particular order (read about them after the jump)…

-A whole chunk showcasing Doctor Manhattan’s (Billy Crudup) originstory that cribbed heavily from the comic, both visually (panels werereproduced wholesale) and through Crudup’s narrative (at times lifteddirectly from the captions themselves), as well as a longer look at DocManhattan’s crystal palace on Mars. Even in the rough pre-vis state, itlooks gorgeous. Also, yes, remaining true to the comic, the audiencegot more than a glimpse at, uh, to put it delicately, the Full DocManhattan.

-Nite-Owl (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre (MalinAckerman) post-Owl Ship tryst (hello side-boobage) breaking Rorschach(Jackie Earle Haley) out from prison. Lots of sped-up/slow-motionbutt-kicking and enough skin-tight latex on Ackerman to invoke somesympathetic wincing and shifting in seats.

Some quick details gleaned from the Q&A:

-The current edit has Watchmen running at a not-so-brisk two hours and 45 minutes, and with an R rating.

The Black Freighterinterstitials from the comic have been adapted into a 20-minuteanimated film that will be packaged along with a fake documentary setin the Watchmen universe, titled Under the Hood. Snyder hopes to edit these back into the film for the eventual DVD release.

Iknow Snyder is in a no-win position — there is absolutely no way thisfilm can (nor should it try) to appeal to everyone, devoted fans andnewbies alike, and while it was refreshing to see Snyder take greatpains to be so faithful to the source material, the R rating,unfamiliar characters, and nontraditional storytelling structure mayput off those not already already familiar with what Watchmen has to offer.

Now, PopWatchers, I turn the post over to you, newbies and fellow fans alike: Will you be watching the Watchmen next year?

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