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Has any comic book movie borne the weight of expectations that Zach Snyder’s upcoming adaptation of Watchmen does? Created by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, the legendary graphic novel isn’t like Batman or X-Men, comics that have been reinterpreted numerous times by various writers and artists over the years. There are no alternate visions to debate; there’s only one Watchmen and it has a rabid fan base. Thus, to appease that fan base, the producers have sought to keep the kids in the loop via an interactive web site and a viral approach. And now that the issue of getting the movie released has been settled, they’ve uploaded a marketing gem: a fictional news broadcast celebrating the arrival of a critical character to the comic, Dr. Manhattan. [show=watchmen]
Found on the web page of The New Frontiersman (a conservative rag and source of conspiracy theories in the original comic), the clip shows a news report circa 1970, and it definitely looks the part. The microphones, the backdrops, the clothing and haircuts are spot on. The newscasters happily recount 10 years of American prosperity under the nigh-omnipotent protection of the blue-skinned superman, and detail Dr. Manhattan’s numerous impacts on the world.
Beyond the fun of the re-created era (including the tell-tale marks of an old, dubbed tape), it’s the footage of Dr. Manhattan (portrayed by Billy Crudup in the film) that makes this video cool. Highlights include a demonstration with a tank, a baseball card-like rundown of his super powers, and an absolutely inspired animated version of the good Doctor.
The cartoon really stays with you; it’s not just cute, but also points to something bigger: God as a cartoon. Or is it the other way around? That might be fine if Dr. Manhattan were a simple entity, or just a tool of propaganda and destruction for the American people. Of everything seen in these three minutes, it’s a long close-up of the hero’s face that haunts the mind, the eyes bright and impenetrable. He is a far more complicated figure than the citizens of the world realize, just like in the original comic.
And this, then, is what makes the viral clip so grand. It’s a fun diversion, something you could show to a friend who doesn’t know a thing about Watchmen, but it’s also a message to the old fans: The filmmakers care about the source material, and are trying to do right by it. Using The New Frontiersman site to deliver bait, just as its fictional counterpart did, is a nice touch. This NBS report portends good things for a movie that has long been anticipated by an devoted, anxious and somewhat unforgiving fan base.