Collider Goes to the Set of WATCHMEN

     July 13, 2008

Thank God the handcuffs are finally off.

Since the moment I stepped onto the set of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen last October, I’ve wanted to write about it.

I’ve wanted to scream at all the nervous folks in and out of cyberspace that what I saw on the Vancouver set can only be described as amazing.

I’ve wanted to tell everyone that Zack Snyder and company have actually figured out how to adapt Watchmen into a movie, and oh my fucking God is it going to be good.

Now…I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.

The good news is…I’ve already written a massive set report of what I saw and did on the set of Watchmen. It’s called “Collider Goes to the Set of Watchmen and Has a Geekgasm.” But…I have some bad news…I’m still under embargo and can’t post the report until closer to the films March, 2009 release date. Sorry.

What I’m allowed to do is write a preview piece. I know…what the f is a preview piece? It’s a way of telling all of you that I was there and I’m allowed to say what I thought, but I can’t write anything specific.

To me, a preview piece is like getting to make out with someone, but you can’t take off any clothes. Sure it’s fun and it feels good…but everyone walks away unsatisfied.

So while I’d love to tell you all about Rorschach’s apartment, or how I ate my lunch in Dr. Manhattan’s lab, or even about watching the pre-viz of the Vietnam sequence with the Comedian firing this huge gun while Dr. Manhattan walked behind him…I think I’d better be very careful.

But while I’m sure they don’t want me telling you everything I saw and did…let me say this: I’ve been fortunate these last few years as I’ve gotten to visit a number of movie sets. I’ve seen a lot of cool shit and I’ve watched crazy action scenes get filmed and seen things blow up. But out of all the things I’ve done and witnessed on a movie set, NOTHING compares to the set visit I did for Watchmen.

I think the main reason nothing compares is….getting to see Watchmen get filmed was like winning the lottery. For years and years I’d wondered if we’d ever see the brilliant Alan Moore graphic novel get made into a movie. After all, many filmmakers tried to get it off the ground and all of them failed…until Zack Snyder. After the worldwide success of 300, Zack found a way to get the film green lit and we’re all better for it. Seriously, if you’ve never read Watchmen, go buy it right now. It’s one of the best comics I’ve ever read and it’s as relevant today as when it was first published in the 80’s.

But getting back to the movie…the other reason the set visit was so amazing was the complete freedom we were given on set.

Early in the day we were given our badges and of course we were shown around and did the normal interviews. But at some point in the afternoon, I think around lunch, formality kind of slipped away and a lot of us wandered around Dr. Manhattan’s Lab or Rorschach’s jail cell on our own. We revisited the places we went to as a group and just got to take in the sets without felling rushed.

But I guess I need to back up a bit.

It was Friday, October 26th when I, along with a few other online journalists, visited the Vancouver set of Watchmen. We arrived on the set early in the morning and almost immediately we were standing next to director Zack Snyder as he directed a certain jail scene with Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach.

No hello’s. No sitting around waiting. Within 5 minutes we were watching the action unfold. It was nothing short of amazing.

Since this is a preview piece (damn embargo) I can’t say what we saw happen in the jail…but if you’ve read the comic, you know. And since photos have already been released of the New York Street scenes, you can imagine what it was like to stand on them as they were being built. Another cool thing we saw was Nite Owl’s ship…and perhaps we even got to stand inside…

The thing is, usually when you do a set visit, the producers and the people behind the scenes are very careful what they show you. Even with a huge embargo, they are hesitant to open the curtains and show you the real Wizard of Oz. But that wasn’t Watchmen. Zack and Debbie Snyder couldn’t have been nicer and they couldn’t have shown us more than they did. They even took us into the war room to let us see all the storyboards and showed us panels of how the movie is going to look versus the comic. Again, have I told you how amazing this set visit was?

We were also taken to every room in the production office. We saw every stage, every department, we even got to see and hold props from the movie. You know that famous button with the smiley face that has some blood on it…we saw that. Rorschach’s grappling gun from the beginning of the comic…we all held that. All the other important props…saw and held those as well. We even got to see the Under the Hood book cover by Hollis Mason. Also, a Time Magazine from ’84 with Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias on the cover with it saying Supermen – United For Peace.

So while I might be coming across as showing off…let me stop and say the most important thing I learned on the set visit…the Watchmen movie couldn’t be made by better people.

From everyone we spoke in every department involved, I got the sense that these people LOVED the source material and were treating it like a Bible. They all got it. They all know what Watchmen means to so many people. I cannot imagine how this movie won’t be amazing.

Also, as you might have seen Zack tell me at the Saturn Awards, this movie is going to be long. Like close to 3 hours. Zack told us on set that he was overshooting the film and the eventual DVD release would have everything. I cannot wait.

Okay…I realize I’ve told you nothing really specific about the set visit. Again, preview piece. I swear my full report is so extensive and detailed, you’ll think I wrote an entry for some bureaucratic government agency. But, I tried to write it for all the people that couldn’t be there. I know how lucky I was to visit this movie set and I’m so grateful to everyone at Warner Bros. for making the trip happen.

Trust me, this movie is going to be something very special. I truly believe this “Comic-book” movie is going to change the way we look at these kinds of films.

And if you need a taste of Watchmen before next year, the trailer is attached to The Dark Knight this weekend and Zack will be showing footage at Comic-Con the following week. Get ready.

So until my full set report….

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