HBO’s newest Watchmen trailer tells the show’s history by showing us an Easter egg-laden alternate present day.
The opening shows a figure, resembling the character “Hooded Justice,” foiling a robbery in retro surroundings. It pans out to show that it’s a movie being watched on TV by Tim Blake Nelson’s (O Brother Where Art Thou, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) character, “Looking Glass,” with his mask pulled halfway up and eating from a can.
Fans of the original comic books from 1986-7 and/or Zack Snyder’s 2009 film will recognize the homage to Rohrschach. Everyone else can appreciate the idea that, even in a world where superheroes are real, there’s no escaping them in media as is evident in ads for “American Hero Story” which looks to be a tell-all about The Comedian’s career and murder.
Oscar winner Regina King (The Leftovers, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Angela Abar, gives her daughter a talk about the ugly side of life, the black and white that we hide with pretty colors. Meanwhile, the regal gold and purple of Ozymandias frosts a birthday cake set before Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons) moments after seeing a newspaper declare the original series’ anti-villain dead.
This segues into the “Rohrschach” militia group’s video being played for a room full of police officers … in yellow masks. If there was any question as to whether this group was to be as sympathetic as the original character, it’s answered in a flashback of them storming the homes of police officers (including Angela’s) in concerted attacks. These attacks are explained as the reason for masked, anonymous police in this alternate fifty-one United States of America. The question is then begged … or demanded … when can a mask be trusted?
Can Angela trust the mysterious “old wise man” played by Louis Gossett Jr, encountering him while she wears a masked costume reminiscent of a prizefighter’s ring robe? He warns her of a vast conspiracy and mentions Doctor Manhattan which cues up David Bowie’s “Life on Mars. “The people of this world have been watching their former savior in his self-imposed exile on Mars and their celebration of him indicates that this series serves as sequel to the original comics and not so much the film that uses Doc Manhattan in a very different way at the story’s conclusion.
The ending of the trailer spins into chaotic action that sees police and protestors and piglets run amok, Don Johnson’s Chief Crawford flying Nite Owl’s airship, raining squid, and Adrian Veidt telling us that “It’s only just begun.”
The Watchmen comic book series by Alan Moore and David Gibbons is universally lauded as the greatest comic book work of all time and the collected “maxi-series” has even been included in lists of the greatest literary works of the 20th century. While the condensed nature of the 2009 film may have bothered some superfans, the long form drama format allows complex and interweaving storylines to play out week-to-week and entice unfamiliar viewers. In bridging the gap between the fictional past and present, it seems that showrunner, Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) is hoping to bring together original and new fans.
The Watchmen premieres on HBO in October.