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Watchmen Teaser Trailer Features A Pack Of Rorschachs

Tick, tock... tick, tock.

The first teaser trailer for Damon Lindelof's HBO original series Watchmen was posted today to the cabler's YouTube channel, and one thing is clear: the influence of Rorschach, the masked vigilante from Alan Moore's '80s-set graphic novel series and Zack Snyder's 2009 film adaptation, on its world.

The series is not a reboot, but a continuation set in the same universe as the Moore's story, with the time period transposed to the present day. It appears that in this universe, vigilante superheroes are still to be hated and feared — especially by law enforcement, a dynamic which Lindelof's series looks to be focusing on.

The spot begins in a church, with a group of men — all facing the camera, as if being observed by an unseen party — assembled in front of a cross bearing the inscription "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion." All of them are sporting masks highly reminiscent of that worn by Rorschach, and as a steady ticking sound is heard in the background, the masked figure in the center of the bunch ominously intones: "We are no one. We are everyone. And we are invisible." Smash cut to a pair of hands holding an old-fashioned stopwatch, as a voiceover continues to whisper, "Tick, tock... tick, tock..."

We then see a uniformed authority figure (Don Johnson) addressing a group of those creepy, yellow-masked cops that we got a look at in previously released promotional materials for the series. "We convinced ourselves that they were gone," he says, presumably referring to the superhero scourge, "but they were just hibernating." We see a number of the Rorschach-masked dudes apparently about to get down to some violent business, filing out of a van clutching flashlights and shotguns. "They came for everybody," Johnson's voiceover continues, "all the police." In illustration of his narration, we see a funeral being attended by a few dozen officers, with several of them lowering a flag-draped casket into the ground. 

Then, we get a look at one of the series' main characters: Angela Abar (Regina King), enjoying some time by the Christmas tree at home with her husband. "Are we safe?" a man (presumably the husband) asks in voiceover, and the outlook seems bleak. A series of cuts show us Abar glowering behind the wheel of a car on a rain-soaked night, and then — curiously, in the daytime — wearing a mask and hood of her own, confronting another masked figure as several cops linger in the background. An older, male voice narrates, "I guess we have ourselves a reckoning" — and then, a quick series of bizarre and unsettling images.

The chanting of the Rorschach horde — "Tick, tock, tick, tock" — slowly increases in volume on the soundtrack as we see a scene of horrifying carnage at a county fair, Jeremy Irons' Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias meditating, a cop seemingly about to engage in an act of arson, Abar just putting the smackdown on a helpless man, and one of the Rorschach gang going to town on something with one hell of a big gun.

As the chanting reaches a fever pitch, we return to the church — where the assembled masses cut off their recitation, all at once, as the camera gives us an uncomfortably tight closeup on the masked face of the lead figure. After a cut to black and the title card, we hear a woman ask, "What are you two talking about?" Johnson's character, this time in civilian dress, jovially replies with a wink, "Oh, nothing. Just the end of the world. Tick, tock, tick, tock."

One thing is for sure: if the trailer is any indication, this will be a series soaked in uneasy paranoia, markedly different in tone from Snyder's divisive film adaptation. In an Instagram post, Lindelof referred to Moore's graphic novels as his "Old Testament," saying, "We have no desire to 'adapt' the twelve issues Mr. Moore and [artist Dave] Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will however be remixed. Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we'd be fools not to sample them."

While the famously cantankerous Moore has been conspicuously silent on the project, Gibbons has not. Late last year, the artist told Deadline, "The original is something that we always saw as standing alone and it never in our mind required prequels or sequels or homages or pastiches or anything like that. It isn't that we thought it should be treated with great reverence, it's just that we thought: If you've done something right, just leave it alone."

However, he went on to say that he considers Lindelof's take to be its own entity, one which explores its own set of themes through the lens of Moore's work. "I think as happens with all works that are around long enough and are successful enough, that people do want to explore things further. As far as this new one, TV clearly is the medium of the moment," he said. "It's where the preeminent and most exciting areas for telling stories [are at] the moment. The fact that Damon Lindleof has found a way to bring Watchmen into that area and do it with something I consider exciting, entertaining and absolutely worthwhile on the subject matter? I think that's great."

It must be reassuring for Lindelof to know that he has the artist's blessing, because he's surely not holding his breath for Moore's. The legendary writer has long been antagonistic toward adaptations of his work, and in a 2018 interview, Lindelof not-so-charitably pointed out that this is an interesting position, given that many of Moore's most well-regarded works were themselves fresh takes on established characters. 

"[The series is in] the spirit of what he did [with] Watchmen in the first place. It's an original world, but the basis for that world is on these other characters that DC had just bought from this other comic book company called Charlton, and he did riffs on those characters," he explained, before giving his inspiration both barrels. "The idea that he came in and told iconic stories of characters that he didn't create and has now turned around and said 'you're not allowed to do that with the iconic characters that I created,' I sort of feel like his own hypocrisy enables me to defile his [work]."

Wow. Well, we're pretty sure Moore won't be watching Watchmen, but we certainly will, because the series looks intriguing as all get-out. The series' ten-episode debut season drops this fall on HBO.