Friday, January 24, 2014

Watchmen Opening Sequence

One of my favorite opening film sequences of all time is the one found in Zack Snyder’s 2009 film Watchmen. While I found the movie slightly disappointing as a whole, especially in comparison to the graphic novel, I was incredibly captivated by its opening.  

The film begins by zooming in on the novel’s signature smiley face pin being engulfed in a pool of blood. Following this, the next several shots feature superheroes being photographed as they fight crime and receive awards. Included in this is a group of superheroes being photographed in front of a banner with the date 1940 written on it. The general sentiment of these first few shots is that these crime fighters were revered during that period of time. Also of note, the use of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin,” along with the use slow motion, create a very nostalgic feeling that ties in nicely with the vintage style shots.

Although the opening sequence is not heavily reliant of special effects, there is a shot in which a CGI military plane is shown with the portrait of a superhero painted on the side. This use of a military plane is nice segue into the rest of the opening montage, which showcases how the passing of time, shown by tying in historically significant events, has effected the superheroes shown in the earlier shots. In contrast to the beginning, some vigilantes are now shown celebrating their retirement while others have been murdered.

One thing that I particularly enjoy about this opening sequence are the historical references. For instance, a superhero is shown shaking hands with John F. Kennedy right before his assassination. Some of the other famous historical events alluded to include Thich Quang Duc burning himself as a form of protest, the Kent State shootings, and man walking on the moon for the first time. Although they are subtle, I thought the special affects used to show a flower being blown apart by a gun, as well as recreating the moon, were well done.

As the opening sequence comes to an end, a new group of superheroes is seen taking a group photo, with a much more modern camera, similar to the group from the 1940’s. However, in contrast to the reception of superheroes during that time, the following shot shows people protesting such superheroes. Finally, the sequence is bookended by zooming out on the pin that started the film. In addition to raising my anticipation for the rest of the film, this opening sequence spoke volumes without saying a single word.

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