The original Watchmen comic book miniseries that became a best-selling graphic novel for the past 30 years was one of comics’ first and greatest attempts to deconstruct the genre. Writer Alan Moore had similar success on his run on Swamp Thing for DC; his Marvelman/Miracleman is also considered to be one of the all-time great series.
Watchmen was adapted as a film by director Zack Snyder in 2009. Visually, the film is breathtaking, and it’s no surprise that Warner Bros. would later get Snyder to helm the movies that launched their movie universe that would include Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. The film has one of the best opening title sequences I’ve ever seen, which gave so much backstory in a five-minute period (see it below), and the trailer was also something very special, whether you were into the movie or not.
The movie made a profit at the box office, but it came out at a time when R-rated superhero pictures were not yet cool as they are in the present day with features like Logan and Deadpool.
Another possible challenge for Watchmen as a film is that while several actors within are recognizable, there were no actors in the cast that would have that marketing “push” for it all. Personally speaking, as an audience member, I liked that folks like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earle Haley, and Carla Gugino were some of the only names that I knew; the entire experience of watching was very immersive, even though it was long. The film was also very true to the comic books, aside from an ending sequence that many critics seemed to see as superior to what was in the original material.
Also slightly altered from the comics were the costumes, but that was hardly a bad thing. Ozymandias, for example, looked like he could have been an extra in Batman and Robin, and I mean that as a high compliment, as I think that’s what they were going for. Nite-Owl’s more Batman-esque look also worked better than what was on the comic book page. Some characters, like Rorschach, kept their comics look and it was just perfect. And ultimately, I don’t think it would have killed anyone to give Dr. Manhattan underpants for the filn, but I digress.
When it was announced that Damon Lindelof may be adapting Watchmen as a TV series for HBO, it got me curious to watch the film again. Yes, it was as good looking of a movie as I remembered. Yes, it was extremely well cast. But dang, it was long. I also wondered if the diversions of the flashbacks might have made the film even more of a slog for people who weren’t as invested as I was in that universe.
Then, it hit me: That’s exactly why Watchmen would be perfect for TV. Lindelof, being so famous for LOST, is no stranger to a flashback/flash-forward narrative. A TV series really could spend the time developing and exploring the pasts of these characters in a ways a nearly 3-hour long movie could not. We could get to know the original Nite-Owl; the Minutemen; see what The Comedian did in Vietnam. Who knows, maybe we could finally find out what happened after Watchmen, though the answer to that question may be told in the pages of DC Comics sometime in the near future. Obviously good VFX and makeup people would have to be able to portray the characters at various ages. Having a sprawling cast could also mean that if big names are recruited, they’re not necessarily needed for the entire season order, too. The cast might be one of the only drawbacks here, actually: Most if not all of the Watchmen movie cast was so good, it might be hard to replicate.
And hey, being HBO, they can have as much big blue something or other as they want.
There are surely moral arguments as to whether or not anything should even be done with Watchmen, lest anyone suffer the wrath of Alan Moore; the way I see it, though, is this is an IP that DC/WB currently has the rights to, these are characters that people enjoyed, and it really could be an adult superhero show in a way we have not seen before. With the current oversaturation of comic book TV, it’s great when something tells a story that is different, and Watchmen certainly could be it.
In any event, I’m very curious how or if Watchmen on TV will pan out. For a while, Zack Snyder himself was attached to a HBO TV project. Snyder is surely unavailable due to some unfortunate recent family events, though I’d love to see him directing these characters again. As for Lindelof… HBO does seem to want to stay in the Damon Lindelof business, so this would be a great way to see it happen. If done well, Watchmen could be HBO’s next Game of Thrones.
We shall see what happens.