Watchmen is the Holy Grail of superhero comics. Many consider the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel to be the epitome of comic book storytelling. In 2009, Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) adapted Watchmen to the big screen. The fan reaction was divided but those who knew the source material agreed that Snyder boiled down the comic as best he could into a two-and-a-half hour movie.
However, fans have always wanted to see the world of Watchmen translated to an HBO series. Ask and you shall receive. Lost and The Leftovers showrunner Damon Lindelof is heading up a Watchmen HBO series right now.
And if things go right, it has every reason to be better than Zack Snyder’s film.
Snyder’s films have a purposefully desaturated and grim look. That visual approach accentuates the darker parts of the stories he tells. He clearly brought that aesthetic to his interpretation of Watchmen. It’s one of the reasons why Rorschach worked so well in his film.
But, the original comic is not a visually dark book. On the contrary, it’s gorgeous and vibrant. Dave Gibbons celebrated the colorful history of comic books. If Lindelof can tap into that vivid palette, it will be a much better representation of the comic book. A lot of that will depend on what directors Lindelof can attract to the project.
Much has been said about Zack Snyder’s way of shooting action. His tendency to use slow-motion and speed-ramping works for something like 300. However, he brought that same style to Watchmen and it just didn’t jive.
Sure, the original comic has action beats, but they play out in a very metered way. That’s part of the comic’s style. If the action parts of Lindelof’s series are less showy, it would help to emphasize the character elements over the slick filmmaking style. Again, it will be interesting to see what kind of directors Lindelof finds to differentiate this take from Snyder’s movie.
Though Snyder’s film translated a lot of the comic material straight to the screen, his direction often left the emotional character moments feeling cold. If there is one thing Lindelof excels at, it’s crafting strong character beats between people.
Though the larger mythology of Lost fell apart, the character work was incredibly strong. The Leftovers was even better in this respect. Lindelof knows how to find the most affecting moments between characters and make them hit.
Since Snyder already did as literal a translation as possible, it only makes sense for the HBO show to expand the world. Some fans might cringe at this prospect, but there are plenty of avenues to explore. DC Comics did an entire line of comics called Before Watchmen that delved into the pasts of many Watchmen characters.
Lindelof loves to write stories in a non-linear fashion and Watchmen is told with that narrative framework. So, it’s in keeping with the comic series to deviate into other parts of the timeline to go more in-depth into certain characters and their stories.
Time is an enormous theme and element of Watchmen, and it’s a story that deserves to take its time being told. A series will give Lindelof the ability to pace things out in a way that better services the story. And Lindelof loves to allow stories and characters to breathe over an extended period of time.
If HBO gives Lindelof these tools and the proper time to do them correctly, this series could eclipse Snyder’s feature film in every way. Only time will tell.