And maybe it’ll be… good?
Well, here’s something nobody saw coming. The beloved comic-book classic Watchmen—which follows a group of former superheroes investigating the murder of a former ally, eventually uncovering a much, much larger conspiracy—is reportedly in the early stages of development a possible series at HBO, with Damon Lindelof attached for a key creative role.
There are so, so many reasons to be skeptical about this. Watchmen is justifiably regarded as a canonical classic in the medium of comics, but it’s not exactly underexposed. If you’re in the mood to watch some Watchmen, you can track down Zack Snyder’s big-budget film adaptation, which you can see in no fewer than three separate versions—including a 215-minute “ultimate cut” that manages to squeeze in Tales of the Black Freighter. If even that isn’t faithful enough for you, you can watch the Watchmen Motion Comic, which is literally a panel-by-panel animated transmutation of the comic—like an audiobook with moving pictures. And, of course, you could just read the damn comic.
But since I’m among friends, a confession: I’m… kind of excited about Watchmen on HBO? Hear me out. Watchmen was originally published from 1986 to 1987, and fans waited decades for a proper Watchmen adaptation—but 2009 might actually have been a little too soon for it. Snyder’s movie arrived in theaters less than a year after The Dark Knight and Iron Man collectively kicked off the era of modern superhero blockbuster. As a result, Watchmen—which came years before The Avengers, X-Men: First Class, and Snyder’s own Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—ended up deconstructing a genre that, at least cinematically, was still in its infancy.
Today, mainstream audiences could hardly know more about superheroes, which is why less conventional superhero movies are making a splash. Deadpool cashed in with a snarky subversion of the conventional superhero blockbuster, and Logan was basically just a post-apocalyptic western disguised as a superhero movie—but Watchmen, which is practically the bible for anyone attempting a more serious-minded deconstruction of the genre, could be genuinely illuminating.
And if it’s going to happen anywhere, HBO—which established its genre bona fides with Game of Thrones and Westworld—is the place to do it. The density and sprawl of the source material is an ideal fit for television, which can luxuriate in long arcs and elaborate worlds populated by a tremendous cast of actors. And then there’s Damon Lindelof, who will reportedly develop the series. Lindelof has long described Watchmen with an almost religious reverence—frankly, too much reverence—but he’s also an ideal fit for the source material, with a proven hand at both elaborate mythologies (a la Lost) and emotionally complicated material (a la The Leftovers). And Watchmen is ultimately a story about a desperate effort to undermine a bunch of shitty, grandstanding, egomaniacal politicians who take the world to the brink of the apocalypse. Well… that’s sounding like a pretty timely story these days, right?
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