How do you even begin to adapt Watchmen to a new medium, let alone one that has a reputation for smaller budgets, stakes and production values? You look at the cult classic that is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ tale of superheroes being made all too real, and you’re saddled with a property whose legacy and fan expectations are a monumental task to live up to. Zack Snyder tried to do the comic books justice with a 2009 film that was a slick and stylish tribute to the source material but highlighted just how unwieldy the story was for the big screen.
DC Comics attempted to revive the property in 2012 with a massive prequel series that featured their top-tier talent at the time but was instantly drowned out by a cacophony of screeching from fans who refused to see how good the series could be if it was taken in another direction. And then along came HBO and Damon Lindlelof, with a fresh new take that cherry-picked the best ideas and themes from the comic books, and bravely implanted them into something that wasn’t only fresh and invigorating.
It was simply better than the source material in every way possible.
For most of 2019, I was convinced that nothing would top Amazon’s adaptation of The Boys, a pitch-perfect translation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series that saw ordinary individuals take sociopathic superheroes with zero moral compasses to bloody task. Along came Watchmen, asked the audience to hold its gigantic squid whose arrival could trigger a cataclysmic psychic backlash upon teleportation and watch as it rewrote the rulebook on what superhero TV could be.
Hell, if I’d told you that Lindlelof’s Watchmen would be a nine-episode series that combined America’s dirty racist past with origin stories, a love story and the most plausible reason for masked upholders of the law, mixed it together and unleashed it in a blitzkrieg of seemingly disparate story threads before weaving them all together into an overall story that somehow makes sense, and you’d have scoffed at me. Scoffed to the max.
Somehow, Watchmen pulled off its ideas with style and grace thanks to a writing team that included Lindelof, Nick Cuse, Lila Byock, Christal Henry, Cord Jefferson, Jeff Jensen, Claire Kiechel, Stacy Osei-Kuffour and Carly Wray. Throw in a cast of heavyweight acting talent led by Regina King, actual money thrown at the production that resulted in a Hollywood-level design and that haunting soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Watchmen is a triumph the likes of which won’t be seen for years to come.
As a sum of its parts, Watchmen is 2019’s biggest highlight. It is both depressing and hopeful, it is tender and raw, serious and still finding time to celebrate the ridiculousness of superhero culture through ideas such as Lube Man. It’s a done in one story that comes full circle on itself, presenting the impossible and answering it with the probable to create a series that isn’t only fantastic in nature, but also relevant in a world where it seems like the end of everything is closer than ever before.
And yet, Watchmen feels cathartic. Inspirational even, televised catharsis that packs an illuminating punch in a world that is drenched in darkness. Watchmen has so much to say, especially if you’re willing to listen to its many ideas. There are themes of true heroism, a god reclaiming his humanity and believing in the rule of law. There are ideas regarding paranoia and a dirty history refusing to let go of its hate, all wrapped up in a single tale that I hope never gets a sequel because the bar has been raised far too high.
You can catch Watchmen in all of its entirety, right now on Showmax. No this post isn’t sponsored and once you see the show you’ll see why.
Last Updated: December 17, 2019