If you’re not a comic book fan, it’s hard to put the importance of Watchmen into perspective. In the movie business, Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) changed how Hollywood developed and released blockbuster summer flicks. Those two releases shifted the industry off its axis, and we’re still feeling their effects today. Nowadays May, June and July are the official stomping grounds for Hollywood’s annual run of $100 million epics. There was life before Jaws and Star Wars and life after them. The same goes for the comic book world and Watchmen.
In 1986, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal Watchmen comics (along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) rocked the comic book industry. The series posed the question,”What would the world look like if superheroes actually existed?”
The Watchmen comics deconstructed comic book tropes and created a dark and cynical world where the superheroes were as f*cked up as the villains. The brilliant series blew away comic book readers and critics and won major awards. Most importantly, it gave comic books – still seen as kids stuff – adult legitimacy. It’s tough to pick up a comic book today and not see Watchmen’s influence.
HBO’s Watchmen adaptation is a big deal for comic book nerds, but there are reasons for everyone to get excited. First off, look at HBO’s track record. They’re picky about what programming they slot into their limited Sunday night schedule. They have a track record of excellence that goes back for decades. And so far, Watchmen is getting the prestige TV treatment. Check out the show’s bonafides: produced by Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), scored by Trent Reznor (The Social Network) and Atticus Ross (Bird Box). And I could go on all day about the knockout cast (Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson).
But all those big names don’t mean squat without great material. And the Watchmen books contain some of the richest text in all of comics. Watchmen offers a complex, thought provoking, and fully realized world where right and wrong isn’t black and white. It’s a story full of conflict, compromise, and cold war tension. Not to mention fascinating, yet deeply broken characters. A well-executed Watchmen’s universe creates the perfect playground for an HBO series and has the potential to blow people away.
The new trailer offers a tantalizing glimpse at what to expect but doesn’t give away many details. We know that this isn’t a direct adaptation of Moore’s work (like Zack Snyder’s 2009 film). And we see glimpses of familiar characters, but they’re years removed from the events of the 1986 series. This new show wants to capture the comic’s vibe and tackle similar themes while still putting its own spin on the revered material.
From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where “superheroes” are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.
Watchmen will premiere on HBO later this year.
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