What you may need to know.
1. Game of Thrones is kind of the only game in town (for another week or two anyway), so this teaser for HBO’s upcoming small-screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen got lost in the mix a little bit.
2. In case you’re not familiar, the ground-breaking 1986 original depicts an alternate past and present where crime-fighting superheroes not only walk among us, but were directly involved in major turning points in US history, including Vietnam and the successful cover-up of Watergate. Decades after vigilantism was eventually outlawed, the Watchmen are called out of retirement to investigate the murder of one of their own.
3.It was previously adapted by Zack Snyder in 2009. His version was faithful to a fault, mimicking the source novel’s glacially slow pace and sombre atmosphere. It was also a miracle of production design and overall ambition; Watchmen was one of those novels previously considered “unfilmable”. It also boasts one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film you could name.
4. As you would expect, not a lot is known about HBO’s new version. It’s immediately clear that it’s not completely faithful to the original, being set in a more modern era. According to executive producer Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek), it is set “after” the story depicted in the original. One wonders in that case if it’s a sequel to Snyder’s film, which had a considerably different ending to the book.
5. Despite the modern aesthetic, it looks to remain faithful to the original in other ways. The blocking, colour schemes and camerawork are very reminiscent of artist Dave Gibbons‘ original frames.
6. The cast includes Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Louis Gosset Jr and Regina King, who recently won an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk.
7. With Game of Thrones gone (for now), HBO is angling for its next global hit. WestWorld was a pretender to the throne but disappeared in a puff of its own self-importance, while smaller shows like The Deuce and Big Little Lies, while great, just don’t have the longevity.
8. In my opinion, the real test of a series’ potential in the current era is whether it is forward thinking enough to set up its own endgame right from the start. Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones got people addicted on day one by asking “how is this going to end?”
9. It’s not the only way. Mad Men, The Sopranos and The Wire meandered through their seven seasons with multiple storylines and thematic explorations rather than one big buildup.
10. The crucial difference there was that they were much more grounded in reality and a depiction of (relatively) everyday life. The higher the concept, the higher the stakes need to be, so if Watchmen wants to find as wide an audience as possible, it’s going to have to work extra hard to keep viewers interested.
11. After all, the original Watchmen was one big whodunnit, so the stage is set already. Let’s see if I’m right.
Doug’s verdict: Tick tock
Release: “Fall” tbc