Watchmen is an nine-episode adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ genre-defining graphic novel that was once viewed as being impossible to adapt for tv or film. Following on from the story finished in the comic and the film (directed by Justice League’s Zack Snyder), Watchmen proves that there is a lot of excitement and joy to be found in the dark, odd world created by Moore and Gibbons.
Watchmen is a TV series that does not play things safe. The 2009 film delivered a comic book adaption that mainly stuck to the path set out by Moore and Gibbons but it received mixed reviews (though there has been an increased interest in the film over the recent years). Watchmen as a TV series carves its own path with writer Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) choosing to show the events following the interesting ending of the original graphic novel. Extra dimensional squid fall from the sky as Angela Abar attempts to solve the murder of the chief of police.
Fans of the comic and the Moore and Gibbons’ comic and Snyder’s film will be comforted by the familiarity of returning Watchmen characters such as Adrian Veidt (played with scene-stealing quality by Jeremy Irons) and moments that nod to scenes in the comic are there to flesh out the world and not just act as fan service. But Watchmen does so much more than play to the fans. It is a show that takes risks and plays with real-world issues prevalent today. Just as the original comic was able to be groundbreaking and inspire so many artists and writers in and out of the superhero genre, the TV show is able to break new ground and touch on real-world issues without seeming too preachy or condescending. Skipping between a 1921 massacre, the original 1980’s timeline of the comics, and the modern day, Watchmen delivers a show that feels fresh and relevant as it dissects the historical barriers that are placed between people that must be knocked down for the world to progress and it touches on issues that America have at times preferred to ignore and keep hidden in the shadows. Re-watching the show, it is plain to see that some of the issues regarding the police and race within the show are as relevant today as they have ever been and Watchmen delivers such commentary with a deft hand that guides the viewer without seeming too preachy.
The cinematography is spot on and the use of colour and camera angles are of a quality that is rarely seen on the small screen. It is a pleasure to watch a TV series push a well-known property and expand on the original story in ways that add to the enjoyment of fans whilst also not alienating anyone watching the show in isolation. Alan Moore infamously dislikes adaptations of his work but finishing this show made me wish that he would watch the characters and the world that he helped create as Watchmen is a show that is every bit as groundbreaking as the graphic novel unleashed on the world all those years ago.
Using the vehicle of the superhero genre, Watchmen manages to tackle issues facing the world today and does so in a way that feels unique and a step above its still enjoyable contemporaries (The Boys, Jupiter Ascending, Justice League). The show looks at the psychologically damaged characters, superhuman and human alike and digs deep into the problems largely ignored by humanity in our recent history. Its superb cast, thrilling story, and beautiful camera work have created a show that is the very definition of unmissable. It stands out in a crowded field as a work of art that can stand with pride amidst the plethora of great TV shows produced by HBO.
A stunning alternate-history show capable of moving its audience that is not to be missed. Watchmen proves that there is still life in the superhero genre and it sets a standard that will be hard to beat on the small screen. A must-watch TV show for fans of the original comic and newcomers to the world of Watchmen.