HBO wants us to watch the Watchmen. News recently broke that the cable network that gave us Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Westworld has recruited The Leftovers showrunner, Damon Lindelof, to adapt Watchmen for television. Originally published in 1986 and created by the legendary Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the graphic novel was thought to be "unfilmmable" for decades until director Zack Snyder brought Watchmen to movie screens in 2009. Snyder's film was a divisive piece of cinema with plenty of detractors, but over time it has come to be heralded by many as one of the most visionary comic book movies ever made.
Lindelof, who was one of the primary architects of Lost, is no stranger to creating a divisive work which was adored by legions yet leaves just as many disappointed. Lindelof is evidently a lifelong fan of Moore and Gibbons' seminal graphic novel, as he told CBR, “From the flashbacks to the nonlinear storytelling to the deeply flawed heroes, these are all elements that I try to put into everything I write.” As such, Lindelof seems like a natural fit as the next filmmaker to face the challenge of adapting Watchmen.
Snyder's challenge for his cinematic vision was to somehow fit one of the most complex stories ever printed in a graphic novel into a three-hour film (with the director's and ultimate cuts, considered superior by fans, both exceeding that runtime). With an HBO series, Lindelof would have one major advantage to bring to his Watchmen: time. One standard season of 13 episodes gives Lindelof ample latitude to explore Watchmen's many unfolding layers, which depict the actions of multiple characters between the 1940s to 1985 all over the United States, Vietnam, Antarctica, and even Mars. However, HBO likely isn't looking for Watchmen to be a one-off miniseries. With its flagship show, Game of Thrones, eyeing its conclusion, the network is looking for its next big hit to fill the void Thrones leaves behind (at least, until a Game of Thrones spinoff comes to life). If Watchmen proves to be a hit, Lindelof's series must deliver multiple seasons of must-see television.
Snyder's 2009 film, was taken to task for everything from his casting choices, to his trademark use of slow-motion in his ultra-violent action scenes, to altering the graphic novel's ending. And yet, at the same time, Snyder was also condemned for being too slavish to the source material. Lindelof himself said after seeing Snyder's effort, “It’s the most married-to-the-original-text version of Watchmen that could’ve been made," suggesting Lindelof's version of Watchmen may be less "married" to the source material.
On HBO, Lindelof would have the space and, presumably, the creative onus to make a very different version of Watchmen from Snyder's film. Here are some ways Lindelof can deliver a Watchmen series that would be surprising, divergent, and no doubt, controversial: