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Back when The Umbrella Academy came out, I wrote this about Watchmen:
Alan Moore’s Watchmen is probably the best, most influential superhero comic of all time. An examination of the underlying assumptions and psychology of people who would put on masks to fight crime, it almost single-handedly (bar Denny O’Neil) made superheroes ‘real’ – or about as realistic as they ever could be, of course.
But it’s a very dense text and while you can remove certain elements of it relatively easily – bye, bye pirates! – try to unpick it too much and you lose Watchmen‘s intrinsic field: what makes Watchmen what it is. Small wonder then that Hollywood spent forever trying to adapt it before essentially making a frame by frame adaptation of the comic, just with a slightly different McGuffin.
That density of writing means that despite its influence being felt throughout comics and TV, there have been very few straight-on ‘homages’ (aka rip-offs). Nobody has done ‘Watchmen in space’, ‘Watchmen on Middle Earth’ or anything else.
One of the other reasons it’s so rarely adapted is it’s a “sacred text”. So perfect is it considered, no element of it can be removed or changed without true believers getting the hump. Even Zach Snyder’s movie version, which was virtually a frame for frame adaptation of the graphic novel, ended up getting into hot water for changing the ending.
To be fair, it was both a better ending than the graphic novel’s and a necessary adaptation, given the first season finale of Heroes had already used it. But it tampered with the good book, so it was excommunicated.
Faithfully unfaithful to Watchmen
This leads to a problem.
You could do utterly faithful adaptations and get into trouble with the only people who care, but why bother – everyone might as well just read the book.
You could do something that’s an adaptation but doesn’t look like it at first, but why bother – everyone might as well read the book.
You could do really bad prequels that add nothing, but why bother – everyone might as well read the book.
You could do really bad sequels that add nothing, but why bother – everyone might as well read the book.
But HBO’s Watchmen seems to have hit on a solution.
Do something that is utterly different with almost nothing in common, yet something that is still clearly a sequel.Continue reading “Review: Watchmen 1×1 (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)”