When news hit that Damon Lindelof, the brain behind critical hits like Lost and The Leftovers, would be adapting Watchmen for HBO…there was an interesting mixture of reactions from fans. Before the Zack Snyder film came to bear, there had long been a call for a television adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ landmark perennial best-seller – and now years later, there’s still a split between those who determine the Snyder big screen version as an unheralded masterpiece and those who think far, far less of it (for the record: I think it’s hard to mess up that material, but Snyder’s approach is often very ill-fitting).
With that said, we’re left with an audience that either thinks A) there’s nowhere to go but up, B) Lindelof can’t possibly improve on what Snyder did, C) that Watchmen isn’t suited for live-action adaptation at all. And for some time, I tended to lean towards the third line of thinking, despite the well known fact that the comic was one of Lindelof’s chief inspirational texts for Lost (those character specific flashback in each episode didn’t come out of thin air, gang).
But recently, reports began to spring up that the showrunner might be taking a completely different approach to the material. Instead of a mannered, straight adaptation of the 12 issues or any kind of extrapolation thereof, he was instead comparing it to what Noah Hawley has been up to with FX’s Fargo: a series whose world is informed by the original property, but not beholden to it in terms of character or plot. In short: think of it as “stories taking place in that same world, at any time period you can think of”. It’s great, with a capital “G”.
And today, Lindelof has spoken in more specific (maybe) terms, with a letter he posted on his Instagram, to give the public an opportunity to dig into his headspace a bit regarding his overall pitch for the series…if it sounds familiar, well…it should:
There’s multiple pages here (scroll over using the right arrow on the picture), but one of the money quotes as captured by EW:
“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues [Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons] created thirty years ago,” Lindelof writes. “Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted …they will, however, be remixed. Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we’d be fools not to sample them … This new story must be original. It has to vibrate with the seismic unpredictability of its own tectonic plates. It must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens. Most importantly, it must be contemporary… The tone will be fresh and nasty and electric and absurd… Some of the characters will be unknown. New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes… and it is here where we’ll be taking our greatest risk.”
Again, Watchmen adapted Fargo-style, which seems like a pretty keen way to get around the “unfilmable” criticism. Then again, one might ask why not just do a wholly new property, but there’s a lot of cultural cachet with the Watchmen name that wouldn’t be there with “Damon Lindelof’s new superhero project”.
I’m at least much more interested with this pitch laid a little more bare. I hope Moore and Gibbons are well compensated either way.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.