Long ago there was a very famous comics series that set the world alight because of its innovative treatment of the superhero genre. The writer on that series got rather grumpy about things and said he didn’t want there to be any sequels, adaptations, or any of the other nonsense that corporations like to produce off the back of a successful creation. The corporation took little notice of him.
There was eventually a film adaptation, of course. It was quite faithful to the original comics. It was also quite dull. That was partly because the world had moved on in the meantime, and partly because it had nothing new to say.
Then, years later, there was talk of a TV series, that would be a sequel to the original story. Everyone groaned. This was going to be the poor writer’s worst fears come true, right?
Wrong. Damon Lindelhof’s Watchmen is some of the best TV in a long time. It is, in its own way, very faithful to the original comic. It is also very much its own thing. Rather than provide “more of the same”, which is what every Hollywood mogul actually wants, it used some familiar characters to tell a very different story.
Specifically, Watchmen is about race politics in the USA. It kicks off with the 1921 race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which most people (even most Americans) had never heard of before. It directly addresses the white supremacist nonsense that is at the heart of present-day American politics. And it riffs off the fact that a white man in a mask can be a hero, whereas a black man in a mask is seen as a threat. It is all so very relevant right now.
Some of the music choices that go with individual episodes are superb. The original music is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, but it is the use of well-known pop songs that is at genius level. I’m very disappointed that Wikipedia does not yet have a full list of the songs used, but kudos to Liza Richardson for her choices.
Some of the acting is also top class. I thought that Jean Smart as Laurie Blake (Silk Spectre II) was very good. And Jeremy Irons was brilliant as Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias). Irons also looks like he is thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.
Amusingly Lindelhof has said that he doesn’t want there to be any sequels to his story. I have no idea what Alan Moore thought of this, but both of them are right. Both of them have created brilliant stories that are perfectly capable of standing alone. If the Watchmen franchise is to be mined again, then it should only be done by someone with enough imagination and artistic integrity to stand alongside what Moore and Lindelhof have achieved. That’s a very tall order.