Adapting Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen graphic novel hasn't exactly been all smiles.
But with the long-awaitedarriving for HBO's series, we know that the latest adaptation brings masks aplenty, retains the aesthetically pleasing black and yellow color scheme and assures us the end of the world is nigh.
Here, we have it. Our first look at HBO's eight-episode adaptation reveals there's not just one Rorschach mask-wearing vigilante out there, there's a whole underground community. Their speaker, featured at the very beginning of the trailer, says, "We are no one, we are everyone and we are invisible."
That doesn't bode well for the fate of this alternative universe, where the "hibernating" vigilantes, or superheroes depending on how you look at it, appear to be enacting an uprising that may lead to a "reckoning" and war with the yellow-masked police force (you can't miss them). The ominous chanting of "ticktock, ticktock" certainly sends a chill straight from this darkly-toned world.
Like all good superheroes, Watchmen's history hasn't been all smiles. Zack Snyder's 2009 film adaptation came off the back of two decades of development hell, with Twelve Monkeys' director Terry Gilliam flirting with the project before deeming the comic (gathered into a graphic novel in 1987) "unfilmable". Other big names like Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and Paul Greengrass (The Bourne series) entertained taking it on, before Snyder got the gig in 2005.
The result was a final cut of two hours and 43 minutes, with an "Ultimate Cut" bringing that up to 3 hours and 35 minutes. Response was split. With an R-rating, six main characters, an alternative timeline and part of the film set in the past, Snyder can at the very least claim to have given it a red-hot shot.
Now, a decade later, HBO is tackling Watchmen again, but with a TV series that gives showrunner Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) more time to address the comic's complicated narrative. That's if he chooses to tread there at all. In a five-page open letter to fans, Lindelof, a lifelong fan of the graphic novel, detailed his intentions not to adapt the "sacred ground" but to remix it.
He flashed words like "original", "contemporary" and "new faces" but also stressed that he wouldn't "erase what came before". Here's what we know about the upcoming series.
When will Watchmen be on HBO?
HBO has confirmed Lindelof's "revamp" is coming in 2019, and according to IMDb, the first series will be eight episodes, one-hour each, so there's hefty screen time for the large cast of characters. The teaser trailer didn't pinpoint with a date when it will premiere on HBO, but it will be in the "fall".
Soundtrack fans, note that composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of The Social Network are on board, hopefully bringing that dark, electronic sound that inspired the soundtracks of Mr. Robot and Ex Machina. The duo won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for their work on The Social Network, so ready your Spotify playlists, everyone.
Lindelof will be on writing and producing duties, helped out by fellow producers Nicole Kassell and Tom Spezialy. Kassell, who's directed for HBO before on Westworld and on Lindelof's The Leftovers, directed the new series' pilot.
On June 27, Lindelof used Instagram to announce that filming of the pilot was done, praising Kassell: "Yesterday, she called wrap on the pilot of Watchmen... and let there be no doubt -- she WAS the pilot, navigating our owlship flawlessly from takeoff to landing." Then on Oct. 16, Lindelof announced on Instagram that "production starts TODAY" after the August announcement that the series was picked up by HBO.
Meet the cast
As Lindelof suggested, a whole new cast of characters as well as familiar names will bring fresh stories to the show.
- Jeremy Irons as Adrian Alexander Veidt/Ozymandias
- Regina King as Angela Abraham
- Don Johnson as Chief Judd
- Jean Smart as Agent Blake
- Tom Mison as Mime
- Frances Fisher as Jane Crawford
- Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda
- Tim Blake Nelson as Looking Glass
- Louis Gossett Jr. as Old Man
- Andrew Howard as Red Scare
- Yahya Abdul-Matteen II as Cal Abraham
- Sara Vickers as Marionette
- Adelaide Clemens as Pirate Jenny
The first teaser image from the Watchmen Instagram account offered what looks to be a, and subsequent posts revealed an entire police force clad in masks.
The initial post's description: "Who Watches The Watchmen?" suggests the masked police are on the vigilantes' case. On closer inspection of the officers' badges and a squad car, you can see the words "Tulsa Police", implying the setting for the series is Oklahoma.
Speaking of masks, HBO teased its big upcoming shows during the 2019 Golden Globes, including a first glimpse of several Watchmen characters in action. A very familiar mask showed up.
Given the show stems from both the film and the graphic novel, it's likely the figure in the grey and black-marked mask isn't the original Rorschach, especially since the character meets his end in both by the hand of superpowered Doctor Manhattan.
But we do get a clear look at Oscar- and Emmy-winner Irons, whose character THR is speculating will "topline the pilot" as an "aging and imperious lord of a British manor." According to Slashfilm, that aging lord is none other than retired genius superhero Adrian "Ozymandias" Veidt in his later years. Veidt is rich, so holing up in a big expensive house checks out.
In not exactly the clearest of line deliveries, Veidt says in the teaser video what sounds like "Johnny just begun." Could he be referencing John Osterman, aka Doctor Manhattan?
Slashfilm also brought news Smart, from Fargo and Legion, will play an FBI agent "tasked with tracking down vigilantes." Her character's name is exciting: Agent Blake, possibly connected to Edward Blake, whose murder at the beginning of the graphic novel could be a sore point for the agent in the series.
In the teaser video, we get a glimpse of Smart as the FBI agent reflected in the police car's side mirror. More new yet unknown figures include a man wearing a shiny gold mask and another in red. A third wearing a cowboy hat whose face is blurred in the short clip wears a suit and appears to march purposefully down a corridor lined with yellow-masked officers. Could he be another higher ranking officer?
What we know about the plot
The short answer is not much. HBO offers a fairly general description that covers Lindelof's intentions to do something fresh without compromising the story's bones:
"Based on the Alan Moore graphic novel, Watchmen is set in an alternate history where 'superheroes' are treated as outlaws. And while Lindelof (The Leftovers) plans to embrace the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel, the series will also attempt to break new ground of its own. He announced his intentions earlier this spring on Instagram."
Lindelof likened his take to Noah Hawley's Fargo TV series, which became "its own thing" from the Coen brothers' original 1996 film, he told Syfy in April. "I wouldn't call Noah Hawley's version of Fargo an adaptation because the film exists inside of his world, and so everything that happened in the film Fargo, it does precede the television show Fargo." He provided more insight on Instagram.
All the way back in 2009, pre-Snyder's Watchmen, Lindelof did say this to CBR of Watchmen's influence on his writing: "From the flashbacks to the non-linear storytelling to the deeply flawed heroes, these are all elements that I try to put into everything I write."
So at the very least maybe we can expect those elements in the new series, no doubt honed during Lindelof's time writing Lost.
And Dave Gibbons, the artist of the comic, appears to approve of the script, telling Entertainment Weekly in September: "I found Damon's approach to be really refreshing and exciting and unexpected… While it's very reverential and true to the source material (by which I mean the Watchmen graphic novel that Alan and I did), it's not retreading the same ground, it's not a reinterpretation of it. It approaches it in a completely unexpected way."
The story was originally published Oct. 19, 2018 and is updated as new information rolls in.