Watching by Watchmen
Social Secretary Olivia Gomez and Print Screen Editor Sam Thomson tackle whether Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel is truly ‘unadaptable’
One of DC’s most renowned comics, Watchmen follows the lives of several retired superheroes after they find out that one of their colleagues has mysteriously died. The comic explores their intertwined relationships and complex identities, providing a deep insight into human nature. This, along with the heavy political backdrop of the late ’80s, has led many to believe that the comic is “unadaptable”. Watchmen’s own creator Alan Moore famously distanced himself from any on-screen projects.
Watchmen isn’t a story that can simply be copy-pasted onto the screen. It requires a lot of thought and consideration in order to pull off a proper adaptation.
There’s no point in denying that the story is packed with social criticism and complex sub-plots as well as a lot of super cool superhero stuff. However, I do not believe that is reason enough to deem it unadaptable. If anything, it is the reason why it should be adapted from paper to screen. I will agree that Zack Snyder’s attempt, although honourable, wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. Watchmen isn’t a story that can simply be copy-pasted onto the screen. It requires a lot of thought and consideration in order to pull off a proper adaptation. The upcoming HBO series, developed by Damon Lindelof, holds some promise even though it is not a direct adaptation of the comic.
It has the advantage that it comes in a series format, thus allowing more time to explore the intricacies of the story. The TV show will take place in the same universe as The Watchmen, but after the events of the original story. Hopefully, Lindelof will be able to maintain the essence of the comic and provide the same atmosphere that made so many people fall in love with it in the first place – Olivia Gomez
As I’m sure any fan of Watchmen will also attest, I was blown away by the depth and wittiness of the social commentary found within.
I actually like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. Really, I do. The soundtrack is great, the visuals are impressive, the casting is fantastic. The sequences of Dr Manhattan on Mars have such an incredible sense of scale to them, and I would say that this grandeur is captured even better than in the comic. When I watched it for the first time (sadly before reading the source material, something I always try to avoid), I fell in love with it.
After that, I raced to get my hands on a copy of the graphic novel, desperate to experience this amazing story in another medium. As I’m sure any fan of Watchmen will also attest, I was blown away by the depth and wittiness of the social commentary found within. A subsequent rewatch of the film left me slightly disheartened, and I simply concluded that I would stick to re-reading the comic to get my Watchmen fix.
I think Snyder probably did about the best he could, but the story really is impossible to adapt properly. It is evident when watching it that the movie was directed by someone with a lot of love for the source material. Zack Snyder even went so far as to painstakingly recreate panels from the comics exactly. The number of references in it is astounding.
However, I think a writer generally will have considered their story carefully, and subsequently choose the best medium for it. Just as Alan Moore worked tirelessly with illustrator Dave Gibbon to perfect Watchmen’s cast of characters, he also fitted his story to the parameters and capabilities of the graphic novel medium. Snyder’s legendary ‘Ultimate Cut’ is supposedly the most faithful adaptation of the comic, but at a monumental 215 minutes, it simply isn’t a practical method of storytelling – Sam Thomson