I will be honest: I’m pretty much fine with Zack Snyder‘s Watchmen (2009). As a pretty staunch critic of everything the director has done (I believe I can be quoted saying, “Stop letting Zack Snyder make movies,” after seeing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), this is confession is a big one.
While firmly against some of his more recent work, it can’t be denied that Snyder tried his darnedest to adapt the seemingly un-makeable superhero film. Similarly hard to argue is the fact that the Watchmen we ended up with was likely the best we could have gotten given the circumstances. The main circumstance being: fitting the massive amount of story that is Alan Moore‘s Watchmen into a movie under three hours. A daunting task, but Snyder managed to stuff the film with nearly everything that was on the pages of Moore’s graphic novel. For that he should be given kudos.
There are flaws (as I will go into later) but the fact that Snyder was able to get a film made about unknown superheroes, with no big name stars and a hard R-rating, is highly commendable in its own right.
But that was 2009, practically a different era when comparing it to the film and television worlds of today. Superhero movies go out like hotcakes, bringing in audiences in droves and sending them out satisfied and excited for the next hero-flick that will inevitably come out a few months later.
Even more different is the fact that some of the best superhero stories are no longer exclusively told on the big screen, rather are binge-watched on the small screen. The Flash, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones were all released in the television/Netflix medium, and were extremely well-received by critics and audiences alike. In fact, the latter two were praised for their excellently dark portrayals of damaged superheroes and seemed to be universally heralded while their film counterparts were panned.
Which is why now might be the perfect time to bring Watchmen back to the screen… in television form.
6. A Breathable Story
As mentioned above, Snyder did manage to fit Moore’s Watchmen into the restrictive time limit of a film, but it wasn’t without sacrifice. Despite the film having a long running time, many of the film’s plot points felt rushed and before the average viewer could figure out what was going on (or why we are spending some much time on this Nite Owl II/Silk Spectre II sex scene), we were on Mars or New York City had been destroyed.
Watchmen was much more popular with readers of the graphic novel than those coming fresh into the story, mainly because they knew what was going on. Snyder was making the perfect Watchmen film for those who were already fans of the story, but unfortunately, that left those not in the know scratching their heads.
Episodic television gives way more time to fully delve into a story. Neophytes to Watchmen will be able grasp onto the story because the story will be able to take its time rather than run to the next plot point before the first was suitably fleshed out. In turn, diehard fans will be able to get a fuller, richer story because more time means…
5. Detail and Backstory
This is probably the biggest area in which television can improve upon the film. As said, Watchmen is a big story, and even with how overstuffed the film adaptation felt, there were tons of things that didn’t make it into the final cut.
First and foremost, the Watchmen’s predecessors, the Minutemen would be able to be explored in full detail. The golden-age superheroes and their rise and fall was truncated to a mere overview in the opening credits of Watchmen. This part of the film was well-done and the general bullet points were made, but the story here is way too big to be relegated into a pre-credits sequence. Full episodes of a television show can be dedicated to these characters and allow audiences to understand how the characters, and world as a whole, reached the dismal spot where the Watchmen story begins.
Along with more in-depth backstories, we could learn more about the characters we do spend time with. Television shows often allow for standalone episodes during which we go in depth with specific characters (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Xander-centric episode, “The Zeppo”). This device could serve well for the Watchmen, as it would allow us to fully connect with the characters and their emotions rather than just glazing over them in order to fit into time constraints.
And of course, television would allow the return of parts of the story were nixed altogether, being deemed ancillary. With television, Watchmen could be restored to its full glory with…
4. Tales of the Black Freighter!
This would be a big win for die-hard fans of the original graphic novel, who demand direct page-to-screen transfers. Honestly, even with all the excess time television provides, filmmakers would probably still pass on the story-within-a-story of, “Tale of the Black Freighter,” that takes a up a few pages of here and there throughout Watchmen.
That said, one could dream of a single episode a season that focused only on the comic book pirate tale that mirrors the ongoing action in the real story world, or at the very least, show the story in some capacity via a TV screen or radio play.
Some may find this addition wholly unnecessary, but a nice perk about making things for television is…
3. It’s For the Fans
One of televisions greatest feats is that is seems that there is something for everyone. You want a television show centered around Daredevil? You got it! You want a show about a high school teacher by day, meth dealer by night? Have some Breaking Bad! You want a show about the Amish Mafia? Weird, but… okay sure!
Television has become a haven for the most impassioned of fans. With fan petitions leading to reboots of old TV shows (Fuller House, Gilmore Girls, and the X-Files to name a few), it often seems that the only criteria required for getting a show made is that a certain hardy band of passionate individuals will consume it. The beauty of this is that it means, once a show is greenlit, creators know exactly who it’s being made for.
A Watchmen TV show wouldn’t have to aim to create a new fan base or spend countless dollars on a special effects to dazzle viewers who are already invested due to their love of the source material.
A Watchmen TV show would be made for fans of Watchmen.
2. True Grit
With a dedicated fan base, the Watchmen TV show wouldn’t have to sacrifice any of its core values and components to satisfy newcomers.
One complaint that came up time and time again regarding the film was the fact that the actual Watchmen seemed a bit too super. Dr. Manhattan is a certified superhero, but the rest of the gang were nothing more than talented vigilantes. Time and time again in the film, for the sake of awesomeness, these characters exhibited strength far beyond the layman and took beatings that would land anyone in the ICU.
Now, I’m all for awesomeness, it’s how I live my day-to-day life, but when that awesomeness takes away from the story, I have a problem. It should always be clear that the Watchmen are very much human. They sweat, bleed, break, cry, ache, and have serious flaws like any other person. This is the reason that so many people have come to love the graphic novel, the humanity within it. Meaning, when you lose the core value of source material, you lose what makes it so special and beloved to begin with.
Television allows the Watchmen to return a smaller and grittier story. There’s no need to make everyone invincible because there are no men in suits staring at the opening weekend’s box office figures.
Take away the special effects and bring me the blood, sweat, and tears.
1. More Story to Tell
Television is a long-form medium when compared to film. It allows hours upon hours, and often years upon years, of entertainment and story. While the Watchmen graphic novels may have concluded, the stories of the characters within it can continue… and television is the perfect medium with which to do it.
Television writers are some of the best in the business at the moment, and I would trust the Watchmen story in their hands without hesitation. While some fans (and Alan Moore) would be upset at seeing the original story being tarnished by continuing on in other hands, I’m all for it.
But with such rich characters, why not try to bring their stories to a larger audience in through a new medium and perspective?
Who watches the Watchmen?
I assure you, a lot of people will.
Do you want Watchmen to come to the small screen? Or do you think they should just listen to Alan Moore and stop messing with his stories? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!