It’s hard to think of a comic book adaptation more confounding than Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen for HBO. Like many previous Lindelof projects, it’s been cloaked in mystery, despite ostensibly being about characters the world has known for three decades. Lindelof hasn’t exactly been able to articulate exactly what kind of show it is. He initially referred to it as a “remix” of the original, but has now made it clear that it’s a sequel set 30 years after the comic. He’s said it avoids political moralizing and attempts to tackle the subject of racism, two statements that seem to contradict. In his latest interview with Vulture, he changes our perspective on the show yet again.
Lindelof acknowledged the moral dilemma of adapting Watchmen after creator Alan Moore infamously disavowed the HBO version and all other adaptations. “What are the ethical ramifications of this even existing at all when I completely and totally side with the creator? Acknowledge that the creator has been exploited by a corporation?” Lindelof wondered aloud. “Now that very same corporation is basically compensating me to continue this thing.”
Lindelof seems to have found the production a difficult one, even suggesting Moore (who famously practices magic) may have put a hex on the production.
Lindelof was also asked about the decision Ozymandias makes in the original comic’s climax — would he resort to terrorism to prevent nuclear holocaust? The showrunner said he would, but added that “he could have accomplished the same goal with less of a death toll. Maybe not New York; you’d probably accomplish the same thing somewhere else. But other than that, I find no fault with the plan.”
This response is kind of huge in the grand scheme of Watchmen, as it suggests the show will take the perspective that what Veidt does at the end of Watchmen is good and right. Lindelof says as much elsewhere in the conversation with Vulture: the world will not be perfect after Veidt drops the squid, but character makes the right decision.
One of the things that has made Watchmen such a resonant text for the last few decades is that it does not presume to tell you what to think, but lets you decide for yourself. That decision largely informs one’s take on the text — and, hypothetically, were one to write a sequel to the comic, where they might take it.
With Jeremy Irons more or less confirmed to be playing an older version of Ozymandias (and Lindelof noting that the actor’s scenes helped him crack the story as a whole) it feels safe to say Lindelof’s Watchmen will be heavily centered around that performance and informed by the showrunner’s stance on the character and his actions. There’s still no telling just what kind of show Watchmen is, but this feels like the closest thing we have to an idea of it.
Watchmen comes to HBO October 20.