The world has been seeing increasingly renewed interest in “Watchmen” over the past few months and it doesn’t seem to be solely for the fact that the film is basking in the afterglow of its ten year anniversary or a timely and well-received television adaptation.
As this superb retrospective by The Royal Ocean Film Society points out, “Watchmen” has steadily gained a cult-like following since its initial release, similar to that of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” or David Lynch’s “Dune.”
According to Terry Gilliam, who was originally attached to direct the project in the early 90’s, “Watchmen” was simply too complicated and dense of a narrative to capture on celluloid, later calling it “unfilmable.” Once Zack Snyder was able to break the film out of development hell and finally deliver his version to theaters, reactions were mixed and the box office results middling. Some fans raved about Snyder’s stylistic take on the story, while others complained that the humor and social commentary of the comic had been stripped away. For what it’s worth, the late great Roger Ebert awarded the film a glowing four out of four stars, calling it “a compelling visceral film.”
Then came the benefit of time and Snyder’s “Director’s Cut,” released on DVD, which is generally considered to be superior compared to the original. A significant portion of detractors of the film slowly came around, while many others who originally missed it in theaters were won over by Snyder’s inventive and grandiloquent presentation.
And yet even that wasn’t the final chapter for “Watchmen.” Despite the dichotomous response to Snyder’s film, despite Gilliam’s warnings, and despite half a dozen other filmmakers trying and failing to make a successful adaptation, the critical success (and ahead of its time nature) of “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof’s television series based on “Watchmen” aired on HBO to great fanfare. But unlike Snyder, Lindelof has decided that the best way to adapt “Watchmen” is to not really adapt “Watchmen” all.