A Zack Snyder Watchmen TV Series Is a Horrible Idea


A lot of times, we treat interesting or noteworthy ideas as if they’re synonymous with good ones. That’s not always the case, and this week’s report that HBO was talking to Zack Snyder about a Watchmen TV series reminded me of that.

Undoubtedly, the idea of Watchmen on TV is A Big Deal (patent pending). It’s one of the most highly regarded super hero comics of all time for good reason, and its mature sensibilities would fit perfectly on HBO — which is another way of saying that you couldn’t get away with the language, violence and sexual content necessary to adapt it on network television.

That said, this has the feel of the fan equivalent of fool’s gold, something that sounds great when you first hear it and then appears more and more rotten the longer you think about it. The more I ponder a Watchmen series, especially one with Snyder attached, the less enthusiastic I am about it.

Scratch that, actually, because it doesn’t take my feelings far enough. A Snyder-led HBO Watchmen series would be a horrible idea for several reasons.

The Best Part of the Watchmen Story Has Already Been Adapted

Lest we forget, Watchmen was only a 12-issue limited series. Those are some super dense issues thanks to the genius of Alan Moore, but that doesn’t change the fact that Snyder has already done the entire story in film. Even Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood made the home video release, meaning there’s almost literally nothing left we haven’t seen. We could retread the same ground all over again in more detail, but I’m not sure I’d see the need for it.

Doing a Before Watchmen Series Would Be a Bait and Switch of the Worst Kind

So if we assume Snyder and company wouldn’t be interested in re-hashing the movie for TV, that leaves two options. Either the series would be set after the events of the comic and film, in which case a bunch of the characters are dead or off the board, or it goes back and examines what came before.

DC has already done a prequel in comic book form. Before Watchmen had a ton of current talent attached to it when it came out (as eight different mini-series and a couple of one-shots) in 2012, but it didn’t move the cultural needle in nearly the same fashion as Watchmen.

Adapting those books would give the TV series plenty of material, but since comic book fans aren’t in love with them and the general public could probably not care less about them, that seems pointless. Or to put it another way, if this was indeed the plan, HBO would likely still announce the show as Watchmen, and then fans like me would be pissed off about it once we started watching.

Snyder’s Track Record With Original Super Hero Material is Kind of Frightening

I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s Watchmen film, but the things it did well I attribute mainly to his unwillingness to strike compromises and his insistence on staying scary true to the source material. Of course that blew up in the third act when Snyder and the writers decided to strike out on their own, but for about two and a half hours, they stuck to their guns.

But since we’re already ruling out using the comics as storyboards for our hypothetical HBO series, we’re left with the theory that Snyder and whoever he hires to write will be crafting their own story with the Watchmen characters. There I’d simply point to Man of Steel and say, “Um, no thanks.”

Snyder didn’t write Man of Steel (David S. Goyer is responsible for that), but it’s hard to imagine a more tone deaf super hero movie in the 21st Century, getting several important facets of Superman’s character completely wrong. As one of my best friends likes to say, it wasn’t a bad movie … but it was a really bad Superman movie.

I’m willing to give Snyder some benefit of the doubt from a small sample size perspective, and maybe Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will change my mind. Right now, there’s just no evidence that he’d be able to help craft an original story that would live up to the high standards set by Watchmen. Absolutely none.

The Co-Creator of Watchmen Would Clearly Be Against It

Arguments made by those who say Moore knew exactly what he was getting into when he created Watchmen for DC are easy to accept. The writer also has a tendency to come off as a bit of an arrogant know-it-all in the media (though he likely doesn’t care), making it harder to feel sympathetic with the fact that his now iconic characters will never again be under his control.

Here’s what we do know, even before someone tries asking him: Moore wouldn’t be fond of hearing about a Watchmen TV series. At all. We have a history of his statements wishing there was no movie and no Before Watchmen, making this one of the safest assumptions you could possibly make about anything comic book-related.

There’s nothing Moore can do about it, of course, and no one appointed him the king of good taste. You just can’t help but think he’s onto something here, and that since the original comic series was so damn good and the film was at least decent, maybe we’re tempting fate by mining the same concepts again.

Would I watch the Watchmen (no pun intended) series if it made it to HBO? Of course. There would be a large curiosity factor I couldn’t deny, and I’m the editor-in-chief of a comic book and super hero site. It would be unwise for me not to be conversant in it.

I’d just go into it expecting to be let down. As exciting as the initial report was, we should probably just leave Watchmen alone. And if it happens and it’s terrible, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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