The lineup for this screening was huge. Showrunner Damon Lindelof and HBO appeared with cast members, director, and surprise guest Dave Gibbons to screen the first episode of the HBO show which airs later this month.
I ran into Gibbons before the screening and he said to me that the show is neither a prequel or sequel. I think, technically, it is a sequel althoufh it certainly doesn’t feel like one. It’s set thirty years after the events in the comic book. Veteran thespian Jeremy Irons plays Ozymandias, now in hiding. None of the other characters from the comic are present in the first episode but there are nods to events that happened back in the book.
Where to start? They asked us not to reveal spoilers but I don’t really need to. You can pretty much pick up the whole gist from the trailers. It’s far from subtle and wears its big issue, white supremacy, on its ersatz policeman’s badge. A group called the Seventh Cavalry, inspired by Rorschach without really resembling him except in the broadest of strokes, is fighting policemen and policewomen who go around with the bottom half of their faces covered. That’s about it. It’s trying to say something about vigalante-ism and racism, I guess, but doesn’t really dwell on these topics too much. It’s too busy unloading shotguns and cracking jaws. There’s a lot of action, it’s very noisy, it’s fashionably dark, and chatacters talk as if there is something of import going on with the odd dry zinger thrown in. It’s weird and awkward and I don’t know what to say about it. If the Zack Snyder adaptation suffered from trying to be too faithful, this has little to no relation whatsoever to the spirit, sensibility, or content of the original story.
There was a lot of talk about remaining true to the original. Lindelof seemed overcome by nervousness and emotion when he introduced the screening. Whenever people adapt or riff off Moore’s work, there’s a palpable anxiety over the impossibility of living up to that original quality. The ethical conundrum and stark knowledge of Moore’s ire and the history of how his intellectual property was taken away from him can’t help either. So there was a sort of nervous hand wringing as the team, each in turn passed the baton, swallowed the pill, and talked about reading the graphic novel in preparation for their role. The crowd didn’t seem to care though and cheered and howled to keep things going.
Lindelof is famous for being instrumental on the TV show ‘Lost’ and that certainly had its writing problems so I have no idea how this series will turn out. It’s a bold move by a showrunner who professes great love for the original source material and, according to the varied cast, was quite passionate and persuasive about getting them to join the cast. It’s kind of a bizarre premise which is fine but I don’t see why it couldn’t have just existed on its own without tying itself to the already heavy, heavy baggage of the Watchmen saga. I guess it’s not comics. It’s HBO.