Watchmen is incredibly well-acted and produced and a very entertaining watch. But it falls just short of being a truly meaningful update of the iconic graphic novel for our time.
Creators: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons (graphic novel), Damon Lindelof (TV series)
Cast: Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson
Seasons: 1 (2019)
Streaming on: Hotstar
A great action series with a fantastic cast
Damon Lindelof’s TV version of the comic book is impressively ambitious. The notoriously subversive book explores abuses of power and the dangers of unquestioning trust in authority. It seems hard to adapt owing to its bizarre narrative and tonal and temporal shifts. Lindelof accomplishes this mission, while telling a story that playfully moves backwards and forwards in time, sometimes in two timelines at once. It’s a series that revels in its own weirdness.
It’s easy to appreciate the show even if you ignore its politics. There are big action scenes, with some intricate choreography. The same goes for the convincing hand-to-hand fights, which make the most of an amazing cast. Regina King does a stellar job as Angela Abar, putting her acting range on display as she plays a character that’s strong yet vulnerable. Jeremy Irons has a ball as the Ozymandias, an eccentric figure who’s single-minded when it comes to imposing his twisted logic on the world.
The show aims to deconstruct the superhero genre but gets cold feet
The show grapples with such topical issues as police brutality and violence against African Americans. However, the story often fails to provide conclusions to these ideas. For example, having protagonist Angela Abar, a retired Tulsa cop who now works undercover as a costumed crimefighter, beat up a suspect to gain intel on a white supremacist group. Is it okay for an African American cop-turned- crimefighter to use excessive force on a racist suspect? The show doesn’t present any sort of answer to this.
The graphic novel tells a story about masked vigilantes, who are far from your average hero. In other words, they’re not Superman or Captain America. Each character has strengths and major shortcomings. However, the series sets Angela up as the hero of the story. Her character is thinly sketched, perhaps because of how much the show wants the audience to like her. It doesn’t look too closely at her character flaws, for example how she brutally beats criminals on behalf of the state. The series finale suggests that she gains Dr Manhattan’s superpowers. But this feels like a departure from the spirit of the source material. The point that both the comics and the show partially makes is that powerful heroes are bad for the world. Yet it seems as though the show still wants Angela to be a Superman-like figure who saves the world.
For a recap of all the episodes, see here.