I’ve long wondered how even a filmmaker as inventive as Zack Snyder is going to be able to do justice to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ epic Watchmen. One of the unique virtues of their graphic novel is the way it takes full advantage of its medium — the overlap of words, pictures, and supplemental material — to tell a complete story, full of overlapping plot strands, parallels of past, present, and future, of events in the story and the literary and pictorial allusions that comment on them. It seemed inevitable that a lot of that material would have to be streamlined or jettisoned for Watchmen to work as a movie.
Fortunately, it looks like Snyder is doing his best to keep the extensive backstory and sidestory material. Watchmen is set in a world that both reveres and scorns comic-book superheroes. The latter-day heroes at the story’s center live their lives informed by the rich history of a previous generation of costumed crimefighters. Yesterday, the filmmakers released to Ain’t It Cool News a class photo of the first-generation heroes, the Minutemen (pictured), and that single photo should be enough to whet the appetites of Watchmenologists. Not only is it faithful to similar artwork from the Gibbons drawings, but the placement of the various Minutemen in the photo hints at the relationships that will be important later in the story. (Kneeling in the foreground is the Comedian, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose latter-day actions are the story’s catalyst.) Plus, the photo’s warm sepia tone and, its quaint, baggy costumes suggest that the film will maintain a cheeky but fond reverence for the masked heroes who starred in the (real world’s) earliest comic books.
That backstory will be further explored in a mockumentary called UnderThe Hood, a side project Snyder is overseeing, along with Tales of theBlack Freighter, a grim pirate saga that appears in Watchmen in theform of a comic book one character reads throughout the story, offeringa counterpoint to the main superhero plot. Both Under the Hood andBlack Freighter will be released on DVD at the time of Watchmen‘sbig-screen release next March. That’s not quite the same thing as beingable to enjoy these stories and refer back to them while readingthe main Watchmen story, as you can with the graphic novel, but it’spretty close. Props to Snyder for trying to replicate as closely aspossible the rich and allusive experience of reading the book — and toWarner Bros. for letting him do so.