Is there an R-rated Watchmen animaed movie in development? Well, there could be. CBR brought a little piece of info from the Warner Bros. A-List Community survey to everyone’s attention this afternoon, indicating that they’re at least exploring the idea to see if enough people are interested.
Keep in mind, this is a community survey, not a press release, which described “upcoming made-for-video movie, Watchmen” as “A faithful adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel executed in an animation style that mirrors the source material (Anticipated MPAA R rating).”
Representatives for Warner Bros. offered a “no comment” when I inquired about their plans. They have no comment, but I do.
We are essentially 0-1 on Watchmen adaptations. It took 20 years to bring the most famous “graphic novel” of all time to the screen, and Zack Snyder’s 2009 big screen version generally regarded, at best, as a mixed bag. While it’s understandable that the studio is looking to see if there’s an appetite for a faithful animated adaptation, what could this possibly offer, other than the novelty of seeing this story played out in animated form this time?
WB’s ongoing series of DC Universe Animated movies are often good fun, well animated, and with creative voice casting. While many of them adapt well known DC Comics stories, they’re strongest when they don’t feel obligated to try and adhere to the letter of their most decorated source material.
But when they go wrong, they go very wrong.
Last year’s R-rated animated adaptation of another iconic comic from the 1980s, Batman: The Killing Joke, took a deserved critical beating, both for some problematic creative liberties it took with the material and the fact that the animation itself looked cheap, rushed, and not at all worthy of the Brian Bolland artwork that graced the comic’s pages. They blew it with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke, so why should we believe they’d do a better job with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen?
But DC Entertainment as a whole continues to go back to the Watchmen well, notably against the wishes of co-creator Alan Moore. The 2009 movie (which I’ll admit is not entirely without redeeming qualities) aside, there have apparently been early talks with Zack Snyder to bring a Watchmen TV series to HBO, DC Comics published an appalling batch of Before Watchmen prequels in 2012, and now there’s a looming Justice League/Watchmen crossover in the very near future.
Watchmen is deserving of every bit of acclaim it has received over the last 30-plus years. But a significant piece of its brilliance is how it deconstructs comics as a form, not just superheroes. The 2009 movie did play with that a little, with its costumes and production design often acting as commentary on the excesses of the pre-Nolan/Singer/Marvel era of superhero movies. So what, exactly, could a Watchmen animated movie offer other than essentially having the story read to us by a cast of celebrities? Furthermore, how faithful could Watchmen be within the 70 minute confines of these direct-to-video efforts? Or would this follow in the footsteps of their Dark Knight Returns adaptation, which was split up into two parts on its initial release?
Given the source of this info it’s too early to get worked up over this, as it may not even happen. It doesn’t sound like a terribly promising idea. Perhaps Rorschach himself would find it amusing that Watchmen rears its head again as we find ourselves in the real world edging closer to nuclear war than we have since the comic was first published, though.