News

Watchmen First Reviews: HBO Comic Book Sequel Series Impresses

Damon Lindelof's series is a compelling take on the iconic comic book world Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons built.

by | October 15, 2019 | Comments

Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) returns to HBO with his rendition of Watchmen, the first live-action television series adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ iconic graphic novel series. The original 12-issues told explored an alternate 1985 reality where America is on the brink of nuclear war.

The story kicks off after the mysterious murder of a vigilante known as The Comedian provokes his peers — a group of heroes including the inkblot mask-wearing Rorschach, the Batman-esque Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, and otherworldly Dr. Manhattan — to come out of retirement to investigate the crime, leading them to an epic conflict with supervillain Ozymandias. All the while the Doomsday Clock continues ticking closer to midnight.

It’s 34 years later in HBO’s Watchmen and in this tale, both law enforcement and criminals hide behind masks. A white supremacist group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has taken to using Rorschach’s iconic inkblot mask to further their own terrorist agenda and tensions are boiling over.

The series boasts a roster of heavy-hitting talent, including Leftovers alum Regina King as Detective Angela Abar, Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias), Jean Smart as FBI Agent Laurie Blake (aka Silk Spectre), Don Johnson as Chief Judd Crawford, and Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves.

Lindelof previously described his version of Watchmen as a remix — not a reboot — and revealed to EW that his series should be considered a sequel, acknowledging Moore and Gibbons’ comics as canon. Zack Snyder’s polarizing movie adaptation of the comics came out 10 years ago to mixed reviews — it has a 64% Tomatometer score on 306 reviews — leaving many die-hard fans disappointed. Will Lindelof’s take on the landmark tale fall into the style-over-substance trap, as well?

Here’s what critics are saying about the premiere episode of HBO’s Watchmen:


(Photo by Mark Hill/HBO)

HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE COMIC?

Lindelof and his team have done the impossible – they’ve captured the superhero deconstruction elements that stood out in Moore and Gibbons’ work while also expanding on their world-building. The end result is destined to be one of the year’s most compelling shows.
– Chris Evangelista, SlashFilm

Hard to know where this will go, but the pilot is certainly dazzling and bold.
– Roger Catlin, rogercatlin.com

Ultimately, getting into the minutiae will be for uber fans. Everybody else will probably just roll with the joyfully creative explosion of weirdness that sits within Lindelof’s Watchmen.
– Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

Watchmen doesn’t overdose on nostalgia, like so many franchise extensions in our reboot-soaked decade. It’s dangerous, and invigorating.
Darren Franich, EW

Lindelof’s Watchmen is bold, creative and challenging, maintaining a faithfulness to the source material, or its spirit, at least, without being overly reverential (we’re looking at you, Zack Snyder).
– Kevin Melrose, CBR

Overall, Lindelof’s Watchmen embraces the spirit of the original comic with its stylish cynicism while attempting to erect a new organizing principle all its own, which will prove controversial to some.
– Brandon Katz, Observer



HOW ARE THE PERFORMANCES?

Though an ensemble piece, the story always circles back to Angela, and King plays her beautifully as a woman determined to work for justice who has to continually reevaluate what that means.
– Keith Phipps, TV Guide

The strength of Watchmen is its talented cast – which also includes Don Johnson, Hong Chau and Tim Blake Nelson. Like Lost, the best episodes are character-driven and laden with flashbacks.
– Kelly Lawler, USA Today

King is nothing short of amazing — yes, she’s got an Oscar and three Emmys, but she puts even more range on display in a turn that effortlessly pivots between invulnerable and vulnerable.
– Ben Travers, IndieWire

Irons and King crush every second (snarling or riffing quotable lines in perfect, GIF-able snippets), but they’re just part of a vast and talented ensemble that includes highlights like standoffish, totally believable child acting from Dylan Schombing and a new, delightful facet of Hong Chau.
– Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine


(Photo by Mark Hill/HBO)

DOES ITS POLITICAL NARRATIVE HIT THE MARK?

Watchmen’s debut episode falls short of saying anything interesting or insightful about its subject matter, seemingly content to be a mirror of our society, albeit a seriously distorted one.
– Charles Pulliam-Moore, IO9

Watchmen holds the potential to reframe historical perspective and enduring societal truths by inviting us to a fastidiously detailed alternate America that still feels too close for comfort.
– Haleigh Foutch, Collider

That Watchmen finds within the graphic novel a story about modern race relations is both admirable and probably wrongheaded, an element that the show more successfully whispers than shouts about.
– Daniel D’Addario, Variety

Perhaps because it’s juggling so many ideas, the series feels muddled in its politics, and it’s hard not to yearn for a greater sense of urgency. Those drawbacks don’t entirely undermine Watchmen‘s pleasures, but they do blunt and distract from them.
– Brian Lowry, CNN


RELATED: Everything We Know About HBO’s Watchmen TV Series


Watchmen premieres at 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 20 on HBO.


Watchmen: Season 1 (2019)
96%

#1
Adjusted Score: 103.345%
Critics Consensus: Bold and bristling, Watchmen isn't always easy viewing, but by adding new layers of cultural context and a host of complex characters it expertly builds on its source material to create an impressive identity of its own.
Synopsis: Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) creates a modern-day re-imagining of Alan Moore's groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.... [More]

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

batman Musicals spanish language sequel streaming game show ABC Mindy Kaling crime screenings Dark Horse Comics composers Apple TV+ BET HBO Max Marathons Disney Super Bowl Year in Review American Society of Cinematographers free movies breaking bad Epix Turner Classic Movies christmas movies 2017 PaleyFest Western Cosplay adaptation Amazon Prime LGBT dceu witnail Trailer what to watch DC streaming service Summer war Hallmark HBO dramedy BBC America The Arrangement Hallmark Christmas movies Rom-Com Showtime Box Office Marvel Studios DC Universe Peacock Television Academy Podcast disaster See It Skip It cooking anthology TCA ratings Rock robots IFC TLC Pet Sematary MTV Red Carpet politics spider-man Lifetime Christmas movies Creative Arts Emmys VICE 24 frames finale cancelled E3 unscripted comic National Geographic TruTV FOX social media transformers Infographic travel Shudder TIFF Binge Guide Horror Certified Fresh Biopics Film A&E X-Men History First Reviews YA Universal Cartoon Network Drama spy thriller Classic Film 21st Century Fox The Purge BBC Mudbound true crime USA Network television WarnerMedia FX CNN MSNBC Oscars Paramount Network NBC dc Amazon Prime Video period drama Sundance Heroines Apple TV Plus Syfy historical drama police drama OWN biography Animation Spectrum Originals psycho ITV MCU harry potter Netflix Christmas movies Trophy Talk political drama DGA Toys Disney Plus strong female leads Extras supernatural Amazon Lucasfilm quibi RT21 teaser casting IFC Films GoT APB miniseries 007 Black Mirror Christmas cartoon space Countdown Shondaland Teen romantic comedy Elton John Comedy Central mutant blaxploitation serial killer Lifetime Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Awards Kids & Family latino Opinion hispanic 45 Britbox Sneak Peek stand-up comedy game of thrones YouTube toy story cancelled TV series SXSW Pixar CBS aliens zombie versus Martial Arts Reality The CW TBS Awards Tour video El Rey 2016 Holiday Song of Ice and Fire Ellie Kemper boxoffice Comic Book Food Network crossover Music 2019 E! spain Hulu justice league independent Adult Swim 2018 Chernobyl golden globes TCA 2017 Tarantino Country natural history vampires facebook cancelled television adventure New York Comic Con Walt Disney Pictures Arrowverse based on movie The Walking Dead Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Photos Captain marvel Mary Poppins Returns elevated horror hist Best and Worst GIFs werewolf Mary poppins Columbia Pictures Sundance Now 20th Century Fox CMT Nat Geo richard e. Grant Anna Paquin Ghostbusters animated halloween spinoff Acorn TV cars Rocketman Nickelodeon The Witch Lionsgate cults Star Wars Mystery GLAAD Watching Series Disney+ Disney Plus Ovation Election AMC cinemax Star Trek series VH1 revenge Apple Winners FXX ESPN blockbuster Starz Spring TV 71st Emmy Awards Pride Month canceled TV shows Tumblr ghosts Film Festival Comedy Nominations technology Grammys discovery Tomatazos cancelled TV shows cops Trivia diversity DC Comics jamie lee curtis movies Mary Tyler Moore singing competition Action zombies mockumentary renewed TV shows CW Seed PBS Calendar Disney Channel Marvel Television Netflix Freeform Crackle Crunchyroll Turner Set visit indie Valentine's Day anime TCM sports sitcom Sci-Fi TV Superheroe Logo zero dark thirty Polls and Games tv talk psychological thriller crime thriller Brie Larson Premiere Dates binge LGBTQ Musical Warner Bros. south america Paramount cats WGN science fiction theme song Fantasy docudrama Fall TV First Look Pop TV renewals Schedule RT History festivals kids Video Games children's TV medical drama DirecTV USA joker ABC Family award winner TNT Stephen King Marvel President Esquire book CBS All Access SDCC 2015 Cannes Winter TV Interview Vudu NYCC rotten movies we love Comics on TV comiccon doctor who Sony Pictures Character Guide A24 Masterpiece dragons Quiz Writers Guild of America Thanksgiving nature San Diego Comic-Con TV Land Emmys Women's History Month Holidays Fox News crime drama canceled Bravo YouTube Red foreign Reality Competition thriller Rocky slashers romance talk show Disney streaming service Superheroes green book Emmy Nominations YouTube Premium SundanceTV Pirates Family Spike