It was always going to be interesting to see how Damon Lindelof handled his HBO adaptation of Watchmen. It is only the greatest comic book of all time and we’ve seen what happens when an adaptation of a beloved work goes poorly (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*).
But so far, HBO’s Watchmen has been a revelation. Rather than doing another adaptation of the comic like what Zack Snyder did (poorly), Damon Lindelof instead decided create an entire new story within the established universe. Regardless of how some feel about this decision to “remix” rather than reboot, it’s been a risk that’s paying off in spades.
As Watchmen continues to build momentum, it’s been hard for me not to make comparisons to the aforementioned Game of Thrones, especially since the two TV shows are both on HBO.
Both are adaptations of all-time-great wGaorks and both scored critical acclaim from critics and fans (well, initially anyway for Game of Thrones).
But when held up together side-by-side, it’s pretty clear that Watchmen is a great example of how to do an adaptation well whereas Thrones ultimately turned into an example how how not to do an adaptation.
The Game of Thrones showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, followed George R.R. Martin’s novels pretty closely until they ran out of material at around the season five mark. From that point on, it was up to the pair to get to the ending Martin had in mind on their own.
There was a wealth of material for Benioff and Weiss to have crafted a satisfying ending to Game of Thrones. That’s the beauty of adaptations, you can reinterpret the source as you see fit and there’s room for creativity, especially if the source is still incomplete.
That’s perhaps the most disappointing thing about the last couple of seasons of Game of Thrones. There was potential for Benioff and Weiss to do something great after shaking off the shackles of the published novels, but instead it seemed like the pair simply wanted to get to the finish line ASAP rather than make it good.
By comparison, Damon Lindelof decided to go in the opposite direction. Instead of adapting the comic’s storyline, he decided to tell an entirely new story while still respecting the source material’s continuity and established universe. He’s not neglecting all that’s happened in the comics, he’s just using that as a setting for something fresh and more fitting for the times.
It’s a shame that Game of Thrones ended the way it did but on the plus side, we’re getting a more-than-worthy consolation prize in the form of Watchmen, which is quickly proving itself to be the benchmark on how to pull off good adaptations of beloved things.