‘Watchmen’: The Reason HBO’s Series Ignores the 2009 Movie

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen proved unadaptable for decades. Published in 1986, it took until 2009 for a movie adaptation. Tonight, HBO premieres Damon Lindelof’s version of Watchmen starring Regina King. But, if you saw the 2009 movie directed by Zack Snyder, starring Patrick Wilson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Matthew Goode and Billy Crudup, have you already seen it?

Watchmen: Regina King and Damon Lindelof
Regina King and Damon Lindelof at the premiere of Watchmen | Leon Bennett/WireImage

No. HBO’s Watchmen is different from both the movie and the graphic novel, but there is some overlap with both. Lindelof spoke with reporters at WarnerMedia’s Television Critics Association party over the summer and explained. Watchmen airs Sunday nights on HBO.

Damon Lindelof never considered adapting the ‘Watchmen’ graphic novel again

HBO’s Watchmen takes place in 2019. It’s just the 2019 that emerged from the 1985 depicted in the graphic novels. By 1985, superheroes had already changed history. Dr. Manhattan won the Vietnam War for the U.S. and Richard Nixon abolished term limits to remain in office. Damon Lindelof was never going to do a series adaptation of the graphic novel.

“No, because the movie came out in 2009 and it’s just a decade later,” Lindelof said. “To just basically do that same story again, that’s the thing that Alan Moore is adamant about. ‘I wrote something not to be adaptable so please don’t do that again.’”

‘Watchmen’ is based on the comics, not the movie

Damon Lindelof decided his series would follow the comics’ version of the story. The Watchmen movie was mostly faithful, but changed the ending.

Damon Lindelof
Damon Lindelof | Leon Bennett/WireImage

“We have adopted the original 12 issues of Watchmen as our canon,” Lindelof said. “Although the movie is very, very close to that canon, the one significant difference is what happens in November of ‘85. We stick to the comic book version of that versus the movie version.”

Don’t expect to see the movie cast on HBO

HBO’s Watchmen introduces new characters anyway. However, if any of the 1985 Watchmen characters were to appear, Damon Lindelof expects to recast them. 

“I think it would be confusing because then that movie becomes canon,” Lindelof said. “If Patrick Wilson is suddenly Nite Owl, and by the way he’d be too young because our Nite Owl is in his early ‘70s if he were to appear, I don’t want to confuse people. Although, I feel like the casting in the Watchmen movie was pretty great.”

These two ‘Watchmen’ characters are in the show

Damon Lindelof did reveal that two classic Watchmen characters appear in the show. Jean Smart plays Laura Jupiter, whom Malin Akerman played in the film.

“I’m not embarrassed to say my fixation started with her on Designing Women which I watched with my mom,” Lindelof said. “She is playing a legacy character from the original Watchmen, Laura Jupiter better known as Silk Spectre. She completely and totally understood the character and hit the ground running.”

Jean Smart
Jean Smart | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Dr. Manhattan is still alive in 2019 too. Billy Crudup won’t reprise his role either, but Lindelof promises you’ll see Dr. Manhattan at some point. 

“People keep talking about him,” Lindelof said. “A lot of this show is I have to basically step outside the show and say as a fan of Watchmen, if I wasn’t making this show, what are the things that I would demand. One of those things is seeing a naked blue man walking down the street at some point. So we have delivered on that promise. I’m not going to tell you when but it wouldn’t be Watchmen without Dr. Manhattan.”