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: 105.366%
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

medical drama Television Academy San Diego Comic-Con stand-up comedy diversity Toys ABC TCM name the review Musical PaleyFest hollywood dceu documentary screenings LGBTQ Opinion cancelled TV series Freeform Reality Competition south america IFC Films Character Guide zombie streaming Grammys YA breaking bad fresh USA Network Columbia Pictures deadpool Alien chucky Starz revenge Amazon blockbuster Photos foreign OWN Warner Bros. Hulu kids Mary Tyler Moore Nat Geo political drama jurassic park zombies japanese Amazon Studios rom-coms romance cancelled TV shows serial killer Shudder VICE crime drama justice league USA video on demand Comics on TV comic animated transformers critics Schedule History National Geographic sports what to watch technology Brie Larson space superhero crime emmy awards films TV 2018 batman Disney streaming service aliens Comedy Awards TV One Fantasy cops IFC discovery Comic Book facebook james bond cooking joker cartoon MSNBC Red Carpet Pirates Classic Film tv talk finale Mystery movies Calendar Writers Guild of America First Reviews 2015 The Academy Apple TV+ cancelled Spring TV Marathons screen actors guild Mary poppins Binge Guide disaster PlayStation Paramount Network black The Arrangement cancelled television HBO binge festival halloween canceled Biopics VH1 game show Masterpiece Sony Pictures FXX Winners NBC Holidays AMC free movies Polls and Games franchise Sci-Fi Infographic strong female leads 21st Century Fox Mary Poppins Returns Set visit YouTube Red Animation worst movies child's play Bravo Tumblr Academy Awards fast and furious Britbox Family robots satire spanish thriller cinemax adventure news criterion zero dark thirty Disney+ Disney Plus Ghostbusters Crunchyroll Best and Worst TNT PBS remakes hist The Purge classics Hallmark Christmas movies Walt Disney Pictures A&E Adult Swim The Walt Disney Company supernatural italian Stephen King DGA biography Spectrum Originals Song of Ice and Fire jamie lee curtis Black Mirror Country scary movies Summer historical drama ABC Family Netflix asian-american comedies TruTV mutant rotten movies we love Amazon Prime Funimation Teen Spike independent Sundance Mudbound GoT golden globe awards President richard e. Grant Universal canceled TV shows Arrowverse Podcast YouTube Box Office singing competition Kids & Family First Look DC streaming service Interview spinoff New York Comic Con Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cults Valentine's Day theme song unscripted natural history parents Trailer E3 Comedy Central Emmy Nominations The Witch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Endgame ghosts Heroines Countdown romantic comedy CNN spanish language Lionsgate casting australia DC Universe mockumentary Pet Sematary Acorn TV Superheroe Hear Us Out Western boxoffice Hallmark Nominations Ellie Kemper Election CW Seed YouTube Premium Sneak Peek nature SXSW Extras teaser dc laika quibi TBS Tarantino Fall TV obituary Netflix Christmas movies Women's History Month book stoner nfl Cosplay Martial Arts green book blaxploitation Elton John Amazon Prime Video Superheroes archives reboot WarnerMedia Thanksgiving BBC Nickelodeon A24 ID BBC America TCA Winter 2020 Food Network Sundance Now Shondaland Video Games TIFF Lucasfilm football TCA versus Christmas nbcuniversal dark universal monsters Epix indie APB Marvel Studios psychological thriller witnail The Walking Dead Esquire spider-man christmas movies Pop harry potter FOX SundanceTV Mindy Kaling BET Awards Star Trek stop motion toy story period drama 99% Black History Month dragons doctor who TV renewals mission: impossible toronto dogs werewolf a nightmare on elm street sequel Tubi MTV documentaries elevated horror 2017 Syfy comiccon TV Land Horror all-time cars X-Men venice Pride Month worst Cartoon Network Chernobyl DirecTV NYCC ABC Signature sequels Year in Review golden globes Logo Trivia rotten ratings festivals Oscars movie best Paramount Creative Arts Emmys MCU 2020 Discovery Channel Disney Plus Marvel Television Fox News Turner Watching Series VOD 71st Emmy Awards Showtime ITV Winter TV LGBT Lifetime TCA 2017 french talk show CMT miniseries Emmys OneApp sag awards Marvel sitcom anime police drama latino Apple Reality Cannes Disney Apple TV Plus psycho Film Festival GLAAD Travel Channel CBS CBS All Access game of thrones crime thriller Rock See It Skip It series HBO Max war GIFs Vudu video politics television spain TCA Awards Ovation El Rey Rocketman 4/20 Disney Channel Avengers cats 45 Pop TV travel anthology scorecard Rom-Com true crime RT21 RT History comic books comics BAFTA adaptation Film slashers Premiere Dates boxing hispanic Tomatazos HBO Go reviews docudrama 2019 dramedy 007 Anna Paquin directors Pixar award winner BBC One children's TV Crackle science fiction FX on Hulu Music Certified Fresh Rocky The CW 72 Emmy Awards Lifetime Christmas movies TLC 2016 Super Bowl Peacock vampires Trophy Talk 20th Century Fox SDCC concert composers Quiz crossover American Society of Cinematographers Turner Classic Movies E! die hard BET Fox Searchlight based on movie WGN twilight 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Drama FX Sundance TV Musicals Holiday Action 24 frames spy thriller Awards Tour indiana jones pirates of the caribbean ESPN renewed TV shows trailers Star Wars halloween tv Television Critics Association DC Comics social media Captain marvel Dark Horse Comics Baby Yoda rt archives