Who Watches The Watchmen?

“By fate, not through choice, we are made watchmen on the walls of civilization.”

From the opening crime, as a comedian dies without an audience, to a fated showdown in the snow, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen astounds and challenges readers at every turn. Set in an alternate United States in 1985, we’re presented with a world where superheroes may be real, but are oh-so-very human in their failings, their loves, and losses. And yet their actions may affect the whole world, as tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union are ramped up to an all-time high, and the world edges closer, and ever closer, to nuclear war.

Originally released in 1986 and ’87 as a 12 issue comic book mini-series, and then collected into a single volume, Watchmen was an instant commercial success. That it went on to garner critical acclaim in both the mainstream and comics press is well documented; Time magazine even rated it as one of the 100 best English-language novels written after 1923 (it was the only comic book to make this prestigious list). With its intricate plotting, adult themes, and enormous ambition in both scope and the range of topics it covered, the book went on to revolutionise an entire industry. It broke comic books out of self-imposed limits, and showed, perhaps for the first time, what was truly possible in the medium. Simply put, Watchmen is a masterpiece, and if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.

In Alan Moore’s own words, Watchmen “was designed to show off the things that comics could do that cinema and literature couldn’t”. By working to the strengths of the medium and combining both literary and visual techniques, it explores repeated motifs, non-sequential time, and even the blending of the book’s reality with further fiction. Small wonder then, that several script treatments have lingered in development hell over the last 20-some years. Alan Moore publicly stated that he “didn’t think it was filmable”. So did the great Terry Gilliam, once attached to direct. And yet, after a development process that would practically make a movie in itself (if only it were more believable), this Friday sees the release of Watchmen in movie form. Directed by Zack Snyder (of 300 fame), and using a script adapted from two treatments by gaming’s own David Hayter (who was also once attached to direct), the $120 million movie is a long-awaited dream for fans.

So what does all this have to do with games? Well, developer Deadline Games, and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment are releasing a game to accompany the movie’s launch. Now, as gamers, it’s very hard for us to get excited about any “game of the movie” these days. We’ve seen too many lazy cash-ins of beloved properties. And it’s no secret that stand-out titles like Goldeneye and Chronicles of Riddick were released years after the movies that inspired them. So whenever we see a game released the same week as the movie, we can hardly be blamed for hitting the snooze button and asking to be left alone. Especially when we hear that the game is to be a scrolling beat-em-up with puzzle elements.

But this is where it could get interesting. With Watchmen: The End Is Nigh, Warner Bros. have gone for a different approach than we’ve seen before. And some of what they have in mind may be enough to stoke the embers of excitement in gamers yet. The plot has been penned by the series’ original editor, Len Wein, and is set as a prequel to the main plot in Watchmen. Also, as with the movie, Dave Gibbons is on board as an advisor, ensuring that the game stays true to the source material. And perhaps more tellingly, the game is to be released as episodic content from direct download distributors (namely XBLA, PSN and Steam for PC). This should mean a more affordable title than we’re used to, we’ll automatically get the free demo that Marketplace insists on (except with Steam), and we’ll only buy the second episode (and any future installments, tho only two are announced) if we love the first one. Also, by bringing the game to customers in installments, this allows the developers to cash in on the incredible hype surrounding the movie, while still extending the development cycle well beyond the movie’s launch window. If used well, that could be a very exciting development in movie games for years to come.

So, who watches the watchmen? Well, as of March 6, more than 20 years of fans, a sizeable chunk of the movie-going public, gamers with a taste for long-play downloadable games and this Ready-Upper should make for a great start. Really the question is, will you?


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4 responses to “Who Watches The Watchmen?”

  1. Michael avatar

    I intend to see it on Saturday. 😀

  2. paradox avatar
    paradox

    nice read darach, but i’ve been oblivious to the whole 2behind the movie” stuff you speak of here, i had no idea of its origins but no doubt its going to please a hella lot of people come release.

    judging by the pictures alone, it reminds me of the league of extrodinary gentlemen film, which is no bad thing, i think i’ll be dragging the mrs to see this when its out, especially now ive seen that nice lady in the yellow/black leather outfit ( yes,i hear the screams of ‘you shallow bastard’, and i agree, i am lol )

    she does looks like fun though 😀

  3. sween avatar
    sween

    can’t wait for this movie, blog’s a bit dull though

  4. Uzi avatar
    Uzi

    The lady looks quite a bit like CyberVixen (Cait), friend of UK Fragdoll Voodoo.

    You can catch up with Cait on YouTube, under the account name CyberVixen. She’s much nicer when she isn’t kicking your arse in some game.

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