I’ve often been told that what makes Watchmen “unfilmable” is its complexity: this is surely not true. Generally this argument confuses complexity for detail, which nowadays is bread and butter to a sufficiently obsessive director and an audience with frame-by-frame access. And looking at the trailer that’s what the Watchmen film’s got. Yes, the story as a comic contains a lot of flashbacks, but it’s not as if this is a technique unknown to cinema audiences! If you lose the Black Freighter sequence you’ve got a relatively straightforward story, albeit one with a somewhat eyebrow-raising tonal shift at the end.

No, the problem with Watchmen’s filmability, which judging by the trailer is likely to remain a problem, is the question of who the hero is? This is, basically, a superhero story whose protagonists are either ineffectual, inscrutable, or insane. Again, this needn’t be much of an issue – it’s not as if morally murky films with no clear heroes are any great novelty. But the buffer Alan Moore ran into (and admitted as much in interview) is that, despite every attempt to make Rorschach repulsive and pathetic, he ended up as a total bad-ass. OK, he was pathetic in his ‘secret identity’, but so’s Superman. And it’s not like he’ll be less of a bad-ass on film. “He’s mentally ill but arguably the most heroic of them all.” as an MTV interviewer puts it to the film’s director. (The trailer suggests balance will be provided by making Nite Owl and Silk Spectre bad-asses too, but it might just be that we’re being shown their more bad-assy moments).

This is the context of Moore’s current round of interviews, in which he’s been expressing concern that – not that he gives a monkeys about the film, you understand – Watchmen‘s director also did 300, which glorified militarism and war, and maybe this new film will also glorify bad things. He knows perfectly well, of course, that if he was worried about glorifying bad things he probably shouldn’t have written a scene in which his supercool masked vigilante murders three enemies from behind his cell bars. The message Alan Moore perhaps intended to convey with Watchmen was, superheroes are completely fucked up, let’s not write so much about them pls. The message he ACTUALLY transmitted was, superheroes are completely fucked up, that makes them EVEN COOLER, and so instead of killing the genre he reinvented it and here we are in our brave new world in which the Watchmen film is almost certainly NOT attempting to kill anything at all, it’s meant to fit right in with a superhero movie boom. It’ll be a “dark take” on superheroes, of course, but there’s a world of difference between ‘anti-hero’ and just plain ‘anti’.

So what I’m getting from the trailer – and it’s only one trailer, and I went “wow!” in all the same places most other people did – is sense of a film which is playing off immense faithfulness to the source material from the perspective of visual, panel-by-panel recreation, against a certain (inevitable) faithlessness to the intent of the comic. But without Moore’s doomed botched utopian rage to animate Watchmen, what is it? A fun bit of superhero sci-fi with a dodgy ending? I’ll be very interested to find out.