About 23 years ago the comic world was altered through the release of two mini-series Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Both books told darker stories where there was more gray in the world than the good vs. evil you normally see in comics. Plus, graphic scenes of sex and violence made sure that these books were not comic code (not used much anymore) friendly. Plus, they were well written and by many would be considered literature and not a funnybook with people in goofy costumes running around (still a stereotype to the non-comic fan, just ask my dad). It led the way to the creation of DC's Vertigo line (and Marvel's MAX line) and the creation of other books like Preacher and The Sandman and led the way for the rise of anti-heroes (heroes that walked a fine line between hero and villain, thus more realistic).
In just a few weeks Watchmen will be released on the big screen and along with 2008's The Dark Knight (no similarity to The Dark Knight Returns) could again radically change how comic book movies are viewed. Dark Knight has already won critical acclaim by many and just took the best supporting actor Oscar (Heath Ledger as the Joker). The movie has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and fans are clamoring for a third film in the Chris Nolan Batman universe (with daily rumors on who will be in a third film that Nolan himself has yet to agree to film).
What made the film successful was not the big stars (although there were some) but the well written script by the Nolan brothers (Chris and Jon) and David Goyer that stayed true to the characters and were willing to make the Joker a scary character. Major characters (from the last film) die a hero becomes a villain and our two major characters fight for the soul of Gotham in a battle that involves thinking moreso than punching (a philosophical debate on humanity whether it is inherently good or evil). Add Nolan's directing style and talented acting and you have a masterpiece and not just a summer popcorn blockbuster.
Watchmen is going into theaters with a R rating. Director Zac Snyder wanted to be true to original material and didn't want to pull any punches with this film. If he can pull it off, not only will he have a great film on his hands but he'll do something that nobody though could be done with Watchmen. Making a great movie without losing the source material and it's premise. Oh, and no sequel (if Watchmen is done correctly there will be no sequels)
If Watchmen can pull this off along with the success of Dark Knight maybe Hollywood will take notice and execs. will stop trying to muck with the original concepts. Maybe us comic geeks can get the movies we want to see but also it will draw in the mainstream movie goer as well. Darker, smarter comic related films that doesn't use the same premise that we've seen in so many comic films (Hero has something happen to him, becomes hero, introduce villain usually from hero's past, hero messes up or gets beaten by villain, hero bounces back, fights villain again in big finale, set-up for sequel, cue credits). We may be in a comic book movie renaissance.