In 1986 Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons came out with a little 12 issue mini-series that promptly set the comics world on fire. The Watchmen re-invented the genre for the next decade, and today remains a seminal influence in the hearts and minds of creators of such luminary status as Joss Wheedon, Darren Aronofsky, and Niel Gaiman. It is widely reguarded as a literary masterpiece, and a natural for film adaptation.
In 1989 Joel Silver, the producer behind The Lethal Weapon franchise, and the Die Hard cash cow, teamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger to try to get The Watchmen movie into production. Armed with no script, and hamstrung by their choice of Terry Gilliam (who has a James Cameron-like grasp of budget, and plays really well with the other children) as director, the movie disappeared in a mess of studio infighting.
Then in 1991, President Regan's evil master plan of matching the Soviet "defense" budget until their economy tanked, effectively ended the Cold War, (at least in the popular zeitgeist.) This rendered The Watchmen's theme of Cold War anxiety effectively impotent, and plans for a movie were tabled indefinitely.
The tragic events of September 11th 2001 sparked a renewed interest in The Watchmen. Plot compression expert David Hayter, who condensed three decades of The X-Men into a passably watchable two hour movie, actually came up with a workable script. In 2002 wonderkind director Darren Aronofsky was given the option to direct Hayter's script. Aronofsky instead chose to take on The Fountain, ending it's tenure in development hell, but condemming The Watchmen to languish a little longer.
In 2005 Paul Greengrass, the brilliant director of The Bourne Supremacy, actually got most of the way through pre-production on The Watchmen movie before the studio pulled the rug out from under him, citing budgetary concerns.
It's now 2006 and Zack Snyder, the brilliant director behind the impressive re-imagining of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, has signed on to see if he can beat the odds. He has a few aces up his sleeve. He knows how to bring in a movie on time and within budget. He's working with Warner Brothers, who own D.C. comics, so they have a vested interest in seeing a successful Watchmen movie. Finally, he's a fan of the source material. Hopefully all these things will combine together, the planets will align properly, whatever, and we'll finally get our Watchmen movie.
Snyder's got his adaptation of Frank Miller's The 300 coming out shortly. I think I'll wait to see how that does before I start holding my breath... again.
Lego Watchmen and Lego Minutemen can be found at David Oakes wonderful online gallery here.