Blu-ray Review: Watchmen Director’s Cut

July 24, 2009

watchmenWithout a doubt Watchmen on Blu-ray has been one of my most anticipated titles of 2009. What’s so special about Watchmen you ask? Aside from some of the most engaging characters to ever grace a graphic novel, Alan Moore’s 12 part series takes place in an alternate universe where super-heroes helped the U.S. win the Vietnam War, while later the United States and the Soviet Union find themselves at the brink of nuclear war. It’s this scenario that fuels the majority of the films plot line.

While the comic’s semi-historical references certainly create a unique and compelling world for the story to unfold, it was the characters themselves that were a breath of fresh air to the comic genre. Watchmen’s super heroes experience self-doubt, heartache, cynicism, regret and ultimately hope for a better world. In a nutshell, it’s the uniqueness of Watchmen’s characters that really separate the story from the rest of the comic world. To date I’ve read some really remarkable comics but nothing quite like Watchmen. But of course as with any comic adaptation its up to the screenwriter, director and cast to bring it to life.

Plot: From the opening drones of Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, to the Ronald Reagan reference right before the credits roll, Zack Snyders Watchmen is painted on a canvas of an alternate history of the United States and what a vivid, fantastic history it was. Again though, without Watchmen’s characters the pretty (ugly I suppose) canvas is nothing more than eye candy and it’s hard to single out one character above another here.

From Dr. Manhattan’s omnipotence, to the Comedian’s ability to cut through the fog and see things for what they are, to the Night Owl’s ‘guy next door’ sensibilities, it’s hard to nail down a favorite, but if pressed I’d have to say Rorschach is my favorite. Rorschach’s no-nonsense black and white vigilantism was electrifying on-screen; he also delivered some of the films most memorable dialogue:

“Heard a joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears, says ‘But, doctor…I am Pagliacci.’ Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains. Fade to black.” -Rorschach’s Journal

That joke goes a long way in describing Rorschach’s outlook on life and his sense of humor, (what little is depicted). I won’t spoil some of his best one-liners but suffice to say there are plenty of them and they’re among my favorite moments of the film. Oh by the way, if Rorschach seems familiar its no accident.

You may have heard chatter of certain fans being less than pleased with the films ending, after having recently re-read the comics from start to finish I can’t say as I really empathize with those who claim the ending was ruined, altered yes, ruined no. While the original ending did have a distinct comic book sensibility, it would’ve had zero cinematic sensibility in my estimation.

Sound and Image: Hallelujah for film grain! After a rash of antiseptically scrubbed titles devoid of the slightest amount of film grain (and a lot of missing detail in the process) it was nice to see even the mildest grain present in Watchmen. It would appear as if Warner Brothers gave this title the care it deserves. This is a gorgeous transfer and while not perfect certainly ranks among Warner’s very best. The image is lush, detailed and distinctly film-like.

Watchmen’s color palette shifts from dark shadowy streets, to glowing blue skin to the red sands of Mars, and back all over again. Luckily the disc’s color reproduction never falters and faithfully renders said color with remarkable aplomb. Scene after scene this disc delivers a knockout succession of beautiful images. Comic book fan or not, I think Watchmen offers something for just about every home theater aficionado.

The disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio is also a knockout, as a matter of fact this is one of the better soundtracks I’ve heard this year. From Dylan, to Simon and Garfunkel, to Nena and then Hendrix, the films musical score delivers in spades. Explosions and mechanical effects produced deep, pronounced bass that never felt loose or out of time. During the Comedian’s fight scene at the beginning of the film my sound system got the workout of a lifetime. From the deep thuds of each bone-crushing blow to the crystalline ting of broken glass, I knew I was in for a treat with this soundtrack.

watchmen-screenshot

Extras: The Directors cut offers quite a few scenes deleted from the theatrical release. I won’t spoil them for you but I was pleased to see more Rorschach dialogue and, in particular, the scene where Hollis Mason relives his glory days with every punch as he tries to defend himself against the top-knot gang. The 25 minute extended cut didn’t make the film feel longer in my opinion. If anything it gave it a smoother, more continuous feel.

Moving on to some of the extra features, the “Maximum Movie Mode” was quite fun. It’s basically a hosted directors commentary, with picture-in-picture video, storyboards and more. The ‘our world/their world’ timeline that compared events depicted in the film, versus real-world events of the same time, was a great extra unto-itself.

Oh, one other thing about Maximum Movie Mode, this really is how a PiP/commentary should be done. Occasionally you’re given a prompt to dive even deeper into what’s being discussed and once that extra-within-a-extra is done you pick up right where you left off with the directors commentary. It sounds really simple, but this one change alone was worth the price of admission for max movie mode. You can also access some of the major points (Focus Points to be exact) from the disc’s menu directly.

Another extra titled “The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics” explores Watchmen the graphic novel in great detail. Another called “Real Superheroes: Real Vigilantes” explores real-life vigilantism. The last feature titled “Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World” explores, and I quote, “the film’s director, production designers, and department heads as they attempt to make the science and technology that appears in the film as plausible as possible.” Also included is a digital copy (still chuckling over the irony) of the film, some downloadable content through BD Live and a music video.

Overall: As I mentioned after seeing the film back in March, Watchmen was a breath of fresh air to the movie comic genre. Showing “super heroes” as real people goes way beyond watching Peter Parker having dinner with his Grandma; Watchmen depicts them questioning themselves, each other and the world around them. Watching the film a second (and third, fourth…) time, I was even more impressed and also began to get a better understanding of why the film missed the mark with some critics and moviegoers alike.

Watchmen is indeed a “comic film” but it’s much more and I think it’s the more part that left some confused. No doubt combined with the films run-time, it likely left some wanting more “comic” and less story. But by all means do yourself a favor, grab Watchmen, reserve some quality time with your home theater, and discover this grossly underrated gem; aside from a few flashes of a blue bits (if you don’t know you’ll laugh later) I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Earlier I said that Rorschach was my favorite Watchmen, I’m now wavering on that. On this my 5th or 6th viewing, it just struck me how brilliant the double entendre of “Boogie Man” playing (think bogeyman as in the villain) while Comedian jumps out of Archimedes to “work on American soil”. This is exactly the sort of thing I love about this film. Bravo Mr. Snyder.

I’m your boogie man, I’m your boogie man. Turn me on!
I’m your boogie man, I’m your boogie man. I’ll do what you want.
I’m your boogie man, that’s what I am. I’m here to do whatever I can.

Plot:5.0
Image:4.5
Sound:4.5
Extras:4.0
Overall:5.0

Blu-ray: Watchmen Director’s Cut
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Video: VC-1 1080p
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Theatrical Release Date: March 6, 2009
Blu-ray Release Date: July 21, 2009
Run Time: 186 minutes



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray, Reviews


Comments

  • Guest

    The Comic That Changed Comics” explores Watchmen the graphic novel in great detail.

  • Great movie to watch on bluray, couldnt agree more

  • Great movie to watch on bluray, couldnt agree more