Watchmen, the Director’s Cut on Blu-ray disc

by Johnny Bray

Watchmen is a film that was essentially doomed from the start.

For years, the original graphic novel was touted as “unfilmable,” though that didn’t stop people from trying. Finally, Hollywood’s hottest new director takes the task upon himself to film the unfilmable and give fanboys something they’ve dreamed about for years.

Now keep in mind: this reviewer has never read the graphic novel and didn’t get around to seeing the film in theatres. My only experience with Watchmen is the “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray and – as an old-school comic lover – the original story’s reputation. Also keep in mind that I loved Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead” and thought “300” was one of the most brilliantly entertaining movies in a good, long while.

Naturally, I thought that if anyone could turn something unfilmable into something worth being filmed, it was Hollywood’s “next big thing.”

Set in an alternate 1980’s America, the world is on the brink of nuclear war. Masked vigilantes, once commonplace, are now outlawed and in “hiding.” When one of them is killed, it spurs suspicion that they are about to be “offed” one by one. Can they give up their new, “normal” lives and work together one last time? I guess you’ll see, won’t you…?

The plot is far too convoluted to possibly explain it faster than the film can. Just be prepared for a large number of scenes that don’t actually have much to do with anything. It’s mostly back story, subplots and character development (though “development” may be too generous a word). On the other hand, if only the scenes related to the plot were used, it would be a half hour movie that made even less sense.

Now, please don’t lash out at us for saying such things. Several people have complained they didn’t like the film because of its nonsensical qualities, unnecessary length, and apparent lack of focus. Personally, I found the film completely awesome in nearly every way, despite these arguable drawbacks. The action is well-staged, the story engrossing, and the effects damn near flawless. In fact, if I had one complaint, it’s that some of the characters didn’t get enough time dedicated to their back story.

It’s hard to say enough about Watchmen without simultaneously saying too much. Basically, you probably know if you’re the type who can stomach it. If you have three hours to invest in something slow-moving yet relentlessly entertaining, you could do a lot worse.

The Director’s Cut Blu-ray could very well be the best-looking Blu-ray yet released. Even for such a dark film, you never have trouble seeing what’s going on (unless you’re supposed to). Detail is absolutely stunning; colors (when present) are rich, and Dr. Manhattan in particular really makes you appreciate High Definition. There is nothing negative we could possibly say about the transfer.

Audio quality is very good, but suffers from a bit too much volume fluctuation. Some scenes are completely overpowering and could very well cause your neighbors to complain, while others are so quiet you need subtitles to hear a single word being uttered. On one hand, we’re pretty sure it’s supposed to be like that; on the other hand, when you live off of a busy street with large vehicles constantly driving by, it can get a little frustrating. When it really kicks into gear, however, it gives the whole surround system a great workout.

Many great things have been said about the disc’s “Maximum Movie Mode,” in which director Zack Snyder shows various making-of and behind-the-scenes material on one side of the screen, while the movie is playing in real-time on the other. It’s fascinating and interesting, to be sure, but I’m not sure I would call it revolutionary.

If you don’t feel like watching the film again just to see the material, much of it can be found in other featurettes, including “The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics,” “Focus Points,” and “Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes.” It’s nice to see the on-screen comparisons, but it takes less than half the time to watch them on their own.

Also included is a digital copy of the film for use on your favorite portable device (keep in mind it’ll probably eat up 3GB or more, so not recommended for devices with smaller storage).

Watchmen: Director’s Cut, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
186 minutes, 1080p High Definition (2.40:1), 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio
Starring Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earl Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson
Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse
Directed by Zack Snyder

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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