Warner Bros. // 2009 // 215 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // November 26th, 2012
Who will watch the Watchmen...over and over?
Warner Bros. never tires of repackaging Watchmen to see if fans will show more love with each shiny new release. Embarrassingly enough I am one of those people who will snatch up whatever comes out, because I love the film despite shortcomings or nitpicks that separate it from the classic graphic novel. I love the images, the sly homages, and the whole feel of a superhero movie that is at once enchanted and scared of the ideas of what they mean in the world. Fair warning here -- you're reading a review of someone who has an autographed picture of the Comedian sitting on his desk, and a guy who takes his lunch to work in a Dr. Manhattan metal box complete with Doomsday clock thermos. I will watch the Watchmen as much as I can because I adore the idea of a world where real heroes battle deep personal flaws. I also happen to like Zack Snyder's visuals enough to be satisfied with what he did to the source material in realizing his cinematic vision.
It's 1985 in an alternate world where Richard Nixon keeps getting reelected and superheroes actually exist. But somebody out there doesn't want them around anymore, and a killer begins taking out the Watchmen who are mostly in bitter retirement. It all starts with the gruesome death of the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan,The Losers). To save the group team member Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley,Shutter Island) begins his own investigation, and uncovers not so pretty secrets suggesting heroes may not be made up of things the public thinks they are. Silk Spectre(Malin Akerman, The Proposal), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous), Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson, Hard Candy), and Ozymandius (Matthew Goode, Match Point) all have to deal with their legacy in this brave new world that may no longer need heroes. The end is nigh.
DVD Verdict has critiqued and analyzed Watchmen again and again with every release, and I find myself echoing our original review by the eloquent Bill Gibron when he took on Watchmen: Director's Cut (Blu-ray). The film adaptation is underrated and was always a "no-win" situation for anybody who made it. No fan boy was ever going to be happy with whatever ended up on the screen since Watchmen was loved so much ever since it came out as a short run DC series. Snyder delivers a film that manages to capture the right style to feel like a comic while staying true to the thematic concepts of the graphic novel. It's a great piece of work that I find watchable in any cut or form. All of that being said, I encourage Watchmen newbies to start with the director's cut. It seems to have the right pace and just enough information to comprehend the character motivations. This ultimate cut adds in some additional footage and integrates the cartoon adaptation of Tales of the Black Freighter at the same points they appeared in the comic. It helps the whole thing feel even more faithful, but it also ruins the pacing of the action. Sometimes less is more, but here is a 215 minute cut for anybody who wants everything stuffed to the rafters.
This set mirrors the 2009 DVD release of Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, and only offers a new hardback copy of the graphic novel as something additional for the set along with lenticular packaging. The first Blu-ray disc includes two previously heard audio commentaries, one featuring Zack Snyder and the other showcasing original comic artist Dave Gibbons as they cover the movie and challenges adapting it from a legendary source. The second Blu-ray disc ports over featurettes from the Director's Cut (Blu-ray) release and items from the separate Tales of the Black Freighter disc: "Real Super-Heroes, Real Vigilantes" (26 minutes), "Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World" (17 minutes), "The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics" (29 minutes), eleven video diaries which were previously integrated into the "Maximum Movie Mode" feature (37 minutes), and a My Chemical Romance music video (3 minutes). You also get the "Under the Hood" faux documentary which looks at the Hollis Mason character, and "Story within a Story: The Books of Watchmen" (25 minutes), which discusses the text pieces and Black Freighter sequences contained within the graphic novel. A third disc is the theatrical cut on traditional DVD without extras or supplements. Finally the fourth item is a Blu-ray edition of Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic which clocks in much longer than the ultimate cut film itself at 325 minutes with every panel acted out for your viewing pleasure. Unfortunately that adaptation is voiced entirely by a single narrator rather than a whole cast, and so it pales in comparison to the actual comic.
The only truly new addition to this edition is the hardcover version of the complete graphic novel called Watchmen: The Absolute Edition. It is well represented with sketches by original artist Dave Gibbons when he was conceiving looks of characters. The colors for this publishing were supervised by John Higgins, so it looks great and crisp. It is the true Alan Moore masterpiece uncut and unadulterated here in the movie collection for the first time. All of this is put together in a sturdy heavy cardboard box with lenticular packaging which alternates between the comic drawings and photos of the cast. It looks a good bit better than the DVD release from 2009 on a shelf, but that's about the strongest thing to say for it.
Everything is transferred to high definition Blu-ray, and the feature looks and sounds solid. It was an impressive release when it first came out, and Watchmen never disappoints in this regard. Black levels and details are spot on during the feature, and there's no trace of distortion or digital noise. Sound options work well with a ton of oomph behind the effects as well as appropriate levels given to dialogue and music balance. The extras are in high definition as well, and they look just as good as the main event although admittedly shot on a smaller scale. This kind of movie was tailor made for Blu-ray, and it shines as it unspools in your player.
This huge sprawling set still is missing the director's cut which contained an interactive commentary with Zack Snyder that has become the definitive Watchmen experience. It is also missing the entire uncut version of Tales of the Black Freighter which is out there on DVD. So if you are a true super fan of the Watchmen you have to buy those two items to complete your set. In the end this is a repackaging of items that many fans will already own if they are at all enthusiasts for the film.
Watchmen: Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray) doesn't offer anything new other than high def versions of what we saw on DVD along with the original comic itself and new packaging. It is worth the upgrade to Blu-ray, only if you are a major geeky raving fan like myself, and all others will be satisfied to own the far less expensive Watchmen: Director's Cut (Blu-ray). But if you are looking for as much Watchmen as you can find, this one fits that bill. Fans who were paying exorbitant prices for the now out of print ultimate DVD edition will find this a welcome release to drive down the cost to see this mega-cut again.
Guilty of being just another trip to the well by Warner Bros, but still a
good movie and great graphic novel that are together at last.
Review content copyright © 2012 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 215 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Short Film
* Motion Comic
* Hardcover Book