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Watchmen (Director's Cut) (2009) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Image"Watchmen" was one of the most anticipated motion comic adaptations.  It did not fair that well in theaters, probably due to the marketing campaign.  It was unclear what the movie actually was.  The trailers and promotions made the film sound as if it were a superhero film like "Batman" and "Superman."  In reality, "Watchmen" is a graphic novel that focuses on the plight of humanity more than heroism.

"Watchmen" is little bit more than just another "Sin City," although they do have a lot of the same characteristics.  The narration by Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) is very much akin to Mickey Rourke, with the dark and ominous presence.  The film has its moments of graphic violence but not nearly anything like "Sin City."  In addition, "Sin City" jumped around like a true graphic novel whereas "Watchmen" is linear with a few flashbacks ultimately ending where it began.

The film takes place in an alternate reality, circa 1980s.  Richard Nixon has been the president of the United States for three terms and the United States and Russia are at the brink of nuclear war.  Superheroes, not to be referred to as that, but rather masked vigilantes, have been disbanded, much like in "The Incredibles."  In the 1940s the vigilantes were gods among men.  Everyone's power seemed to by speed and strength, nothing fancy.  However, Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is a being that through a freak scientific accident becomes the most powerful being in the universe.  He can simultaneously see the past, present and future.  He also has the ability to control particles, energy and matter.  He can grow to astronomical proportions.

The government has recruited Dr. Manhattan as the protector.  He is the only thing stopping the nations of the world from all out nuclear war, as all of them fear Manhattan.  In the opening of the film an ex-vigilante known as The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is murdered.  Rorschach sets out to find the killer, believing that it is an attack on all masked vigilantes.  Dan (Patrick Wilson), aka Nite Owl II is a loner that longs to be with Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman), aka Silk Spectre II.  Unfortunately, Laurie is together with Dr. Manhattan.  However, since Manhattan is consumed by work Laurie leaves him and Manhattan loses his last tie to humanity.

With Dr. Manhattan having fled the planet to Mars, Nixon initiates a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Russia.  Laurie and Dan have resurrected the masked vigilantes and break Rorschach out of prison.  Laurie leaves to Mars to try and get Manhattan to come back.  Meanwhile Dan and Rorschach try to uncover the people behind Pyramid International, the front company that is behind the murder of The Comedian. It all comes down to a battle sort-of-battle sequence in Antarctica.  "Watchmen" is very convoluted for such a simply story.  Basically, the film deals with uncovering a murderer and an energy crisis.  The subtext deals with the humanity of mankind.  For certain, the director's cut is way too long.  Nevertheless, the movie flows well and everyone plays his/her part very well.  This is not a nonstop action thriller as you may have been led to believe, but there are some very cool action sequences woven in.

"Watchmen" is presented on Blu-ray with a VC-1 encode and a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Thankfully, the video is not plagued by Warner's tendency to use edge enhancement.  The contrast level is spot on.  Being a graphic novel adaptation the entirety of the film takes place in the shadows.  Shadow delineation could be improved, but black levels are deep and rich, just like the original graphics.  Film grain is virtually non-existent.  That in combination with a very slight loss of detail leads me to believe there was a small of digital noise reduction applied.  Colors are drained as expected.  However, I would have liked to see a little more pop to the yellow Laurie's costume.  The blue glow of Dr. Manhattan is a little unbalanced.  Sometimes he is vibrant and at other times simply dull.  If you are paying super close attention, you may be able to notice some very minor object artifacting in Dr. Manhattan.  This is simply a stunning video transfer, just not the type of film to visually blow you away when watching.

Warner Bros. seems to jump around with its audio encoding schemes.  Normally it is either Dolby TrueHD or simply Dolby Digital.  This time however we are presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.  Whew.  With Warner titles there is always that moment of anxiety as you turn over the Blu-ray cover to see the specifications.  I must say that the audio is darn near perfect.  Most will find it flawless, but I have one or two gripes with it.  First, the dialogue is mastered far too low.  Rorschach is supposed to have this dark and deep voice.  However, it pales in comparison to the mastering job done in "Sin City."  That's all.  The rest of the audio track is perfect.  The dynamics are explosive.  The frequency range is extensive.  The LFE channel gets a bit of a workout during those all-important action sequences.  The blasting of the engines in Nite Owl II's ship is quite impressive in the low frequency range.  Surround use is seamless.  The panning is impeccable.  Fly-bys are perfectly placed.  Ambience is generally good, but is lacking in presence at times.  The soundfield is constantly engaging.  This is a highly recommended audio track.

"Watchmen" comes to Blu-ray in a special package.  This is a three-disc edition.  The first disc contains the director's cut of the film.  The director's cut has about 25 minutes of additional footage, which really only serves to drag the film out.  However, fans will most certainly enjoy the bonus scenes.  Unfortunately the only way to see the theatrical cut of the film is on the Digital Copy disc that is included.

The biggest special feature in this collection is what Warner has dubbed, the Maximum Movie Mode.  This is perhaps the best bonus package that I have seen.  This mode is a supercharged picture-in-picture track.  It is perfectly seamless, not a hiccup to be found.  The most interesting aspect of this track is the walk-on-screen moments by director Zack Snyder.  He walks onto the screen, pauses the film and explains in-depth production information and intentions.  It is truly awe-inspiring.  During this track there are also featurettes, storyboard comparisons, a timeline, side-by-side comparisons of the graphic novel and the film, as well as interviews and photo galleries.

The second disc of the set contains the rest of the special features.  "The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics" examines the creation of the Watchmen comic.  "Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes" is a bit of a "seen-it" piece that examines the psychology and fascination with super heroes in culture.  "Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World" examines the science and technology in the film.  There is also a music video for "Row" by My Chemical Romance Desolation.  The disc is also equipped with BD-Live functionality.  A digital copy of the theatrical version is on the third disc.  The only reason why I dock the special feature rating is because Warner has already announced an ultimate edition of the film coming to Blu-ray this winter with even more footage, including a filmmakers' audio commentary.

"Watchmen" is certainly a long film, but it has a well-constructed underlying message.  It has been nicely adapted from the original comic, which is going to make fans happy.  The video quality is technologically good, but hardly mind blowing.  The audio quality is representative of the some of the best material out there.  I highly recommend adding this disc to your collection.

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