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Watchmen (Blu-ray Review)

29 Jul, 2009 By: John Latchem


Box Office $107.5 million
$28.98 DVD, $34.99 two-DVD set, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language.
Stars Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino.

The main advantage the original Watchmen graphic novel has over any possible film version is that, on the page, writer Alan Moore could layer subtext and plot beyond the story to create a full universe that raises the curiosity of the reader. Translated to film, Watchmen becomes a long morality tale in which its characters serve their purpose without really engaging the audience.

Director Zack Snyder’s attempt is a tribute to the graphic novel, turning the original panels into live-action images, which he then slows down to the point where every frame could be reconverted into a storybook.

There’s no denying the film looks great in high-def. How could it not? Snyder specializes in an overabundance of visual style, almost to the point of distraction. It’s enough to wonder what a Watchmen film would have looked like if given an indie flair appropriate to the grittiness of the original material.

The Blu-ray offers a director’s cut that clocks in at more than three hours, adding 24 minutes to the theatrical cut. In a movie like this, whether the director’s cut is any better or worse isn’t the point. It’s really more of the same — a re-creation of the graphic novel. Anyone who has read the novel will know there’s so much more in the book than could possibly make it onto the screen but will appreciate the attempt. Those who aren’t familiar with the book may appreciate the philosophical and ethical themes of the story, but won’t know any better to care about any of the nuances from the book added to the extended cut.

The best part of the Blu-ray is the Maximum Movie Mode, a picture-in-picture experience highlighted by appearances by Snyder, who pauses the movie and walks the audience through certain scenes, pointing out various subtle references to the book. This viewing option also offers interviews with the cast, a timeline, and various behind-the-scenes featurettes.

There’s also some really good companion featurettes. One examines the impact the graphic novel had on comic books. Another takes a look at real-life vigilantes such as the Guardian Angels. A third featurette explores the science of the movie, focusing primarily on the origin and abilities of Dr. Manhattan.

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