Blu-ray Review: THE WATCHMEN

Warner Home Video:
Release date: July 21, 2009
MSRP: $35.99

Director: Zach Snyder
Stars: Billy Crudup,Jackie Earle Haley, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Goode
Writers: David Hayter(screenplay), Alex Tse(screenplay), Alan Moore (graphic novel)

Theatrical release date: March 6th, 2009

For some time, Hollywood deemed THE WATCHMEN unfilmable. Too complex and cereberal for comic fans, too cartoony for serious moviegoers. The source material is an amazing graphic novel that Time magazine called of the the top 100 novels of the 20th century. The characters/superheros have far more depth than most regular “literature” and make The WATCHMAN far more than a mere comic.
When Zach Snyder (300) announced he was going to bring the iconic graphic novel to the silver screen, many were certain he was setting himself up for failure. Fans wrung their hands at the thought of their beloved book being trashed by Hollywood.
Zach has proved all parties wrong. While there are some changes, Zach has not only successfully maintained the integrity of the source material and made a fairly entertaining film.

THE WATCHMEN spans generations and tells the story of a group of masked crimefighters. In the 1940s, there was a group called The Minutemen. The core of that group later formed The WATCHMEN and helped fight crime and protect the United States. After being outlawed in the early 1980s, the bulk of them simply retired and lived quiet lives.

The present part of the film is set in 1985. When one of the former Watchmen, The Comedian, is murdered, Rorschach defies the ban to seek out the one responsible. He reaches out to the other Watchmen to warn them of potential dangers.

But while there is a story of crime and action, the heart of THE WATCHMEN is the people behind the masks. We learn about the issues each has. The only one with true powers, Dr. Manhattan, become detatched from humanity, no longer being able to related to them. He breaks up with his long-time girlfriend (the second Silk Spectre) who strugging to fill the shoes of her mother (the first Silk Spectre). We find out that the Comedian did unspeakable acts in the name of his country. Rorschach is..well, a little mentally unbalanced. Nite Owl is a brilliant master of technology, but those very skills have also isolated him from the rest of the world.

The world of THE WATCHMEN is an alternate one. Richard Nixon is still president. Dr. Manhattan’s powers helped him win the Vietnam war. It is a darker world firmly entrenched in the Cold war.

To say THE WATCHMEN is complex would be an understatement. Even with the removal of some subplots, Watchmen could have been a mindboggling mess. It could have been a film that would leave David Lynch scratching his head.

But Snyder does a good job of pulling it all together. Any fans of the graphic novel should be thrilled with the result. Despite an enormous amount of hype, it was not a big hit in theaters. There is simply too much contect to get over with the general public. Take the same issues and put them in a regular film and you would have a hit on the indy circuit.

But I do have to say that the same dedication Snyder used to faithfully follow the novel has also hurt the film. There are times were the actors seem to be aping rather than acting. One of the things I really enjoyed about Chris Nolan’s Batman films is that the actors seemed to make the characters their own. Snyder, like Rodriguez with SIN CITY, occasionally fails to make the charactes flesh and blood.

Holy S**t. I can’t think of any other way to put it. The visuals here are of the comic come to life. I don’t simply mean it is a faithful translation, I mean it looks like the comic jumped onto the screen. Not unlike SIN CITY, we are given a picture that is unlike regular fare. A comic book mixed up with the darkest world of noir. Watching it in 1080 is even more impressive. The details of the costumes, the damp, dank night, Dr. Manhattan’s big bl…we won’t go into that. The ratio is 2.40:1.
Disc 1
Director’s Cut of the film (186 minutes)
Interactive “Ultimate Watchmen Experience”

Disc 2
The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics (30 min.)
Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes (27 min.)
Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World (27 min.)
Webisodes (38 min.)
Music Video: My Chemical Romance Desolation Row (3 min.)

Disc 3 (DVD):
Digital Copy – Theatrical version

Fans of the comic should love this. For those that normally steer away from comics but like noir and gritty dramas, I suggest you give this a shot. While not the masterpiece that some have suggested, it is a good film and is a visual treat for the eyes.

Order THE WATCHMEN on Blu-ray.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.