The deconstruction of the comic book hero was something Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons accomplished with Watchmen, a comic book series (later graphic novel) that changed the way people viewed comics forever. Watchmen has been named as one of the greatest English language novels of all time and was called “unfilmable” due its sheer size and story. Going though a handful of major directors and stars attached to it, Zack Snyder took perhaps the greatest graphic novel of them all and put out the best possible Watchmen he could. And its a seminal comic book masterpiece that is the opposite of the comic book genre as it stands now.
The film is more noir than anything else, with perhaps the best use of music and scoring in a film this decade. This is an alternate universe set in 1985, where the film takes place, as Nixon is in his fifth term and America won Vietnam. Costumed vigilantes exist, though their behaviors are banned outright at the end of “Watchmen” era in this world. Retirement for most, criminal status for the few that still operate and fortune & fame for some who used their status to become celebrities gives a different meaning to those who used to be “masks.”
But bigger things are a foot. A former costumed hero turned government enforcer by the name of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has died violently. Investigated by the outlaw Rorschach (Jackie Earl Haley), he suspects someone is killing his former friends and seeks to find them. His former partner Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) suspects hes suffering from mental illness, but still warns their old friend Ozymandias (Matthew Goode). Hes become a Donald Trump type with the fame accumulated as being the worlds smartest man. The former Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman) is also skeptical of threats, but her boyfriend Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) actually has superpowers of near god-like proportions.
Following the clues, an unimaginable finale involving them all ends in tragedy of epic proportions that is a bit unsettling and asks many questions the film leaves open. Presented with flashbacks cutting in for back story, the film is a big epic story presented in grandiose fashion by a director who is supremely confident in his abilities. Zack Snyder may only have several films to his credit but he shows the work of a master craftsman with the result. If The Dark Knight was the construction of the modern comic hero, Watchmen is its deconstruction. To talk about the films requires one to use a comparison of two similarly good films: The Godfather and Goodfellas.
In better terms, Watchmen and The Dark Knight are the opposite sides of the comic book genre. TDK is about the light, the nobility of the hero above all. It presents a mythos about the nature of the hero and the villain in the light of good and evil. Watchmen is the cold reality, what someone would actually be like if they put on a mask and fought crime. This is the deconstruction of the hero, of the violent nature and its affect on the psyche.
Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan give us another reality behind the hero. There is the nobility, but the power of Manhattan and the modality of Rorschachs absolutes are something that Bruce Wayne never would have to deal with. His is a cleaner, more sanitized world. Its an ideal. Batman may be about angst but his world would never breed a hero like the man in the trench coat who never compromises, “not even in the face of Armageddon.”
And Zach Snyder has faithfully crafted the book onto the screen. No matter what he did no one would have been truly satisfied due to the status of Watchmen in its original form. Snyder gave perhaps the best version of Watchmen that one could fit in cinematic form and it is an absolute gem. On its own, Snyder has presented a masterpiece in the genre. If there was a film needed to balance out Christopher Nolans masterpiece, this is it.
The Godfather and Goodfellas presented the mythological version of the Italian Mob and the grimy reality of it. Watchmen is the other side of the coin that The Dark Knight established in 2008.
The DVD has two cuts on it: the original theatrical cut and an extended edition with 24 extra minutes of footage. Its a true directors cut, featuring more than just extended scenes. There is a wealth of new material, giving an already rich story even more color to it. It keeps the films quality up, not taking away from it, and itll be interesting to see what the near four hour cut will end up looking like when its released later this year.
Presented in a Dolby Digital format in a widescreen presentation, Watchmen has a terrific presentation. This is a colorful film both visually and has wonderful music & scoring. The transfer is wonderful as everything comes through cleanly and clearly.
The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed the World follows the origins of the comic book series, later graphic novel, that spawned Watchmen. Discussing the many aspects of the series, as well as delving into Snyders cinematic version, it touches the surface on the comics impact onto pop culture but doesnt delve as much as it could.
The Music Video for “Desolation Row” by My Chemical Romance is included, as well, and was the films music over the closing credits.
Watchmen: Video Journals are a series of smaller features, all running under five minutes apiece, about various aspects of the film. They arent long enough to contribute much about the film.
Theres a Digital Copy of the film that can be uploaded to your computer. It is the theatrical release, not the extended cut, however.
With a massive collectors edition already being advertised for the fall, this is a version for people who want to watch it on DVD now or didnt like it enough to buy several versions of the film. If you really want this on DVD, its a solid buy but not a truly recommended one. Its the same as The Dark Knight was a year ago in that its waiting for a double dip.
Warner Brothers presents Watchmen. Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Patrick Wilson, Malin Ackerman, Jackie Earl Haley, Matthew Goode. Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Gibbons. Running time: 186 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: July 21, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Alan Moore, Billy Crudup, Dave Gibbons, Watchmen