It is 1985, America won that war in Vietnam, and Nixon has been elected to his fifth term. The city of New York is repugnant, with crime, prostitution, and drugs everywhere. In a high-rise in the city of lights, an old man is tossed out of his penthouse. He plummets to the ground, accepts his fate, and dies. Somebody, somewhere, is killing off superheroes.
Watchmen weaves an intricate tale of woe, love, war, passion, and humanity. The movie opens with the death of Edward Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who in a previous life was the masked man known as The Comedian. After his former colleague and one of the few still-active heroes, Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), hears of the death, he heads over to investigate. Looking around Blake’s room, Rorschach is forced to conclude that somebody came after Blake because he was a hero, not for some other reason.
This is where Watchmen really takes off. The movie quickly heads deep into the society of protectors who have been outlawed. Rorschach talks to other heroes, attempts to get help, and keeps getting turned away. One by one, his former allies turn their backs on him, and he is forced to confront his theories on his own.
Of course, friends don't leave friends hanging; finally, two of the other heroes, Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), notice that there are some abnormalities with how Blake died and that there are some warning signs of impending danger. The two decide to go back to their crime-fighting ways and join up with Rorschach. The three then head out to solve the mystery and save mankind.
Our three Watchmen team up to fight the hero-killer.
While Blake might be killed in the opening scene, we see him in flashbacks throughout the film. His character is an interesting mix of good and evil. Sure, he burns people for no reason, shoots a pregnant lady simply because he doesn’t want a kid, and he attempts to rape one of his friends, but he is also a good person. He is out there fighting crime, helping his country, and always lending a hand to his fellow heroes. He does this to save people “from themselves.” By portraying The Comedian in this way, Morgan actually causes the audience to be conflicted. This is a sign of good acting, as it keeps everybody guessing.
Likewise, Haley pulls off Rorschach perfectly. Introduced to his younger years, we see that he is abused and neglected too. Looking at these early years, we can understand why he finally chose the sinister and violent manner in which he fights crime. Just like The Comedian, Rorschach is both good and evil, and he forces the audience to question him throughout the movie. Haley is perfect at this, and actually is quite convincing.
Aside from the acting, another thing that Watchmen has going for it is how it is told. Watchmen is read from the diary of Rorschach, and so it is infused with his personality. Random attacks on liberals, homosexuals, and prostitutes resonate throughout the film. This adds a touch of realism to it, as it lets the audience feel as though they are walking in another man's shoes. However, it does get somewhat irritating, as the voiceovers remind me (intentionally) of those stupid TV P.I. shows.
Another thing that I really like about Watchmen is the way it was filmed. From the opening credits to the ending scenes, everything seems to be done for a specific reason. There are angles that look useless at first, but upon second viewing you notice little hints at the future storyline. I noticed the way that the characters are shot in relation to the background, and how Nite Owl always looks compassionate toward everything, while Blake looks annoyed and disgusted. Even Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the hero who can keep the nukes from flying, is shown as a menacing figure – the Dr. is both a savior and a threat to humanity, based solely on his choices. This reminds me greatly of the graphic novels, and I appreciate that.
Speaking of the look, Watchmen on Blu-ray is presented in an amazing 2.4:1 1080i picture. The transfer from screen to disc is so perfect, that I felt as though I was still in the movie theater – save in more comfortable seating. I was impressed with all of the coloring, as the images leap off of the screen and everything is vibrant or subdued exactly where it needs to be. Likewise, the blacks, which are essential to the feel of the movie, are properly deep and shaded. While there are minor issues with Manhattan’s blue glow and other special effects, the overall quality of the film is amazing.
Likewise, the audio of Watchmen is stunning. Dumping its old standard, Warner uses DTS-HD Master Lossless Audio. This, frankly, was a really good choice, as it helped to draw me into the film. There is sound on every side, and I turned to look on many occasions. I was so engrossed that during Blake’s funeral it actually sounded as though I was sitting in the rain. Everything is mixed properly — I never lost a single word of the dialog, and I only had to reach for my remote once. The amazing quality is essential for Watchmen, as the movie is just as much aural as visual.
As for the extras, I was equally amazed. This set comes on three discs – one digital copy, one Blu-ray copy, and a disc full of extras. There is “The Phenomenon,” which is about the actual graphic novel itself; as a fan of this novel, I thoroughly enjoyed the extra. There is also “Real World Super Heroes”, which examines real life vigilantes, and shows how similar they are to those in the movie. There is even a 17-minute extra that looks into the science of the technologies in Watchmen. Of course, there are the normal making-of features, as well as the director's commentary. I found these to be informative and well done. Oh, and as all of the extras are shot in HD, they are all absolutely stunning.
Overall, I can say that I am thoroughly stunned by Watchmen. The movie is amazing, the script is flawless, and the entire production looks perfect. Having the movie presented in such eye-popping visuals and engrossing sound is just a plus. Furthermore, the extras make it well worth the 20-year wait for this movie to be made. I truly believe that Watchmen is an amazing movie and this Blu-ray is a worthwhile purchase.
Movie: One of the best movies of the year.
Blu-ray Quality: Absolutely flawless and stunning.
Audio Quality: I actually thought that I was in the middle of the action.
Extras: Intriguing looks at what is behind the film.
Overall: “Who watches the Watchmen?” You should!