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Blu-ray Review: Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics

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In the 1980s, two comic books redefined how the genre (and its fans) were interpreted by the world. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen branched out from the stereotypical stalwarts of comics and took an emerging new genre and made it much better. The stories were still told via graphics and text bubbles, but they went further than Superman and the like. The stories were darker, the action was harder, and the sex was rampant. Suddenly, comics were more than a pastime, they started to emerge as a legitimate medium for telling a story. Thus graphic novels, which began to attain their modern form in the early 1970s, broke into the public consciousness.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics spins a dark and compelling tale. Starting in the 1940s, the tale follows the adventures of masked superheroes who serve the interests of their country. From creating the atom bomb, to fighting in wars, these heroes (the Watchmen) strive to help America out while they still manage to fight crime. In the late '60s, however, Nixon decides to outlaw the masked crusaders, and they are forced to live 'normal' lives. Only two remain on the government's payroll, Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian.

After retiring, most of the Watchmen stopped talking to each other and went off to lead their separate lives. However, after the murder of Edward Blake (The Comedian) — don't worry, this is the start of the movie, there is nothing spoiled here — they are forced to unite once again. Rorschach, a man with an ever-changing mask, believes that somebody took out Blake because he was a hero, and not for any other reason. With this in mind, Rorschach starts to unite all the other Watchmen as he digs deeper and deeper into a conspiracy that is far larger than anything he could ever have imagined.

What is so fascinating about the Watchmen graphic novel series is the quality of the artwork. Unlike most comics, Watchmen focused on the art as a means to tell a story, and therefore it was a primary concern to artist Dave Gibbons. Due to this, Gibbons made sure that all of his art was well done and that the images served only to progress the story. This was groundbreaking for the time, but it has since become the status quo for modern graphic novels.

What is cool about Watchmen: TCMC is that it stays true to the overall feel and look of the graphic novels. Watchmen: TCMC literally takes the pages from the books and puts them on your TV. To make this interesting, they add a narrator and a little bit of animation to each frame. Cars will 'move', people will 'walk', and mouths will 'speak', but the overall imagery is the same. It is all very basic, but the animations tend to fit the overall feel and look of the story.

The only real thing detracting from Watchmen: TCMC is the fact that the entire thing is voiced by Tom Stechschulte. Yes, Stechschulte voices everybody, including the women and children. While this makes Watchmen: TCMC seem as though it is being read by a person to themselves (as most graphic novels are), it doesn't go over that well. Most of us do not read in a monotone — we create voices for each character — and the fact that Stechschulte speaks in one voice doesn't help in this regard. Personally, I really think that this harmed the movie, as it threw me off and caused me to do double takes (the listening version of a double take, of course).

Speaking of the sound, Watchmen: TCMC is presented in a perfect 5.1 blend of music and Stechschulte's voice. The music, composed by Lennie Moore, fits the mood and theme of the movie quite well. There are no instances where the music overwhelms the narration, and no instances where it works the other way; all of the sound is blended thoroughly and completely throughout the movie. The only thing missing in sound is some variation in Stechschulte's voice, but that is asking for too much.

As for the video quality of Watchmen: TCMC, one merely needs to pick up a copy of Watchmen. What you see on the page is exactly what you get on Watchmen: TCMC on Blu-ray. The compressed image plays at about 10 mbps, but it doesn't affect the overall look of the movie at all. The colors are vibrant and stunning, as the yellows, greens, and blues all jump out at you. What is especially nice is the fact that the black levels are deep, yet they still contain the proper ink feel from the graphic novels. Personally, I do not believe that the masked heroes looked any better then they did on Blu-ray.

Though Watchmen: TCMC on Blu-ray is a stunning visual piece, it is severely lacking in another area. There is basically nothing in the extras category of the menu that is worthwhile. I don't want to see a preview of the new Wonder Woman movie, nor do I want to see the cast members of Wonder Woman talk about their various roles for about 15 seconds. The Video Journal, which sounded promising, is really just a quick piece where Moore explains how happy he is with the translation of his novels onto the big screen. For such a beloved and important graphic novel, Warner screwed this section up by leaving out any useful or good extras.

Overall, I believe that Watchmen: TCMC is a movie designed to serve two purposes. It exists to draw people into the realm of Watchmen, and is mainly to be seen before the actual movie. On the other hand, it also exists to serve a strong demand from people who loved the novels when they came out. Watchmen: TCMC is perfect for these people; it is also good for any person who likes comic books, graphic novels, or Watchmen on the big screen. 

Movie: The movie is flawless and stunning and only held back by the single voice narration.
Video: A drop of blood on a smiley face button has never looked so good.
Audio: Well mixed and well suited to the material.
Extras: There is nothing important here.
Overall: The movie is great for anybody who loves comics.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics is unrated but intended for mature audiences only. References to sex, drugs, and violence abound.

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About Robert M. Barga