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DVD Review: Watchmen (Director’s Cut)

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Written by General Jabbo

When Watchmen was first conceived, it was designed to be something unfilmable — or certainly not something that could be contained in a standard two-hour movie. Writer Alan Moore has a general disdain for Hollywood adaptations of comic books (his name is omitted from the DVD credits) and he, along with artist Dave Gibbons created a story that was dense and involved both visually and textually — in other words unfilmable. Rumors persisted on how or if the film would be made and what format it would take (full-length movie, TV miniseries, etc.) and numerous names were attached to the film including Terry Gilliam until finally Zack Snyder (300) got the gig.

The story takes place in 1985 in a very different America. Term limits have been repealed and Nixon is still president after America was victorious in Vietnam thanks to the godlike Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). Manhattan is one of only three active “super heroes” left in the country along with Edward Blake, aka the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) after costumed heroes were outlawed in 1977. While Manhattan and the Comedian work for the government though, Rorschach refuses to and as such is considered a fugitive.

When Blake is murdered, Rorschach investigates and discovers Blake was the Comedian, causing Rorschach to fear someone is after the costumed heroes. Rorschach warns his former teammates, including Manhattan; Laurie Jupiter, aka Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman); Dan Dreiberg, aka Night Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) to no avail. Laurie’s character is the daughter of the original Silk Spectre while Dan has taken up the Night Owl moniker after the original Night Owl, Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie), has retired. Meanwhile, Manhattan is accused of causing those close to him to all get cancer. Unable, or unwilling to dispel the rumors, Manhattan exiles himself on Mars during which Russia, sensing a weakened United States, moves in to attack Afghanistan, moving the Doomsday Clock ever closer to midnight.

Rorschach later gets framed for murder, and Laurie and Dan break him out of prison, after which Laurie is confronted by Manhattan who takes her to Mars with him. While there, Laurie convinces Manhattan to believe in humanity again and to return to Earth to try to save it from certain doom.

In spite of the excellent title sequence, which shows a series of flashbacks taking the viewer to the present, Watchmen takes a certain understanding of the source material to fully understand what is going on. This is one of the film's flaws. It is too close to the graphic novel for non-fans to fully understand, but too much of the film has been changed from the graphic novel to keep the comic geeks happy (the ending is different, there’s no Tales of the Black Freighter, and the team is called the Watchmen instead of the Minutemen for instance). In addition, a lot of the story gets condensed. While the first hour of Watchmen is essentially the first issue of the comic, the next two hours cover the remaining 11 issues. That’s a lot of material to squeeze into two hours and while Snyder does an admirable job of trying, he still doesn’t get it all in. Still, there is a lot to like about the film, from the casting (the characters all look and act like their comic counterparts) to the costumes to the special effects. While Watchmen is not perfect, it does its best to capture the spirit of the graphic novel.

The DVD includes a number of extras, including 24 additional minutes in the actual movie, 11 Watchmen video journals, a documentary about the original comic, and a music video from My Chemical Romance.

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