I remember seeing Nite Owl’s ship, and the excellent repeating trailer, on display at last year’s Comic-Con and here we are a year later. The film adaptation of DC’s classic 12 issue maxi-series has come and gone and has excited and perplexed many. I loved the film on the big screen. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a precisely faithful take but like Sin City before it, it showed the world that comics can be deep and mature. Hollywood had been trying to make the landmark story into a cinematic epic for the last twenty years, but it wasn’t until director Zack Snyder made 300 and proved himself worthy of the Watchmen helm.
Snyder’s brave choices are immediately obvious. The 1985 setting, the profanity, the brutal violence. It’s all there and it works and there’s even more swearing, lewdness and blood splattering in this Director’s Cut. There’s always an undercurrent of menace in this dark world where superheroes, or “masks” are outlawed, and the casting is almost perfect, particularly Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach. His gruff narration and moving ink blot mask are exactly what I’d imagined when reading the comic. Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is the only one with actual superpowers, though the other members of The Watchmen (The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias) fight like superhumans. His glowing blue naughty bits may unsurprisingly be too much for some but it fits with Snyder’s overall vision. It ain’t always a subtle film. The sound and special effects are suitably fantastic, though the song choices don’t always work. Watchmen doesn’t look kindly on America and it believes heroes can kill villains. It’s not the typical superhero tale, and that’s what has made Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece stand the test of time and be lauded as the best that comics has to offer.
The Director’s Cut includes an extra 24 minutes, meaning the film is now just over 3 hours long. Obviously if you didn’t like the film at the cinema a few more scenes won’t change your mind, but those scenes, and primarily the extra content will serve to cement fans’ love of the film. The additional scenes are enjoyable, but not necessary to the film’s narrative. They include a brief look at the kid reading the Tales of the Black Freighter comic that runs in the original series (and was made into an excellent animated film), Silk Spectre II being interrogated by government agents about Dr. Manhattan’s whereabouts and President Nixon and his advisers discussing the possibility of nuclear war. A gang’s attempted home invasion of Hollis Mason’s (the original Nite Owl) home is by far the best new scene.
On the second disc there’s a music video for Desolation Row by My Chemical Romance, 11 short video journals chronicling the film’s production and a very impressive doco on the power of the source material and why it was such a wake up call to the sequential art medium. This doco includes great art from Gibbons as well as interviews with the cast and other creators, including former DC President Jenette Kahn, colourist John Higgins, editor writer Len Wein, and singer Gerard Way. It shows the visual history of the project and is a must for those who don’t understand what all the fuss about this book is. Curiously there’s no sign of the rumoured Black Freighter segments being integrated into the film, but I think it’s better enjoyed alone anyway.
There’s simply no denying the power of this film and it is one I enjoyed watching or rather, experiencing, again. It’s available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on iTunes now.