Watchmen (Director's Cut) (Digital Copy and BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (2009)

Actors: Billy Crudup, Patrick Wilson
Directors: Zack Snyder
Format: Color, Director's Cut, Special Edition, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 3
Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: July 21, 2009
Run Time: 186 minutes

Disc 1 (BD-50):

  • Director's cut of the film (186 minutes)
  • Interactive "Ultimate Watchmen Experience"
  • BD-Live

Disc 2 (BD-25):

  • The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics (30 min.)
  • Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes (27 min.)
  • Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World (27 min.)
  • Webisodes (38 min.)
  • Music Video: My Chemical Romance Desolation Row (3 min.)

Disc 3 (DVD):

  • Digital Copy - Theatrical version



Okay, so apparently the world wasn't ready for Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) and his giant blue wang. No matter. Watchmen remains a stunningly impressive work, aptly capturing the essence of the seminal graphic novel with the right blend of affection and energy.

Having seen it under-perform at the box office, Warners likely rests its hopes on strong DVD and Blu-Ray sales - especially from the hard-core fans, who are more apt to buy multiple copies. The initial round started in March with the release of Tales From The Black Freighter and the Watchmen motion comic. But the first serious volley arrives this week, with a Blu-Ray edition that takes brilliant advantage of the film's thematic density.

Naturally, the Blu-Ray features the director's cut as a centerpiece, with about 24 minutes of additional material not seen in the theaters. While it doesn't include the Black Freighter animation (promised for a future release), the new material proves extremely enlightening, both in terms of the overall story and in the way director Zack Snyder reduced the running time for the theatrical version. Only a few scenes were flat-out cut - notably the death of Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) and a scene in which Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman) is interrogated following Dr. Manhattan's disappearance.

The remainder appears in little bits and snippets - expanding and enhancing existing scenes rather than creating any new ones. Snyder apparently didn't wish to flat-out drop anything, and so reached the required running time by paring down certain sequences.

The additions bring a few new wrinkles to Watchmen's alternate universe of has-been heroes and encroaching apocalypse, yet Snyder's vision was realized with the theatrical release. While the director's cut expands upon it, the excised scenes were not unduly missed before.

The film's brilliance shines through in both versions - the complex pop culture references, the dizzying storyline, the celebrated clash of four-color heroics and messy real-world politics - topped by a performance from Jackie Earle Haley (playing the damaged vigilante Rorschach) as memorable as Heath Ledger's Joker. Its lingering flaws remain small, but notable, and yet they never diminish the final results. Indeed, amid the detritus of a fairly disappointing summer, one wonders why Watchmen couldn't have come along in June instead of March.

Its intelligence, sophistication and go-for-the throat commitment to its chosen subject would make a great tonic for the thundering idiocy of the season. Its box office figures proved greatly disappointing, but the director's cut suggests that this particular "failure" will age like a bottle of fine merlot.

THE DISC: Rarely has a film cried out more for the Blu-Ray treatment, and Warners takes full advantage of the opportunity. Snyder himself hosts an ongoing commentary - "The Ultimate Watchmen Experience" - featuring behind-the-scenes shots, a timeline covering the history of the Watchmen universe, remarks from the director himself and (best of all) a side-by-side comparison between shots in the film and frames from the graphic novel.

It all runs concurrently with the movie itself, allowing you to switch between a straight screening of the film and all the bells and whistles. The Blu-Ray also contains a number of lengthy documentaries, including one delineating the impact of the graphic novel and another discussing the technology of the Watchmen universe. A digital download lets you transfer the film to your computer or iPhone (though it's only the theatrical version, not the director's cut), and of course the audio/video transfer is absolutely gorgeous. Even the slipcover is forty kinds of cool, and how often can you say that?

WORTH IT? Watchmen marks one of those efforts that justifies pulling the trigger on a Blu-Ray player. It enhances the original release while still allowing minimalists to enjoy the best viewing experience possible. The presentation can be a little ADD sometimes, but that doesn't detract from its status as a must-buy for anyone serious about Blu-Ray.

RECOMMENDATION: Fans should run, not walk to pick up a copy, while those who didn't care for the film the first time around should use this platform to give it a second chance. The Blu-Ray demonstrates not only the enormity of Snyder's undertaking, but the ways in which he succeeded that newcomers to Watchmen may not have fully realized before.

- Rob Vaux




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