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The Ultimate Cut Watchmen: The Complete Story

1/01/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Ultimate Cut Watchmen: The Complete Story in the USA - or Buy The Ultimate Cut Watchmen: The Complete Story in the UK

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Region 1 DVD: pub: Warner Bros. 5 DVDs, 3.5 hour extended version, cinema version and complete motion comic plus loads of extras, including 325 minute 12 * 25 minute episode Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. Price: $35.50 (US) or cheaper if you're lucky. ISBN: 1-4198-8574-X)stars: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Hayley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson.

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For those of you wondering why I've taken to long before doing a review of the 'Watchmen' film, it was largely because there have been at least three variants out there already, including oddly enough, a director's cut. From what I read, none of them are regarded as complete. This one, based on the name, should be. This ultimate cut version at three and a hours combines everything together including the Black Freighter animation footage story. Now I decided to watch this version rather than the other abridged versions mostly based on my instinct that this would be what the director would really want to see on the screens but I doubt if anyone's bottom would have the staying power to stay glued to the seat that long in a cinema.

Something I should point out is the box wrap around is glue-gum stuck down and if you want to open it sensibly, ease it up and the contents of the box should drop out with little damage.

From the books, I was aware that some parts of the plot had been changed or tweaked a bit in the adaptation but that is true of any source material converted to film. If anything, it's Science Fiction that gets the brown end of the stick and rarely looks like its source but it hasn't done too much damage here. With 'Watchmen' director Zack Snyder has caught and dimensionalised Dave Gibbons original art so I'm not surprised he was impressed. Doing it in three dimensions and a wider colour palate brings a superb texture to a world not quite our own. Although I can understand and appreciate why original writer Alan Moore doesn't want to be associated with any film adaptations of his work, looking at the credits on screen and on the box where it says 'co-created by Dave Gibbons', you automatically think Moore's name there anyway and its probably made a bigger impact by its absence than allowing a quiet acknowledgment.

The problem from the start has always been how do you compress a twelve part graphic novel into a couple hours without loosing anything. You can't really, hence the two hour abridged versions.. Even the Motion Comic included ran to nearly 5 hours. Considering that every other issue was fundamentally a retrospective origin, only what was necessary was retained from them. Often the imagery from that was left more than dialogue. You wouldn't see, say, the whole of Rorschach's origin but you would get the turning point story. It's a shame that Kovacs didn't talk to the newspaper vendor though. It's not as though the people watching wouldn't have known who he was. Snyder's audio commentary hints that Dreiberg spotted Kovacs wandering past as if he thought it was someone he should know. Considering that Dreiberg was warned about a mask killer, I'd have been inclined to have believed he thought he was being stalked. Maybe Rorschach thought he could get the killer that way himself. Hrum!

I'm not going to go over every detail here. Some elements were combined together for compactness. You're not going to worry about where Rorschach gets his spare costume from if it can be done a different way or Dreiberg told Veldt about the threat. The only odd performance that I thought was a little off was that of Matthew Goode as Adrian Veldt, mostly because he lacked the charm of his original nor the regret he felt for carrying out his actions. The others were spot on for most part. Dr. Manhattan's voice had the calmness you would associate with Douglas Rain as the HAL 9000 in '2001'.

The change in the ending is, as I commented about the book of the film, was probably to avoid a comparison to the giant squid monster in 'Hell Boy II' but it does leave an odd question as to why would Dr. Manhattan nuke cities around the world rather than transmute them into something else if he cared to do anything at all to save mankind?

If I have to pick fault then it's in the way the normal 'Watchmen' display more than human endurance and strength, even more so considering they are mostly retired and out of condition. When you consider that Rorschach had more knocks and bruises when he was arrested by the police than when he tackled Adrian Veldt, the balance of this was wrong. I suspect, though, this was more to placate viewers who wanted some graphic violence rather than thoughtful intrigue. 'Watchmen' was never going to be an atypical super-hero film anyway and those familiar with the graphic novel would have known that.

On several levels director Zack Snyder did take some things up a level like it was a second draft polish. Most people are aware that Dr. Manhattan is more aware of the future for instance. Certain things were manipulated so Laurie Jupiter's lineage becomes more of a key plot element. Saying that, it felt more like rounding the rough edges so it would be more cohesive as a whole film. Certainly, Snyder did a lot of re-jigging scenes so they fitted in a more jigsaw-like fashion but as there was a lot of material to sort out. It would be understandable that he also gained insight from doing that and used those observations within the film rather than question them

Director Zack Snyder's commentary focuses more on the technical aspects of the film than some of the logic regarding changes. He seemed concerned that people would sit through the commentary to the end. Just in case he's reading this, he really ought to wash his mouth out over the last bit over the credits. It does seem odd to have a solitary commentary, though. Having more than one person talking can at least give a conversation although saying that Snyder's knowledge of what's been done will have you paying attention to the background details with future viewing.

Artist and co-creator Dave Gibbons audio commentary was practically an everyman version, especially as he hadn't seen the extended version with the Black Freighter footage before this talk-over. As such, his pauses to watch shows more about his own disposition and interest in the film. He notes how many of the scenes are there from the graphic novel but not necessarily in the original order but more to make it filmic. I'm not sure if he was tactful or not but he's neither critical or passes comment on the significant change to the end. I recently read an interview he had on the Net that he did several pages of art interpreting it for Snyder to work from but this wasn't mentioned in the commentary. I think one thing he under-estimates when it comes to the film that when there was choice they didn't stray from the graphic novel for the better imagery that still holds up well twenty-five years later.

As with the Snyder commentary, I think it would have been helped having a few people together commenting, if only to fill the gaps or finding something to say. It would have been interesting to have Gibbons accompanied by colourist John Higgins for instance.

The extras fill an entire DVD, examining the roles of vigilantes in the Watchmen world and our own reality and why it wouldn't work. Being a moral judge of other people is one thing. Doing something about it outside of the law requires a mindset that is an extreme as the villains they chase. No wonder then that the characters in 'Watchmen' have their own problems which was the whole point of the original graphic novel.

'Under The Hood' is a thirty-five minute film examining the Minutemen from Mason Hollis point of view with snippets from other cast which gave a real insight in to the times and shouldn't be neglected.

Using a code access from the Internet, valid only until November 2010 by the way, you can access the cinema version on one of the DVDs to run on your computer or hook it through to your TV set if you have the necessary cables. I'm not too keen on letting my laptop's hard drive or DVD drive run for two and a quarter hours continually and that will have to wait until I can convert it to AVI format to have a look at it.

'Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic', released in 2008, is an oddity to include with this boxset, considering that there were a couple other variants of the live action film that should have been included if it was to be truly ultimate a'la the 'Blade Runner' boxset. No doubt there will be another boxed volume in the future. As the title suggests, it manipulates Dave Gibbons original comicbook art with limited animation which actually isn't too bad. It's a shame really that word balloons were left in when the dialogue is spoken by the multi-voiced Tom Stechschulte making it more like an easi-reader. Like sub-titles, there should have been an option to remove it cos the animation works fine on its own. All credit to Stechschulte but the budget should have stretched to a woman to do the female voices. However, the strength of the story still carries over and it's still an intense viewing and makes an interesting comparison to the live version.

The 'Watchmen Graphic Novel' questioned the role of super-heroes as vigilantes and showed the fine-edge they walked on. The main legacy that was passed onto the other super-hero universes was to upgrade the amount of violence they could get away with and make it darker. Considering that the other super-hero films already out there have already taken this on-board, I doubt if this will change them in the future.

As to this film. Yeah! I do actually like it. Not just to the attention to detail but how much of the flavour that was carried over. If anything, the legacy will be keep close to what was done in the comicbooks and it is possible for directors to live with the original costumes without making them too far from the originals.

One last thing that I almost forgot in my enthusiasm, this is a Region 1 DVD boxset. If you like in Region 2 and your DVD player can't be adjusted then you won't be able to watch it. I hope Warners are paying attention and ensure that this version gets a world-wide release.

GF Willmetts

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