Tuesday, July 14, 2009

DVD review: "Watchmen Director's Cut"

A quick programming note: I'm moving this review a week early; "Watchmen" hits stores on July 21.

"Watchmen," based on perhaps the greatest comic book ever, was bound to polarize audiences.

Ardent fans (like me) of the 1985 graphic novel loved director Zach Snyder's obsessively faithful adaptation of a morally ambiguous world in which super-heroes are more psychologically twisted than the villains they pursue. The rest of the cinema-going public was more or less indifferent.

Its video release is bound to cause more folks to take sides.

On July 21, it will be offered in a single-disc version that presents the theatrical version of the film. The simultaneous two-disc "Director's Cut" includes 25 minutes of additional footage, which push the run time past three hours.

That may be too much for casual audiences. But hardcore fans may want to wait until December, when an even longer "Ultimate Collector's Edition" will be released.

This will include a commentary track (absent here), a "motion comic" version of the graphic novel (already available), and "Tales of the Black Freighter," a pirate story that parallels the action in the original comic, which will be woven into the director's cut.

The extras with the director's cut are decent, but not overwhelming. There are 11 short featurettes that cover various topics on the making of the film, including how actor Billy Crudup wore a suit of glowing blue lights to portray nude superman Dr. Manhattan.

There's also a 30-minute documentary on the impact of the original comic, which includes the participation of illustrator Dave Gibbons but not writer Alan Moore, who has consistently refused to allow his name to be attached to this or any movie version of his work. And there's a music video by My Chemical Romance.

The additional 25 minutes only add to the film's richness, expanding some scenes and adding a few others that build up several main characters, especially Rorschach, the masked vigilante portrayed in a mesmerizing performance by Jackie Earle Haley. Most new scenes are integrated seamlessly, but one that stands out is the murder of Hollis Mason, aka the original Nite Owl. It packs one powerful punch.

Movie (theatrical version): 3.5 stars
Movie (director's cut): 4 stars
Extras: 3 stars

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