I reviewed Watchmen on its theatrical release and had this to say in my summation…
Revelling in the spectacle, be it through special effects or drenching the scene in atmosphere Watchmen is constantly thrilling, combining detailed set and costume design, superlative special effects and of course some wonderful dialogue that is for the most part lifted straight from the pages of the graphic novel. Snyder combines all of this with excellent casting and an inspired soundtrack that drifts between song choices every bit as iconic as the visuals and an original score that is subtle but effective. There are lapses in the substantial 2hour 43minute running time, due both to some changes made to the source material and the often strict adherence to said material, but the film always bounces back and will no doubt reward multiple viewings due to the level of detail found throughout. It’s suitability to a wide audience is being questioned by some, though I think the biggest problem has nothing to do with not understanding the plot (it’s all rather simple at the end of the day) but in the expectations viewers have of more traditional comic book movies, something this is not.
You can find the full review here.
Released through Paramount here in the UK, the Blu-ray release of Watchmen features the original theatrical cut of the film on Disc 1 and all extras on Disc 2. Also included is a Digital Copy of the film on Disc 3 (iTunes and Window Media versions, authorisation is not possible outside of the UK, and the authorisation code is not valid after July 27, 2010). Please note the images in this review are not captured from the disc, but are instead taken from the trailer available online.
The main feature is given an entire disc to itself and the 1080P AVC encode brings the wonderful costume and intricate set design to life with a high level of detail that rarely falters. Deep blacks and bold colours burst through a very thin layer of grain that is handled well by the compression. With no obvious edge enhancement or other unwanted artefacts this is a very fine transfer indeed, often strikingly beautiful.
The main English audio option is a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix that does the film’s varied soundtrack justice with heavy bass allowing you to feel every impact of the action (the fights in particular such as the opening scene with The Comedian and the finale with three of the masks fighting all have satisfying weight to every blow) while the directionality of the audio is frequently impressive as it tracks the set-pieces around the room. Dialogue is always clear and the music is vibrant, so overall this is a very impressive presentation, though I do have one complaint and that is in comparison to over TrueHD tracks the levels are mixed very low which means you have to crank things up higher than usual (and with ageing speakers like mine that’s now always preferable).
Subtitle and additional language information can be found in the sidebar.
The extras found on Disc 2 are all presented in HD with the exception of the Viral Videos. Subtitles on the extras are the same as the main feature. Here is a rundown of what you’ll find…
Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World (16:50) – In this featurette a physics professor discusses his input on the movie in which he was asked to offer advice on the realities of the science found in the graphic novel. He essentially discusses what he dubs the miracle exemption, whereby, rather than dismiss something outright, he poses what if a character like Dr. Manhattan could control his body at a molecular level, and then based on that assumption are the things we see him do scientifically accurate. I certainly found this an interesting piece to watch and it walks the line between overly simplified and overly technical very well.
The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics (28:48) – Dave Gibbons, various people involved with DC Comics and the industry discuss the original graphic novel from its conception, development through to reaction before going on to analyse the various aspects of the novel that have made it so famous. Slightly gushing at times this is still a decent piece that helps give viewers who might either never have read the novel or only recently picked it up some perspective and context of Watchmen in the comic book world.
Real Superheroes, Real Vigilantes (26:19) – This featurette looks at examples in American history of real-life vigilantism with the main focus in the first half on a group known as the Alliance of Guardian Angels. Still operating today, it’s really quite strange to see these middle-aged men and women of all ethnic backgrounds in their logo emblazoned jackets. But that’s not quite as surreal as two other individuals who really could be parodies made just for this featurette, yet at the same time it’s utterly believable there are people like this out there. Although it looks at some interesting issues there isn’t a great deal of depth here, though I really did find myself transfixed whilst watching as once again reality trumps fantasy making for intriguing albeit car crash viewing.
Video Journals – All 11 video journals made and released online during the film’s production are included here. These are roughly three-minutes each and cover various aspects of the shoot from costumes, set design, specific characters etc. Considering the nature of the other featurettes these are literally the only real ‘making of’ material on the UK release, which is something of a shame, as while they’re diverting the depth is obviously limited.
Lastly you’ll find a music video for ‘Desolation Row’ by My Chemical Romance and two viral videos (‘NBS Nightly News’ and, included as an Easter Egg, ‘The Keene Act’) which allow you to view videos from the TV stations sometimes featured in the background during the film (the first, as the name suggests, is a news broadcast which focuses on Dr. Manhattan while the second is a political campaign video for outlawing vigilantes). 2 other viral videos were announced for inclusion on both the 2-Disc DVD and this Blu-ray Disc release, but neither is on the final retail products (and with no BD-Live functionality there isn’t even the possibility of them being made available in the future).
Revisiting Watchmen on Blu-ray Disc was a true pleasure with the presentation here doing a great film the justice it deserves, allowing you to pick out fine details in a richly textured film whilst enjoying the ride it takes you on. As a film the comments I made in my theatrical review still stand, if anything the time that has since passed between reading the novel back in March and watching the film now makes some of (but not all of) the minor quibbles I had seem even less of an issue.
The extras on this UK release are certainly diverting enough for the duration they run but there’s little to get overly excited about which of course brings us to the real contentious issue with this UK Blu-ray Disc release. The theatrical cut instead of the director’s cut released by Warner in the US. I’ve been trying to condense my thoughts on this for quite some time and ultimately end up failing to really care now that Warner have confirmed another cut of the film for the end of the year (a 5-Disc UCE at the end of ’09 for those unaware). Neither existing release has both cuts so both have their merits for collectors, so really the choice is yours, but if you're after the theatrical cut then this release comes highly recommended.