Watchmen appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Virtually no problems manifested themselves during this excellent transfer.
Sharpness excelled. Only the slightest smidgen of softness ever appeared in wide shots, and those instances remained marginal. The vast majority of the flick looked tight and well-defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. In terms of source flaws, I saw a couple of specks but nothing more. Grain was appropriate and this was a clean presentation.
The movie used a varied palette that was stylized but not in a consistent way; it’s not like the cool blues that dominate some films, for instance. The hues remained fairly subdued but the tones varied in different parts of the film. In any case, the colors looked very good within those stylistic choices; they were always well-reproduced.
Blacks demonstrated good depth and darkness. Shadows were also solid. The movie featured a lot of dimly lit sequences, and these offered nice clarity. I felt quite impressed by this consistently terrific image.
Note that the animated Black Freighter material offered high quality visuals that fit well with the live-action footage. These demonstrated no problems and blended surprisingly well.
I also found a lot to like via the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Watchmen. I figured the movie would come with a pretty dynamic soundfield, and it often came through with the anticipated vivacity. Though not chock full of action scenes, we got enough material of that sort to open up the soundfield well. Shots of Archimedes were the most consistently involving, as the airship swooped around the room in a convincing manner.
Other elements fared well, too. Fights and explosions used the various speakers to add (literal) punch to the package, and the track featured nice involvement from all five channels. Music presented nice stereo presence, and we even got a bit of directional dialogue.
Audio quality worked nicely. Speech was natural and distinctive; no edginess or other issues affected the dialogue. Music was lively and full, while effects presented the expected clarity. Those elements demonstrated good accuracy and range; low-end was powerful and tight. I felt pleased with this fine soundtrack.
How did this “Ultimate Cut” Blu-ray compare with the prior “Director’s Cut” BD? Both were similar enough to be regarded as essentially identical. The UC swaps a Dolby TrueHD mix for the prior disc’s DTS-HD MA track, but I couldn’t discern any differences between the two, and even with the addition of the “Black Freighter” material, visuals remained virtually the same. Given the high quality of the prior release, that was fine with me.
When we shift to extras, we find some materials not available on the earlier Blu-ray I reviewed, but that doesn’t make them “new”. Also released back in 2009, the “Ultimate Cut” Blu-ray added many bonus features. This package duplicates the “Ultimate Cut” discs from 2009.
On Disc One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Zack Snyder, as he delivers a running, screen-specific look at story, characters and adaptation, cast and performances, edits and changes made for this version of the film, visual design and effects, sets and locations, and a few other related areas.
While Snyder doesn’t provide an inspired commentary, he gives us a fairly informative one. Even with the film’s extended running time, Snyder manages to fill the track with material, and most of this adds to the experience. Although the piece never threatens to sizzle, it does its job.
For the second commentary, we hear from graphic novel artist Dave Gibbons. He offers his own running, screen-specific chat about the source material and changes made for the movie as well as his thoughts about the result.
I hoped we’d learn a lot about the development/creation of the original graphic novel here, but that’s not the case. Occasionally Gibbons throws out a few reflections in that domain, but mostly he just tells us what he likes about the movie. Gibbons provides little useful information across this exceedingly long chat; Gibbons seems like a nice guy, but he doesn’t give us nearly enough material to keep us engaged across more than three and a half hours of film.
Disc Two throws in plenty more materials. The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics runs 28 minutes, 46 seconds and presents comments from musician Gerald Way, journalist Lev Grossman, DC Comics creative director/senior VP Richard Bruning, DC Comics president/publisher (1981-2002) Jenette Kahn, director Zack Snyder, producer Deborah Snyder, DC Comics creative affairs senior VP Gregory Noveck, Watchmen graphic novel co-creator/illustrator Dave Gibbons, former DC Comics editor Len Wein, colorist John Higgins, DC Comics president/publisher Paul Levitz, producer Lloyd Levin, Watchmen and Philosophy editor Dr. Mark D. White, co-producer Wesley Coller, and actors Carla Gugino, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. “Phenomenon” looks at the roots and development of the original graphic novel, aspects of its story, characters and themes, and its success/legacy.
The best parts of “Phenomenon” are those that look at the creation of the original comic. Even without the participation of Alan Moore, we get a lot of good facts related to Watchmen. The rest of the show seems less enthralling. Some decent thoughts about the graphic novel's meaning and impact emerge, but don’t expect great insight.
Real Super Heroes: Real Vigilantes runs 26 minutes, 17 seconds and provides notes from Zack Snyder, Gibbons, White, Grossman, Deborah Snyder, Haley, Crudup, Wilson, Federal & Superior Court qualified deadly force/tactics expert Scott Reitz, American history professor Dr. Thomas Spencer, Alliance of Guardian Angels SE Coast Director William “Gladiator” Cruz, Alliance of Guardian Angels founder/president Curtis Sliwa, Sunder Mirror UK investigations editor Graham Johnson, Guardian Angel Mary J. Gethins, International Tactical Training Seminars’ Spencer Weiss, and “real-life superheroes” “Ecliptico” and “Tothian”. “Vigilantes” looks at social/crime conditions in the mid-80s, responses to criminal situations by civilians, and thoughts about the movie characters.
We get a mix of interesting remarks here. Probably the least compelling parts relate to the Guardian Angels, primarily because the show doesn’t look at them in an objective manner; it boosts them in a way that doesn’t really look at the potential negatives of the organization.
Otherwise, however, “Vigilantes” digs into its subject well. It’s not exactly a thorough history, but it goes over the pros and cons of civilian crusaders in an interesting manner, especially when it digs into Bernard Goetz and real-life costumed “heroes”. Though erratic, this becomes an involving show.
Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World lasts 16 minutes, 48 seconds and features Zack Snyder, Crudup and University of Minnesota Professor of Physics James Kakalios. The Professor dominates the show as he talks about the real world physics behind a lot of the powers we see in Watchman. Predictably, this info can be a bit dry, but it offers a reasonably intriguing glimpse of the science behind the fiction.
11 Video Journals fill a total of 33 minutes, 21 seconds. These cover “The Minutemen” (3:34), “Sets and Sensibility” (3:55), “Dressed for Success” (3:04), “The Ship Has Eyes” (4:21), “Dave Gibbons” (3:22), “Burn Baby Burn” (2:13), “Shoot to Thrill” (3:15), “Blue Monday” (3:00), “Attention to Detail” (2:54), “Girls Kick Ass” (3:04) and “Rorschach’s Mask” (3:39). Across these, we hear from Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Haley, Gugino, Morgan, Gibbons, Akerman, Crudup, Coller,
costume designer Michael Wilkinson, still photographer Clay Enos, production designer Alex McDowell, head sculptor Jack Gavreau, SFX coordinator Joel Whist, SFX assistant/electronics Andrew Verhoeven, stunt coordinator/fight choreographer Damon Caro, Canadian stunt coordinator Douglas Chapman, fire technicians Colin Decker and Dustin Brooks, director of photography Larry Fong, chief lighting technician Dennis Brock, VFX supervisor John “DJ” Desjardin, global effects Chris Gilman, property master Jimmy Chow, set decorator Jim Erickson, and actors Stephen McHattie and Patrick Wilson.
The “Journals” examine various characters and story issues, set, production and costume design, cast and performances, stunts and effects, and cinematography. While not a substitute for a coherent documentary, the collection of “Journals” offers a good overview of different aspects of the production. Originally created to publicize the flick on the Internet, the clips are short but pretty informative. They’re a nice way to learn a bit about the movie’s creation.
Under the Hood fills 37 minutes, 36 seconds and delivers an additional look at the movie’s characters. This one presents a fake documentary from the mid-1980s that focuses on Hollis “Nite Owl” Mason and his story.
This is an unusual piece, as it creates a companion to the Watchmen film. Nothing essential appears, but it’s still pretty cool. It uses the film’s original actors and allows them to flesh out their characters, all of whom play secondary roles in the movie. I enjoy this kind of program and “Hood” fares well.
After this we find the 25-minute, one-second Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen. It features notes from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Dave Gibbons, Stephen McHattie, Lloyd Levin, Wesley Coller, Gregory Noveck, Jenette Kahn, Paul Levitz, Len Wein, Richard Bruning, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, John Higgins, Alex McDowell, writer Danny Fingeroth, “Under the Hood” director/producer Eric Matthies, actors and Jay Brazeau and Jesse Reed, additional camera operator Bill Dagleish, composer Tyler Bates, and production designer Chris Watts. “Books” examines aspects of “Under the Hood” and “Tales of the Black Freighter” as well as their integration into Watchmen and aspects of their creation for video. It offers a well-paced, informative take on these topics.
Next comes a music video for “Desolation Row” from My Chemical Romance. Essentially just a performance clip with anarchic elements involved, the video doesn’t really entertain. The song itself feels like a cheap attempt to rip off the Sex Pistols but without the sense of threat that seminal band displayed.
A third disc provides a DVD Copy of Watchmen. This delivers the film’s 162-minute theatrical cut and lacks any extras.
Over on Disc Four, we find Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. This came out right before the movie’s theatrical release and shows a semi-sorta-animated version of the graphic novel. I reviewed that product on its own, so go ahead and click here if you want to read about it. Note that the review covers the DVD, while this package includes a Blu-ray version of the “Motion Comic”.
Speaking of the original graphic novel, it also comes as part of this Collector’s Edition. And it’s not a cheap version, either; the package includes a lovely 2008 hardcover printing that retails for $40 on its own. Chalk that up as a pleasant surprise; I assumed we’d get a lower-quality pressing. The presence of the hardback adds class to the package;.
Does this “Collector’s Edition” drop anything from earlier Blu-rays? Yup – it loses a “Maximum Movie Mode” interactive piece that accompanied the 186-minute Director’s Cut.
And that’s too bad. While Snyder’s commentary includes some of the same info, the “Mode” had plenty of unique material. I understand that it wouldn’t have fit alongside this release’s “Ultimate Cut”, but given the nature of this expensive “Collector’s Edition”, I think the set should’ve thrown in the “Director’s Cut” Blu-ray as well. We get four other discs – why not provide a fifth platter and make this a truly complete Watchmen with all three cuts of the film?
Ambitious and epic, Watchmen doesn’t always fire on all cylinders. However, it more completely captures the spirit and scope of the source comic than one could realistically expect, and it turns into an engaging movie. The Blu-ray provides excellent picture and audio as well as a strong set of supplements.
And a steep price tag, too. Is the “Collector’s Edition” worth its $75 MSRP? Yes, I think it is – if you don’t already own its main components. The CE repackages previously-available materials, so its value drops if you possess some of those. But if you don’t, it’s a very nice set and the most enjoyable Watchmen package to hit the market.
To rate this film visit the standard definition review of WATCHMEN: DIRECTOR'S CUT