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Jake Strider Hughes, Brian Stilwell
Narrated By:
Tom Stechschulte
Writing Credits:
Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons

Who Watches The Watchmen?

Watched any great books lately? Now you can. The most celebrated graphic novel of all time that broke the conventional mold continues to break new ground. Watchmen illustrator Dave Gibbons oversees this digital version of the graphic novel that adds limited motion, voice and sound to the book's strikingly drawn panels. All 12 chapters of the story are here, nearly 5 hours spanning everything from the mysterious demise of the Comedian to the crisscrossed destinies of loosely allied superheroes to their fateful impact on the world. Be in the know. Be watching. With Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 325 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 3/3/2009

Wonder Woman Animated Series Sneak Peek
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 23, 2009)

Just in time for the release of the live-action Watchmen flick, we get Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic. This takes the original Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel and animates it – sort of. Actually, this Watchmen replicates the original visuals, animates it, and adds audio. It’s an interesting way to adapt material like this.

Set during an alternate version of 1985 in which the US won the Vietnam War and Nixon remains president, Watchmen posits a world in which superheroes have been banned. Most go underground or into retirement, as only two heroes – nearly omnipotent Dr. Manhattan and hotheaded Comedian – operate with government approval. Rorschach continues to do his thing as a vigilante, however. When government official Edward Blake gets murdered, Rorschach discovers that Blake was The Comedian, and he sets out to solve the crime.

This leads to a potentially deeper plot. Questions remains whether The Comedian’s death was an isolated incident or a grander scheme to eliminate superheroes from the world. As Rorschach attempts to discover the truth, we follow the lives of his former compatriots and learn more about their lives and situations.

Given that this adaptation of Watchmen runs nearly five and a half hours, that synopsis provides a rather rudimentary overview of the story. To a certain degree, the larger series of events – the potential “mask killer” and the threat of nuclear war – feels like something of a MacGuffin. Those elements motivate the story but don’t present as its main focus.

Instead, Watchmen provides a surprisingly strong character base. At times it teeters on the edge of soap opera, as it digs into the various participants and their interactions. That side of things – and how it effects the world as a whole – becomes the program’s main focus, and it makes the series effective. Watchmen absorbs us into the lives of the characters, and it fleshes them out in a satisfying way.

For a nominal superhero piece, we don’t find a heck of a lot of action. The occasional set piece occurs, but again, characters and drama remain the most important elements. They become more than enough to keep us absorbed.

This was my first experience with the Watchmen story, and I enjoyed it. I do wonder how if I would’ve liked it even more had I read the original comic series. While the “motion comic” brings the material to the screen in a satisfying way, it obviously has to put its own stamp on the novel.

The biggest impact comes from the vocal work. In an interesting choice, Watchmen uses one “narrator” (Tom Stechschulte) as the voice of all the characters. At first this seems off-putting, especially when we hear Stechschulte play female roles. After a while, matters feel more natural, though I admit it can remain confusing. Stechschulte does his best to make each role distinctive – and he usually succeeds – but with so many different participants, they can start to sound a lot alike.

Would this “motion comic” work better with a bigger cast? Perhaps, but I think the decision is intriguing since it might better replicate the experience of someone who inspects the original graphic novel. When you read a comic book, you do all the voices in your head. Here Stechschulte acts as our surrogate and does the same thing. He may give the characters different inflections than we might choose, but the result is the same: personalities all acted out by one person.

As for the “motion comic” visual presentation, it usually succeeds. While the animation remains limited, it actually displays more movement than I anticipated. I thought we’d get little more than barely-tweaked comic panels, but quite a lot of motion occurs. Nothing here approaches the level of a good animated film – or even a mediocre one – but it helps add some life to the panels.

My one quibble might be from the use of speech balloons during the program. Since we get both spoken dialogue and this text, the two sides tend to compete with each other. It’s like watching an English movie with the subtitles activated; you can’t quite decide whether to listen to the lines or to read them. I understand that the speech balloons appear here to replicate the comic book experience, but I’d like an option in which I could deactivate them; they become too much of a distraction.

While not a perfect presentation, this “Complete Motion Comic” of Watchmen does bring it to life in an evocative manner. The graphic novel provides a truly epic adventure, and the program delivers it in a vivid way.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much of the program looked good, but some artifacts distracted.

Really, those unnecessary elements created the only problems. I noticed sporadic examples of jagged edges and blockiness, and I noticed mosquito noise on a moderately consistent basis. None of these factors overwhelmed, but they gave the program a rougher look than I’d expect. (Dr. Manhattan’s blue skin always appeared grainy, but since that was the only element that presented such issues, I felt this was likely intentional to represent the character’s supernatural feel.)

Otherwise, Watchmen provided very good visuals. Colors were quite solid. The movie’s basic hues came across with dynamic tones; they were the strongest part of the image. Sharpness was fine, despite the jaggies. The elements consistently seemed well-defined. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows appeared clear and concise. I wish the presentation lacked the edges and noise, but it remained pretty positive most of the time.

I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Watchmen opened up the comic book material well. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious piece, but it added pizzazz to the program. The forward channels brought out the majority of the material. Music presented strong stereo imaging, while effects cropped up in logical spots and blended well.

The surrounds also contributed good information. For the most part, these reinforced the forward channels, but they also contributed a fair amount of unique material. These instances mainly occurred during storms or bigger action scenes. The back speakers brought out a nice sense of space and environment.

Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was warm and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded lively and full, while effects displayed good definition. Those elements seemed accurate and dynamic. All of this led to a positive presentation that deserved a “B”.

DVD One opens with a few ads. We get promos for Blu-Ray Disc, Watchmen, the animated Wonder Woman, and a teaser for a Watchmen videogame. DVD Two launches with a clip for Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter.

DVD Two also includes a Sneak Peek at the Wonder Woman animated movie. This piece runs 10 minutes, 25 seconds as it offers comments from DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics senior vice president and executive editor Dan Didio, DC Comics Creative Affairs senior vice president Gregory Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, writer Michael Jelenic, and actors Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson and Virginia Madsen. The show looks at the roots of Wonder Woman and aspects of the movie. The “Sneak Peek” exists to promote the animated flick, but it includes a few decent bits of information.

Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic offers an interesting alternative to the standard graphic novel presentation. It allows viewers to “read” the entire Watchmen series on TV, as the comic comes accompanied by animation and audio. It’s a fun way to inspect this effective and dynamic comic. The DVD offers fairly good picture and audio but includes no substantial extras. Despite the omission of supplements, I like this presentation and recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1111 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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