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Watchmen - Blu-ray Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}Time and time again, I am reminded that film (as in photography) exists for two purposes: (1) to serve as a way of capturing the past so that it might not be forgotten, and (2) to transport us to a specific time and place that we cannot or are unable to visit anymore. In both reasons, memory is the significant parallel line of thought and it isn't surprising; we are humans and it is our empathy that connects us to others while memories are being shared. Yet, film is more than a memoratic tool because of our need to communicate our experiences through stories or entertainment. Motion pictures, therefore, carry that storytelling weight. They exist to entertain and sometimes educate, but they, like their photographic counterpart, also exist to transport us to other times or worlds. Movies, no matter how young or old, are constantly judged upon these abilities and sometimes there comes along a movie that succeeds both visually and orally and will be remembered by the masses for both reasons. Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen is that movie; it's massive and uncompromising and completely its own piece of cinematic art.

WatchmenTrust me; I am very much aware this is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. Seriously. This is polarizing filmmaking at its finest. I highly doubt anyone will walk out of the theatre shrugging claiming that it was just okay and simply shuffle on down the road minding his or her business. I also think the argument that The Watchmen is unfilmable should be put to rest. Why? Because it got filmed. Yes, despite the odds against it, The Watchmen found its way onto film. The result? Well, this film will either incite passionate responses of hatred (some have called it the first major flop of 2009) or of warm, gushing acceptance and praise. For myself, my response was immediately after the much talked about (and much seen) violent opening as The Comedian (played mercilessly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is murdered. Snyder follows the opening with a unique credit sequence memorable for its use of staged â"frames" as a method for backstory delivery while Bob Dylan's The Times Are A-Changin' plays. It is visceral, it is powerful and it is moving; all the while suggesting that the world about to be shown to you is at times familiar yet eerily darker and somehow less humane (more on that later). The point is that something has gone horribly wrong in this world. It's stuck and unmoving and it might just be because of The Watchmen's existence. Yes, you realize all of this by the end of the absolutely stunning credit sequence.

Welcome to 1985. The Cold War is in high gear. Nuclear tensions are high. People are worried, a little strung out, and unhappy. There is no Ronald Reagan; no dismantling of the Berlin War; no working superheros as they have been forced into retirement. Simply put, there is little hope left. America won the Vietnam conflict (thanks to Nixon's use of The Watchmen) and, speaking of Richard Nixon, Ol' Tricky Dick is in enjoying a fifth term as President of The United States of America. Snyder keeps his film's atmosphere familiar to the audience, yet plays with the idea of the alternate reality just enough to make you feel a little uneasy or detached throughout the film. Some early critics of The Watchmen have significantly dinged Snyder for this atmospheric effect claiming that that the film's verisimilitude is not engaging and a huge failure comparable only to George Lucas' attempts in the Star Wars prequels. The point they are missing is that Snyder is fully aware that this world is not our world and the audience should feel a little chilled by it. He's not injecting this world with humanity; it has to be found by its lead characters. The atmosphere should be alien maybe even foreign to us at times because this is not history as it happened, but history as it was imagined by Moore. Snyder does not make the mistake Lucas did with his prequel landscape; he doesn't trade his audience for effects.

As previously stated, the movie starts with the murder of The Comedian a central member of The Watchmen whose existence in this alternate reality is anything but funny, but unbearably important in showcasing just how awry the world has spun and quickly shifts its focus onto the hunched shoulders of Rorschach (impressively performed by Jackie Earl Haley) as he tries to unravel the mysterious deaths of past members of The Watchmen. It is through his film-noirish journal entries where we first get the understanding of the significance of their deaths and a glimpse into the black-and-white spotted heart of Rorschach who just might arguably be the moral compass of the group as he acts (or reacts) with consequential absolutism. Quite simply, Rorschach is the face of humanity in this film - even as his mask changes in order to hide his own feelings and his words are the most significant to the survival of this alternate reality.

Enter the overcautious Night Owl II (a very capable Patrick Wilson) and the emotionally withdrawn and confused Silk Spectre II (the visually stunning and talented Malin Akerman) as retired crime fighters who don the outfits of their past in a fit of disparity at the effects of time upon the body and the mind. After The Comedian's funeral scene a scene remarkable for its clever bit of editing which connects the past crime fighters to the present through their associations with The Comedian - the remaining members finally accept that the world has passed them by and they, once again, go after its mantle in pursuit of glory days. After calming down Rorschach's fears and suspicions about a plot to destroy The Watchmen, Night Owl and Silk Spectre rekindle their longing for each other once Silk Spectre's relationship slate has been cleared by the sudden departure of Doctor Manhattan (a very conscience and ethereal Billy Crudup).

And it's Crudup's character a scientist involved in a freak accident that rendered him with the ability to twist energy into his will - who will have everyone talking. Yes, he's big. No, he's not entirely CGI (ala Silver Surfer). And, yes, he's completely nude in some scenes. Is it jarring? Well, if you're an adult about the nudity then, no, his nudity is not an issue - at all; however, if you are completely juvenile as some critics and moviegoers seem to be about Doctor Manhattan's blue member, then I guess it is. Is it distracting from the movie? Not at all. Audiences begin to understand and witness Doctor Manhattan's emotional distance from his friends as he surrenders his humanity to his logical evolution. All of this, the audience discovers, is done in order to better understand the surprising consequence of that thin, thin line that divides love and hate.

Technically, the film is a powerhouse. It dazzles as the previews suggested it would; it is otherworldly and intense. There are times when Snyder perfectly (and I do mean perfectly) merges a surprising selection of songs (From Hendrix to Cohen) to the on-screen visuals that give new life to the both the song and energize the film's action from locales like Mars to the coldest place on Earth as it barrels toward a stunning and disturbing climax as the reasons for The Watchmen murders are revealed. The violence is shocking (a wonder that that is even possible in this day and age) and the sexual desires are surprising, tense, uncomfortable, and extreme. These are twisted characters made darker by what they hide deep inside. It is a complex narrative and it shatters any preconceived notions about what limits a comic book movie can have. It explores the Cold War, humanity, and also enters into areas of true Science Fiction where philosophy counters invention. There are moments in The Watchmen that are so intense that it reveals other comic book movies (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and, yes, even The Dark Knight) for what they are silly little comic book movies.

Love, hate, nuclear holocaust, fragile fabrics of Time, and responsibility in the face of future catastrophe; it's a wide world full of â"What Ifs" as a result of the possibility of now discredited superheros. Visually and thematically, in Snyder's version of The Watchmen, well, there are no boundaries. This is NOT a movie for kids; they will be bored with it at times. This is a movie fueled on thought. It is laced with adult themes and adult language. Remember, this is the world as it could be a world that has grown to despise its crime fighters. And if these seem like heavy themes for a comic book movie, well, then you need to understand something: this isn't the world of Batman, Superman, Iron Man or even The Hulk. No, they wouldn't survive here. This is its own reality one driven by the very nature we humans work so hard to tame and control - hate.

Yet, as heavy thematically as it is, Snyder has worked very hard to make it fun at times. Yes, fun. It is comical when it needs to be (see the fetish-driven sex scene) and full of piss and vinegar, too. Keep that in mind when the ending comes around. You'll need that reminder as you walk out of the theatre. This is the world that could have been if superheros were real. It's a world I know that I myself will be revisiting time and time again so that I can remember and be transported and be entertained by possibilities. And, even if you hate the film, I think we can agree on one thing: in this day and age when predictability rules and ruins Hollywood it's a wonder that monumental and uncompromising films like The Watchmen even get made anymore. The Watchmen was a master work when it was first written back in 1986 and it continues to impress and dazzle under the confident and calculated direction of Snyder in 2009. Let the bashing begin...


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
5 Stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-rayBlu-ray Details:

Screen Formats: 2.39:1

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

Supplements:

Commentary

Featurettes

BD-Live Interactivity and Exclusive Downloadable Content

Music video: (HD, 3 minutes): My Chemical Romance's "Desolation Row."

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