DVD Review: “Watchmen: Director’s Cut”
The best method for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of “Watchmen” is to compare it to the first screen versions of the Harry Potter books. Director Chris Columbus was so slavish in capturing the action of the first two volumes that he gave short shrift to the soul of the stories. Snyder’s “Watchmen” culls Alan Moore’s words and Dave Gibbons’ images with such painstaking detail, this director’s cut takes as long to watch as the graphic novel does to read — it’s not so much an interpretation as a scanned-and-animated copy without much life of its own.
Moore’s vision of a dystopian 1985 in which Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term in office is packed with vivid anti-heroes and historical grace notes that add an alarming realism to the proceedings. Some of Snyder’s casting decisions are stellar (Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl II, Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach) and some are simply terrible (Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, Malin Ackerman as Laurie Jupiter), but it’s the pacing that trips up “Watchmen” — the film feels oddly static and laborious given the intensity of its story.
To its credit, the director’s cut wisely adds more Rorschach moments and Nite Owl I’s mesmerizing death scene. But since Snyder was being so completist with “Watchmen,” one cannot help but wish that this edition integrated “The Black Freighter,” the grisly comic-within-a-comic that was animated and sold as a separate DVD upon the film’s release. “Freighter” would add depth to this story, and since this “Watchmen” clocks in at 186 minutes, four-and-a-half hours of combined “Watchmen” and “Freighter” wouldn’t run out the doomsday clock for most purists.
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