Watchmen (2008)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino
Extras: Maximum Movie Mode, Video Journals, Featurettes, Music Video

A number of years ago, someone recommended Alan Moore's "Watchmen" to me with the stipulation that is was the best and most mature graphic novel ever. I read it and I did not like it. If "mature" means convoluted and hard to follow, the book is indeed succeeding in its intentions. I do believe however, that many people seem to confuse "mature" with tedious, as in it is too tedious and plodding for general audiences to enjoy. For most people – myself included – "Watchmen" will always be a well-meant attempt at creating something different that ultimately failed.

So when making the movie based on the graphic novel the filmmakers would have had the chance to take some of the strengths and ambitions of the novel and turn them into something that is a little less pompous and disoriented. Sadly however, the filmmakers were evidently so much in love with the novel that they created an identical copy in life-action. Virtually down to the last comic book panel and every one of the cliched one-liners. Makes me kind of wonder why in this case we needed the film when we have the book.

"Watchmen" has some great angles that warranted further exploration, such as introducing multiple generations of superheroes to the audience. As one hero gets older, a new vigilante takes over the cape and continues the quest. Also interesting is the fact that these superheroes are not all white knights in shining armors. There are gray characters and deep dark characters among them which barely justify the title "hero" or vigilante they carry, as they are ultimately vengeful psychopaths. Further the story introduces the fact that the general populace opposes the vigilantes, not celebrating them for their successes but instead vilifying them for their failures.

If handled properly these elements could have made a hell of a story, especially when suddenly these forced-into-retirement have-been superheroes are picked off one by one and their own complacency gets in their way to see and fight the evil upon them. However, the film doggedly follows the ham-fisted flashback approach that the novel introduced. Like the novel it also gets lost in exposition and backstory as it introduces more and more characters that do not serve any real purpose, and it gets lost in the exact same plotlines that that made the graphic novel tiresome at best.

To its credits I have to say that to "Watchmen" fans, the film is most likely a revelation as a result of it being so true to the graphic novel. While I think the film would have greatly benefited from a general structure overhaul, I am sure to most fans it would have been a sacrilege resulting in nothing short of mutiny.

Being a brand new production, the film does look amazing, however, putting digital filmmaking techniques to good use as these vigilantes and their seedy world come to life. Featuring a stunning 1080p high definition transfer, the Blu-Ray Disc offers colors that pop off the screen like there's no tomorrow while also rendering the deepest and darkest blacks imaginable. Theirs is a world of contrasts, of contradictions, and the filmmakers made sure to represent the visuals accordingly, turning many frames into a juxtaposition of light and dark. If nothing else, "Watchmen" is beautiful to behold. Its incredible level of detail further adds to the viewing experience, particularly on this high definition release.

The release features a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track that is equally modern in its use of surround channels and the overall mix. It is very aggressive and bombastic, creating a wide sound field that is every bit as larger than life than the story it underscores.

The release contains a number of bonus materials, such as a look of the history and impact the graphic novel had on the comic book world. As I outlined earlier I do not necessarily share this point of view.

Many other featurettes are included taking a look at the vigilantes and how their character traits are being represented in real life, as well as a look at the technical side of the making of the movie. Video journals for all 11 watchmen are also included as well as a music video and a special video commentary presentation of the film with director Zakk Snyder in Warner's own "Immersive Maximum Movie Mode."

I would never criticize Alan Moore for trying to do something different but I think ultimately one has to realize that despite his best efforts, the "Watchmen" graphic novel failed on many levels. What's sad for me is the fact that the filmmakers did not take the opportunity to fix some of the inherent flaws in the story and instead created a carbon copy of the graphic novel, ultimately making it somewhat superfluous and superficial. For fans, this release will be as orgiastic as they could hope for with top notch picture and audio quality as well as cool bonus materials to boot with. For many viewers however, "Watchman" may remain every bit as inaccessible as the graphic novel.