Jeff, Ray, and Steve aren’t the only bears that watch movies. Guest writer Rick (aka Austinpanda) gives us his written take on the “Watchmen” Director’s Cut DVD.
While shopping at my local grocery megamart lately, I came across a few bins of discount DVDs and BluRays. Normally I react with distrust when electronics store merchandise encroaches onto the place where I purchase bacon, but thanks to its mega-visible yellow and black color scheme, I noticed a Watchmen Director’s Cut BluRay for $6.00. Watchmen is the perfect example of an almost-great movie, I think. It has parts I really love. Six bucks felt like an insult. I bought a copy.
Director Howard Hawkes said you can define a good movie as one which has at least three great scenes and no bad scenes. Watchmen got the first part right with plenty of room to spare. The second part, not so much.
Since this movie is almost three years old now, I won’t worry about spoiling things. Here’s the solution to the mystery: Veidt, the foppish, rich, super-smart guy, blew up all the world’s biggest cities and made it look like Dr. Manhattan did it, so the world would band together in opposition to Dr. Manhattan instead of killing itself with nuclear war. Can’t nuke Russia, too busy worrying if Dr. Manhattan’s going to blow up my grandparents in Cleveland next. Or Irkutsk.
Watchmen has quite a few great scenes. The flashback showing how science nerd Jon Osterman’s terrible accident transforms him into floating blue exhibitionist Dr. Manhattan is my favorite. I also love most every scene featuring Rorschach. I really like Rorschach’s character, its driving concepts and its execution. Don’t get me wrong; the guy’s got issues. I don’t aspire to be like any of these superheroes, but I wouldn’t mind having Rorschach’s sense of style.
The director’s cut of the movie is not an improvement over the original theatrical release. If you’re new to the Watchmen story, you might as well stick with the 2 hour 47 minute version instead of the 3 hour and 6 minute version. It’s just as entertaining, and life is short. But if you’re into this sort of thing (director’s cuts or Watchmen in general) the director’s cut has a few scenes you’ll want to see.
It’s not a director’s cut that simply includes a handful of new scenes; it’s been tweaked all over. Conversations are lengthened. Situations and flashbacks are lengthened. Example: the shootout in Veidt’s office between Veidt and the delivery guy (where several captains of industry get lusciously killed in delightful slow motion) is a good bit bloodier, and features an exciting new ah…finger injury closeup.
The most substantial addition is the death of Nite Owl 1. Recall the early scene with Nite Owl 1 drinking beer and discussing old times with Nite Owl 2. Later, Nite Owl 1 gets badly killed by some “knot head” thugs. Nite Owl 2 sees the news on TV in a bar and would you believe it, who’s sitting right next to him, but a knot head. We’re treated to Nite Owl 2, also known as Dan of the Chevy Chase appearance and questionable libido, beating the unholy shit out of the knot head, including closeups of broken teeth floating out of a shredded mouth on a river of blood.
Now me, I could have lived without that shit. I can enjoy movie violence. I can even enjoy excessive movie violence, because there are times when over-the-top gore can improve the scene. Think of some of the bloodier moments in Shaun of the Dead. They’re hilarious. But how did the knot head’s unfortunate dental injury make the film Watchmen any better?
On the other hand, there’s a new scene that’s quite good, with Laurie/Silk Spectre 2 getting interrogated by military meanies and escaping with a zealous application of cunning and martial arts. Her character needed an extra smidgeon of cool, and this scene brought it.
Filming Watchmen must have come up with many built-in chances to fail. First of all, there’s simply too much content in the graphic novel to fit into a film. Zack Snyder (who directed 300) was always going to have to cut something that would upset somebody, but he chose well. Secondly, the concept of a world-ending nuclear exchange between the USA and the Soviet Union was a terrifying living reality back when this story was set, and was published. Now the Soviet Union is gone, and our terrors come in different shapes. For the dangers it avoided, Watchmen is all the greater an accomplishment.
My central problem with Watchmen is this: The movie makes great demands of its audience, beating the shit out of us with gruesome violence, frequent flashbacks you have to keep in their chronological order, incredible visual density, lots and lots of story arcs, and a three-hour running length. At the end, the punchline is, “Many millions get killed, instead of EVERYONE getting killed. Hooray! Also, your favorite character gets killed.” Yep, except for The Comedian, who dies in the opening scene, all the main characters survive except Rorschach. Oh, and all the other millions and millions of world citizens.
I wonder if anyone makes a Rorschach plush doll. I kind of like the idea of Rorschach being rendered in the form of a cuddly soft toy, because if any character in literary history needs a hug more than Rorschach, I can’t say who it is. I would hug him and pet him and…try to convince him that such a stubborn refusal to compromise, while frequently noble, can sometimes lead to negative results.
Finally, ever notice at the end, when New York is being blown up, they show the prison psychiatrist who interviewed Rorschach and his briefcase pops open, spilling his ink blots. There’s a closeup of the briefcase clasp and its 3-digit combination, ‘300.’