I’ve already reviewed Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen, ” specifically the director’s cut, in my typically way-too-verbose style at https://trashfilmguru.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/oh-what-a-lucky-geek-i-am-i-got-to-see-the-directors-cut-of-zack-synders-watchmen-in-the-theater/ , so I’ll refrain from going into heavy depth about it here again to save both your sanity and mine. Suffice to say, I was all over this new 5-disc DVD (your host hasn’t made the Blu-Ray leap yet) box set the day it came out, and while I find it a mixed package and even something of a missed opportunity, I’m generally pretty pleased with it.
First off, the “book-style” packaging is great, and it looks sharp on your shelf. Does that matter? Ultimately, no, but whatever. It’s a cool-looking product. It also can be had for a pretty reasonable price. I got it off Amazon brand new for $26.99. So that’s another plus. But what of the content of this impressive-looking, reasonably-priced box? If you’ve already got the director’s cut on DVD, is it worth a “double-dip,” as the industry lingo goes?
Well, that depends on how big a “Watchmen” fan you are. The only major difference here is that you get about 15 more minutes of film, with the animated (and very cool) “Tales of the Black Freighter” material added in, as well as some establishing footage around each animated sequence involving the newsvendor and the kid reading the comic. If you’re a hardcore “Watchmen” fan you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and if you’re clueless as to what it is my blathering here is exactly in reference to, then honestly you don’t need this “Ultimate Cut” box set at all.
There’s been some criticism that the “Black Freighter” stuff kind of slows down the pace of the film and doesn’t mesh in too terribly well, but I don’t buy that. It seems like a perfectly worth addition to me. The flick honestly never lags, even at the just-over-three-and-a-half-hour running time of the “ultimate cut.” Plus, you get two full feature-length commentaries, one from directory Snyder and the other from Dave Gibbons, co-creator and illustrator of the original comic (as usual, Alan Moore is nowhere to be found, having washed his hands of all Hollywood adaptations of his work). Snyder’s commentary is highly informative, moves along at a good clip, and is a pleasure to listen to. Gibbons is a little more subdued and his commentary lags in spots as it’s clear he’s just sort of watching it and taking it all in. It’s still a worthwhile enough way to spend over three and a half hours of your time, but it’s definitely the less essential of the two commentaries to check out, and probably only of interest to serious devotees and/or completists.
And speaking of serious devotees and/or completists, that’s kind of where this set falls short. The second disc is a nice selection of extras totaling over two hours, but there are some things missing. We get the same behind-the-scenes featurettes “ported over” from the previous director’s cut release, plus a nice lengthy new one, and the faux-documentary “Under the Hood” that was originally issued as part of the “Tales of the Black Freighter” single-disc release, but we don’t get the full “Black Freighter” story by itself without interruption that we got with that earlier stand-alone disc. This isn’t the end of the world as “Black Freighter” works best when cut into small segments and watching the whole thing in one go makes a person realize that it is, in actuality, a rather flimsy little story. It has much more impact in “pseudo-serialized,” if you will, format. But the full, uninterrupted version is about a minute or so longer than the segmented version that’s in the “ultimate cut” of the film. Again, probably only if interest to the anal retentive completist (who? me?), but still worth a mention.
Another item die-hard will probably regret Warner Brothers not including is the interactive video commentary from Snyder that’s on the Blu-Ray version of the director’s cut. I haven’t seen this myself yet, but i hear it’s pretty awesome and he goes into great depth while delivering essentially an annotated visual guide to the film. Warners could quite easily have found a way to include this material in stand-alone fashion on both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions of the “ultimate cut,” but have chosen, for whatever reason, not to do so. Something tells me that a “Super-Duper, Seriously Ultimate Cut,” or a “Complete Watchmen,” might be in the works for next Christmas.
The third disc is yet another digital copy of the theatrical cut, which was already included with the Director’s Cut, and is totally superfluous. Why they bothered with it I have no idea.
Finally, the fourth and fifth discs comprise the “Watchmen Complete Motion Comic,” a pretty cool little semi-animated, full-length “video book” of all twelve issues of the comic itself. I rather like it, but again, it was issued as a stand-alone release some time ago, and here they haven’t even repackaged it to fit in with the overall visual look of the box or anything, it’s the same release as before in the same packaging. Nice to have if you don’t already, but absolutely redundant if you do, and good luck getting more than a couple bucks for your now-unnecessary stand-alone “Motion Comic” release on eBay.
So there you have it, the “Watchmen Ultimate Cut” box set in a nutshell. A little bit of extremely worthwhile new material, plenty of stuff that’s already been released previously, and some stuff they just plain missed out on ilcuding, probably quite intentionally. I don’t think this will be the final “Watchmen” DVD/Blu-Ray release, as it’s in no way absolutely comprehensive, so look for a set containing the Ultimate Cut, the director’s cut, another frigging digital copy disc of the theatrical cut, and all the bonus material that’s out there at some point in the future. Like I said, next Christmas is probably a pretty safe bet.
You do get more than enough bang for your buck, though, provided you’re a die-hard completist and want to see as close an adapatation of the comic itself as is probably humanly possible. In short, it’s a must-have for hardcore “Watchmen” devotees, but anyone and everyone else can safely take a pass.