Having seen the theatrical cut of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen several times I thought it time I investigate the Director’s Cut version of the movie – not the Ultimate Cut which adds another 26 minutes on top of the 186 minute version I’m discussing here.
As the film that must have been a major contributory factor in Snyder landing the job of directing Man of Steel it is odd quite how different the two films are, for films based on comic book origins.
While Man of Steel predominantly tries to place its super-characters in a ‘real’ world, from the start Watchmen, taking its cue from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons tour-de-force comic, is very much set in a stylised world of mid-80s America where Nixon is still president and super heroes are real, and it is here that the film finds one of its major triumphs.
In both the plot of the film and the visual style we are one step away from reality and it is this that makes the film work quite so well so that, as well as being a great action movie, it is also able to do the thing that sci-fi does best of reflecting our reality back at us and commenting on it. Ok, so the comic was better placed and poised to include social and political commentary, but, considering when the film was originally released, in 2009 as tensions surrounding Afghanistan, Iraq and terrorism were still major issues, it still has something to say on this, albeit through a slight extra prism, but I am glad they didn’t try and bring the film up to modern-day and stuck with the mid-80s.
Visually the film does a lot to mirror the comics and, while in some movies this seems to lumber them with static moments, Snyder seems to have the feel for this just right so we get the feel of the same New York created by Moore and Gibbons, but with a few updates in terms of costume and such that make it a modern motion picture.
The action too reflects this and gives some great, if occasionally extreme, fight scenes and larger set pieces that really satisfy like very few in modern cinema, particularly in the comic book movie genre which has become somewhat stale over the past year or so.
In terms of the director’s cut element here what we get is largely extended scenes and extra character moments that just fill in a few blanks from the original that you wouldn’t notice unless you saw this version, so in that regard it is unessential.
However, we also get a few extra moments of world building and mystery building (particularly regarding one of the ‘heroes’) that do add a little extra, particularly for fans of the comic. The Ultimate Edition combines the Tales of the Black Freighter animation with the film (like the comic book comes into the original source) but I find it hard to see how it would work in such an effective way in the film as it does in the comic so, in a way, I am glad that wasn’t included here.
While Watchmen seems to have been somewhat lost in the shuffle of Batmen, Avengers and Supermen, on reflection, it stands above all of them as a film that really does get what it’s doing and combines the aesthetic of its source material with being a movie and while Snyder’s Superman may have missed the mark, here he more than shows that he gets this genre, possibly more than the producers behind the scenes.
And simply beacuse I love them and love this song, here’s My Chemical Romance’s version of Desolation Row from the movie’s soundtrack: