serious problems with Watchmen - The Complete Motion Comic stem more from the format itself than from its particular
execution. In simplest terms, I can't imagine why watching this DVD would
equal the satisfaction of simply reading the book . . . or, alternately,
viewing the Zack Snyder live-action movie.
It occupies a no man's land
between those two options: neither kinetic enough to match a proper movie
nor personal enough to match the intimacy of the graphic novel. Again,
however, that's a conceptual critique, akin in many ways to dismissing
Disney movies because you just don't like cartoons. The
Watchmen motion comic attains its
stated purpose well enough, and while it can be frustrating in the extreme,
it still holds interest for those of a particular mindset.
The disc itself covers all twelve chapters of the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons
comic. Every frame of every page is accurately rendered onscreen, with the
dialogue performed by vocal actor Tom Stechschulte. It doesn't include the
heavy post-script text at the end of each issue, but the titles all appear
at the proper points, and each chapter closes with the same quote that Moore
and Gibbons presented. The frames are roughly animated, but retain the
strict composition of Gibbons' art: a fist will slide awkwardly up to a jaw,
for instance, or the amorphous mask of the vigilante Rorschach will shift
and change amid an otherwise static close-up.
The vocal work adopts a similar no-nonsense technique.
Audiobook listeners will be familiar with the process: a single actor
provides the voice of each character, distinguishing them solely by tone and
inflection. The graphic novel used dialogue almost exclusively, so there's
no narrative to contend with . . . just Stechschulte and his version of the
figures. The actor is deft, but some voices work better than others (using a
man to enunciate the Silk Spectre and her mother proves distracting in the
The overall effect is much like having someone read the
graphic novel to you: in this case, with pictures to complete the package.
It again beggars the question of how such an experience improves upon
absorbing the book at your own pace and in a way which doesn't limit your
imagination. Its reverence is unquestionable - woven into the very fabric of
the endeavor - and as a comparison to Snyder's film, it retains an
The Snyder version is remarkably loyal in its own way, and looking at the
motion comic side-by-side with it demonstrates both its proximity to the
source and the necessary ways in which it diverges. But that still doesn't
overcome the built-in flaws of the motion comic or make it enjoyable as
anything more than a novelty. Despite its five-and-a-half hour running time
(more than twice as long as the theatrical film), it loses much of the
visceral excitement and human essence produced by the Snyder version. As an
academic exercise, it has its charms, but as a stand-alone project, it
simply can't compete.
THE DISC: Two discs contain the entire motion
comic. The DVD chapters adhere strictly to the twelve-issue format of the
book - which makes "picking it up" and "setting it down" extremely easy -
and the transfer retains the palate from the novel extremely closely.
Unfortunately, the garish colors (emulating John Higgins' original efforts)
work far better on the page than they do on the screen, a fact which the
film's sharpness illustrates only too well. The discs are completely starved
for additional material. Beside a few previews, they feature nothing but a
sneak peek at the new Wonder Woman DVD:
the same one that ran with Gotham
Knight over six months ago.
WORTH IT? Likely not. There are numerous
alternative options available - either on the big screen or at the bookstore
- and if you need a Watchmen
DVD fix, you'll probably be better served with Tales of the Black
Freighter later this month.
RECOMENDATION: Strictly for
completists and those looking for a more effective way of measuring Snyder's
film against the book. Everyone else should save their money for a copy of
the original comic or another look at the theatrical movie.
- Rob Vaux