Watchmen, the long-awaited screen adaption of the Alan Moore-Dave Gibbons comic book series, came to DVD and Blu-Ray this week. With both a director’s cut from 300 filmmaker Zak Snyder and the theatrical version of the movie in stores (and online to download, and on your TV for on-demand, and all the other wonderful things that big releases get nowadays), it’s probably a little tough for the casual fan (or even a hardcore fan who’s never seen the movie in cinemas) to decide what’s the best buy if you’re going to own it on DVD.
Go for the director’s cut. No question. Do not pass “Go.”
Aside from the fact that the movie—based on the graphic novel and set in an alternate, dystopian 1985 where Nixon is still president and a serial killer appears to be targeting masked vigilantes—was phenomenal, and the fact that if you’re reading an article here at Comic Related, you’re clearly a comic book fan and can use more Watchmen in your life, there’s the fact that everyone’s favorite character—Rorschach—ended up on the cutting room floor way more than any other character, and way more than you would expect.
Presumably because three minutes at a time of “Rorschach’s Journal” monologues did little to advance the action, and weren’t exactly thrill-packed for viewers who weren’t familiar with the story already, the director’s cut restores a lot of Rorschach material that wasn’t in the theatrical version of the movie. This, of course, begs the question of who the hell was in charge of editing the film. Would you cut Wolverine out of an X-Men movie? Clearly whoever was making these decisions had never read the comic or talked to the average Watchmen fan. Rorschach was bound to be (and was—he’s Freddy Krueger now, after all) the breakout character of the film, and with the theatrical cut already tipping in at around two and a half hours, it seems like a no-brainer that another five or ten minutes wouldn’t kill anyone if it meant more screen time for the character destined to become the film’s icon.
There’s also very little that’s disconcerting in the added scenes. They flow well—often better than the “cut” versions of the same sequences—and add to the narrative of the film. Overall, I think it’s safe to say that Watchmen: Director’s Cut is a prize for everyone. It makes more sense than the theatrical version of the movie, a boon to the uninitiated, and for fans of the graphic novel and the original movie, there’s extra content, added character beats and depth that was lost in the name of brevity—brevity that they never got to begin with.
As someone who said at the time that Watchmen was possibly the best superhero movie ever made, I stand by it—but implore anyone watching the film for the first time to forget about the version you missed in theaters and pick up the slightly longer version of the movie. It’s fully worth the extra five bucks and twenty minutes.