DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Watchmen - Ultimate Cut

Friday 25 December 2009

Watchmen - Ultimate Cut

Watchman – Ultimate Cut (2009) dir. Zach Snyder
Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Matthew Goode, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and now, the voice of Gerard Butler


By Alan Bacchus

The third edition of the ‘Watchmen’ arrives on Blu-Ray. This time even more expanded into what’s called ‘The Black Freighter’ edition. All fanboys knew this was coming. It was no secret that Zach Snyder had the infamous Black Freighter subplot in his back pocket to appease all the Watchmen purists.

Thus this 213mins version of the film is for the hardest core fans only. I tried to read the graphic novel before watching the film (I got ¾ of the way through) and was dumbfounded as to the purpose of these periodic digressions to a 16th century shipwrecked ship captain racing to beat a nefarious pirate ship to land to before it burns and pillages his home. I didn’t get it in the comic and I didn’t get it in the movie, but it's there as Alan Moore intended.

For good and bad Zach Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’ is a conscientious near photostat version of Alan Moore’s revered novel. Almost everything of the epic, obtuse and seemingly unfilmable novel was included the theatrical version of the film. At times it was intoxicating, Snyder making the more bizarre elements of the book make sense (ie. Dr. Manhattan), and in other moments strangely unsophisticated and dated (ie. The final act James Bond villain-style dialogue).

With the ‘Director’s Cut’ released a couple months ago, more live action deleted scenes were reinstated and now with the Ultimate Cut, the Black Freighter scenes are fully integrated. This plotline is intercut with the main story via a series of transitions through a young boy’s comic book being read at the local cabstand. The subplot is told entirely through animation and voiced by Snyder-alum Gerard Butler.

Standing alone, the journey of the loner ship captain actually works as compelling animated drama. I’m sure Watchmen fanatics can tell me how it links thematically to the big picture, but from these lay-eyes it serves no purpose whatsoever in the context of the complete film. Not only does it not work, it further decreases the power of the glorious theatrical cut even more than the director’s cut did.

Moving back one stage in alternate versions of this film, the Director’s Cut in my humble opinion royally fucked up the remarkable pace of the second act of the theatrical version. The scenes from the Dr. Manhattan subplot and his origin story all the way to Rorschach’s prison breakout represented a perfectly constructed and paced sequence which anchored the second act and elevated the film to a transcendental higher state of cinematic nirvana. The reinserted deleted scenes chopped up this sequence thus halting the film’s momentum and thus the most powerful segment in the film. The introduction of the Black Freighter dulls this impact even further.

And so, the theatrical version remains for me the real cut of the film, liberally cutting out the chaff which worked for the novel but not for cinema, and in my mind, improved the book to create a wholly different but equally unique piece of fanboy art.

'Watchmen Ultimate Cut' is available on Blu-Ray from Warner Bros' Home Entertainment

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