The fanboys will weep, but it looks like "The Watchmen" was and is going to remain one of those movies that just couldn't live up to its hype — on screen or on the new DVD.
Released on March 6, the adaptation of the acclaimed distopian graphic novel, which Time magazine once called one of the 20th century's "100 Best English-language novels," hit thousands of theaters harder than a caped crusading body blow. Unfortunately there wasn't much of a follow-up punch.
The reviews were mixed, the fans were disappointed and the box office stumbled, resulting in a haul of just over $182 million worldwide for the $130 million budgeted flick. The hope among the faithful — and nowhere does hope spring eternal like among comic fans — was that the DVD, which was released Tuesday, would right all the wrongs and strengthen the weak links.
There's 24 minutes of new material, including a rather brutal gang killing of one retired superhero, and a bunch of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the new Director's Cut DVD, but none of it really adds up to much in the end. Re-packaged and freshly shampooed, the Zack Synder-helmed blockbuster-that-wasn't still feels too formulaic, still sacrifices story for style and still is crusty when it needs to be clean.
I actually take it quite personally because as a long-time devotee of the 1987 graphic novel and both its creators, artist Dave Gibbons, who participated in the making of the film, and author Alan Moore, who distinctly did not, I am the absolute core demographic for "The Watchmen." Just days before the movie opened, my friend Ric and I virtually swarmed over all the Watchmen "Deluxe Editions," "Making of" and "Art of" books at the display tables at Border's like the two middle-aged fanboys we are.
Our enthusiasm would have been truly sad had it not been for the fact that "The Watchmen" comic was really that good and good art is hard to find.
Not that the movie, or this two-disc release and the five-disc version coming out later this year, is all bad. Not at all, it’s just too small for the big canvas it’s mounted on.
In the end, its opening montage of the alternative America encapsulates its beauty and flaws. Underneath Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin,” the back-story of masked vigilantes, an endless Nixon Presidency and nuclear terror spirals out this tale of a world gone so very wrong.
It’s great, but it’s a rock video. A rock video with extremely high production values, but a rock video nonetheless, which might say a lot more about our expectations of art today than we might like.
So, in a busy world where good art isn't easy to come by and extended rock videos masquerade as movies, here's the deal — you can spend over three hours on this DVD or you can watch the 3:15 minute Synder directed video for "My Chemical Romance's" cover of Dylan's f"Desolation Row" and get all the same tricks and treats condensed.
Or, for real nutritional value, you could pick up the original "Watchmen" graphic novel.
Because good art is hard to find, but great art … well, I saw it on a display table at Border's a few months back and I bet they have a couple of copies still hanging around.