THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE 5DVD US-ONLY ULTIMATE CUT : NOT THE 1-DISC, NOT THE 2DVD, NOT THE BLU RAY, NOT ANY OTHER VERSION. THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE 5DVD US-ONLY ULTIMATE CUT. (The UK 2 BR Directors Cut is very good, mind you).
Whether this purchase is worthwhile depends on what you have. Avid fans who bought everything as it was released will benefit only from the commentaries and the extra few seconds integrated back in. If you've bought everything else, the only `new' content is on the first disc ; all you get extra is a fraction of new footage and two commentaries for your big splashout. If you have no release of "Watchmen" at all, or held out, then this is the Big Enchilada, and get it now.
Britain, and the DVD format, get a bum deal. Britain isn't important enough to get the luxurious 5DVD set of "Watchmen : The Ultimate Cut". So in the end, I had to wait until the transatlantic postmen crawled through the snow to deliver this epic, but short-changing set.
THE ULTIMATE CUT
And what a Cut it is. The Ultimate Cut is exactly that : an enormous ambitious film that is, by any standard, a classic. It's not perfect in the slightest, but what it lacks in narrative it makes up in big brass balls. The pacing is often erratic, but then again - so was the original novel - and the small cinematic conceits of pacing and re-ordering of the narrative are for the benefit of the film.
What's different? Most of the "Black Freighter" is integrated back in, alongside some touching dialogue between the two Bernards that turns their previous cinematic incarnation - as two extras - into a symbolically important, wider universe. The "Black Freighter" exists in two or three minute increments spread out through the film as a whole - however the jarring change in visual style, from the rough animation to a pristine CGI-fest - can pull the viewer out of the cinematic trance despite the richness of the parable running in parallel with the main narrative. Overall, as per "The Directors Cut", many scenes are expanded with extra dialogue and nuance. And Everything feels just a little bit more real.
FEATURE DVD 1 :
On the DVD Edition, this disc is crammed with a 215m running time and two commentaries. Technically it's a slight disappointment, there were definite examples of slight blocking and pixellation, albeit only on occasional shots and lasting fractions of seconds. The commentaries are well wortha listen, albeit with a combined running time of over 7 hours, you would expect - and ye shall receive - moments of dead air. Zac Snyder's commentary is more technical than informative, and explains the occasional deviations from Alan Moore's Sacred Canon of work.
Dave Gibbons provides the second commentary, and, as the visual artist, it is fascinating to hear one of the creators thoughts on the work. His track is geared towards the visual, but its still chock full of fascinating nuggets
EXTRAS DVD 2:
The Special Features disc contains everything on the previous TC and DC second-discs, minus a three minute TV News Special. The disc has been reauthored, so the brilliant "Under The Hood Documentary" is included.
The special features themselves? Four half-hour documentaries that micromanage elements of the production, as well as 11 three minute webisodes.
Where the disc does fall down is in that every sense, a film this important, epic and loved deserves a truly loving documentary that chronicles the life of the film : including the numerous failed attempts. There is no equivalent of the enormous, covers-all-bases documentaries that accompany "Blade Runner", "The Alien Quadrology", or even "1941". A film like this deserves beter than a handful of featurettes, even if they do total three hours, they lack the over-arching narrative sense of the importance of this film to those invested in it.
Finally, "Under The Hood" is included, which makes the purchase worthwhile on its own. If you don't already have it.
THEATRICAL CUT DOWNLOAD DVD3 :
Here's a DVD disc you cannot watch on your DVD player, but only download to your computer, only watch on iTunes, and can only download for the first 12 months since it was first released. (That is, before 3rd November 2010). Worse than useless, to be honest.
COMPLETE MOTION COMIC DVDs 4+5:
Lets get the usual clichés out of the way : Unfilmable. Epic. Too long. This proves them all : it is a vaguely animated attempt at telling every frame and panel of the original comic, with scant animation that resembles primitive `South Park', and follows the structure of the original graphic novel exactly. An exact transference of one medium to another simply does not work in the majority. It is a brave flawed experiment that is certainly not the way you should experience Watchmen. Not only that, but the single male narrator provides the female characters a considerably more gruff demeanour, and it is often difficult to discriminate between say, Ozymandius, Roarsarch, and Dr Manhattan, when they are all voiced by the same person. For heavens sake, if you haven't got it, read the original book
Released in the US as a Region 1 only uber mega box set "Watchmen : The Ultimate Cut" is... exactly that. At 3 hours, 35 minutes, it's not so much a film as the most expensive, and grand, miniseries ever conceived. At it's bum-numbing length, it's practically impossible to sit down and digest in one sitting. This megaset is all the "Watchmen" you will ever need - and plenty you don't. If you have bought the other versions (aside from the standard Theatrical Cut), think long and hard before investing in this. It is by no means perfect, but near enough to comprehensive as to satisfy even the most obsessed Watchman... for now.