DVD Review HTF DVD REVIEW: Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic

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  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer

    Feb 20, 2001
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    Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic

    Directed By: Jake S. Hughes

    Starring: Tom Stechschulte

    Studio: Warner Brothers

    Year: 2009

    Rated: Unrated (recommended for mature audiences)

    Film Length: 325 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 16:9

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Release Date: March 3, 2009

    The acclaimed graphic novel gets the "Motion Comic" treatment. This was originally released as a series of downloads available through iTunes, all of which have now been compiled into a single two-disc DVD release just in time to tie-in with the theatrical release of the live action movie adaptation.

    The Film

    Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic adapts, or perhaps more accurately, re-purposes the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. As is his policy, Alan Moore declined to be credited in this adaptation. The story, set in an alternate 1980s USA, revolves around the mystery surrounding the murder of a former costumed super-hero known as "The Comedian". This murder mystery provides a launching pad for a complex multi-generational tale of superheroes. Getting to know the characters while discovering their back stories and psychology is as much the point of the piece as the narrative thrust, so the less said in a synopsis the better.

    The "motion comic" presentation is more or less the comic book equivalent of a book on tape. The actual comic book art is manipulated with zooms, pans, limited animation, and special effects. As examples of the effects, Dr. Manhattan's irradiated blue body has a constant light static effect applied to it and Rorshach's inkblot mask morphs continuously into different shapes. In adapting the comic art, even the dialog balloons and narrative text are left intact and displayed on screen. Like a book on tape, all of the dialog and narration is handled by a single performer, in this case, Tom Stechschulte. This works well most of the time, although his readings of some of the female characters can be a bit unintentionally amusing. Music and occasional sound effects are also added to the mix. One could also look at it as a somewhat more sophisticated update of the approach used in the 1960s for comics-themed shows like "The Marvel Superheroes", although that show used different voice actors for each character and took more editorial liberties with the source material.

    The adaptation is completely faithful to the comics, even to the point of being divided up into the same twelve chapters. I noticed no glaring omissions or editorial liberties. It is all there, only lightly abridged, for the viewer to enjoy if for some reason they are averse to reading the story in its original book form. I personally do not see the appeal of viewing it this way versus reading the book, but it remains a terrific story well told in this altered format, so knock yourself out if you are into this sort of thing.

    The Video

    The film is presented on disc via a transfer and encoding that fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. While I noticed few motion artifacts in the limited animation and pans, there were some still frame artifacts that looked like stationary mosquito noise around high contrast lines such as the text in boxes. This suggests that the frames might have been scanned from a sub-optimal compressed source. Other than that, colors were solid and the limited amounts of motion and special effects were well rendered.

    The Audio

    The only audio option is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which is clear and effective, while normally focusing things in the front hemisphere. There is not a lot of activity in the surrounds and LFE.

    The Extras

    When disc one is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with the following series of skippable promos. All are presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed as appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound unless otherwise indicated below:
    • Warner Blu-Ray Promo (Dolby Digital 5.1 - 1:09)
    • Trailer for Watchmen theatrical film (2:21)
    • Video game promo for Watchmen themed game (official title never identified in promo, but likely the "Watchmen: The End is Nigh" download game) (:38)
    • Trailer for animated Wonder Woman DTV movie (1:08)

    There are no identified extras accessible from the menu of disc one.

    When disc two is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with a promo for the animated DTV Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter based on the "comic within the comic" that was excised from the Watchmen theatrical feature adaptation. It runs 61 seconds and is presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

    The only extra accessible from the special features menu of disc two is a Wonder Woman Preview. It runs ten minutes and 25 seconds and is presented in 4:3 video letterboxed to 16:9. This preview of the upcoming Wonder Woman direct to video release, which will apparently harken back to her classic origin story by William Moulton Marsden, offers up interviews with key creative talent involved with the production. We also get a few peeks at storyboards and other material. On camera interview participants include voice actors Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, and Virginia Madsen. Additionally, we hear from DC Comics President and Publisher Paul Levitz, DC Comics Senior VP and Executive Editor Dan Didio, DC Comics Senior VP Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, Producer Bruce Timm, Director Lauren Montgomery, and Writer Michael Jelenic.


    The DVDs are packaged in a standard Amaray-sized case with a hinged tray allowing it to accommodate both discs. Each disc has six of the 12 chapters, with each 25-30 minute chapter accessible either individually or via a "Play All" function.

    Inside the case are three paper inserts. A "Hollywood Movie Money" coupon good towards US$7.50 towards a ticket to see "Watchmen" at participating theaters (does not include AMC theaters). A 2-sided promo insert advertises the Watchmen book available in three flavors (softcover, hardcover, and "Absolute Edition") and the "Watchmen: The End is Nigh" video game. A third insert promotes Warner Blu-Ray titles.


    Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic repurposes the original comic art into a limited animation format. Fans of the comic will be pleased that the story is not altered in any way, but they are unlikely to get anything out of this presentation they could not also get by simply reading the book. That being said, it remains an excellent narrative well told. On DVD, its presentation is solid, although somewhat marred by some stationary mosquito noise around high contrast edges. The only advertised extra is a behind the scenes look at the forthcoming Wonder Woman animated DTV movie, although some of the promos for future Watchmen-themed theatrical feature, video, and game projects will be of interest to fans of the comic.


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