Is The Watchmen Director’s Cut Any Better Than The Watchmen Theatrical Cut?

By | July 23rd, 2009
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

No. No it is not.

That’s the short of it. The long of it is that all of the complaints that originally existed with the theatrical cut are still there. I mean, that should be a given. However, now we are given an additional 30 minutes of footage that didn’t really need to be put into the movie. There is only one scene in the whole extended cut that I really enjoyed, and that is the Comedian talking to Silk Spectre II after lighting Ozy’s map on fire. This scene helped the film bring out just how sad it is that the Comedian is her father rather than the half assed way they presented it the first time through.

However, when we had heard about the Director’s Cut, we all assumed that there would be more than just that. To be honest, I wanted more scenes at the news stand. Sure, Black Freighter wasn’t in the movie, but those scenes are just as important at showing the climate of the world. The discussions had about are pivotal to the story. So what, do we have to wait until December when the Black Freighter is in the film to see those scenes? Hey, guess what Zack Snyder – that’s not cool. You’re jerking the fans around on a chain, and we don’t appreciate it. Your adaptation of 300, tohugh flawed, was at least more accurate than this. Did you really have to go on record and state a million times how accurate the movie was? Especially when you couldn’t even put a monster squid in it? Color me even more disappointed the second time around than I was the first.

So, since I don’t want to type up another long article about how much I didn’t like Watchmen, I’ve gone and found my old Watchmen article (that wasn’t posted on this site) and copy/pasted it here for your browsing. You’ll notice I talk at the end about how I plan to buy the version of the DVD coming out in December, but I would like to go on record that my opinion on that has definitely changed. Now, unless I have some kind of surplus of money, I’ll pass.


Call me self important and egotistical if you will, but I believe that most of the people currently reviewing the feature film adaptation of Watchmen don’t matter, and their commentary is idiotic and pointless, whereas my opinion, knowledge, and credentials make me an invaluable speaker about the quality of the film. Keep in mind I own three different copies of Watchmen: I have the original issues which I hunted down, I have my beat up copy of the graphic novel, and I have a mint condition copy of Absolute Watchmen. Furthermore, above my bed I have a painting of Rorschach, and I have a set of mint 1987 pins that were released along with the original issues. I’ve read this book and recommend it to people so many times. It is with all this in mind that I believe that I am an authoritative speaker on the film.

Before the film came out, I was talking with someone at work. We were talking about the two big superhero movies of 2009 – X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Watchmen. He asked me which film, if I could only see one, would I see? I said without any hesitation that I would pick the Wolverine movie. When he asked why, I simply said, “The Watchmen movie could be God awful, but I’ll always have the book.” Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can say I easily made the right choice.

In case you don’t want to read the reasons why, I’ll state right off the bat that I did not like the movie. If that’s all you wanted to know, then there you go. I don’t recommend you go see it. I think you should go get a copy of the book and read it at least twice, once to know the story and a second time very slowly to appreciate it for what it really is.

Continued below

So here’s the thing: What annoys me most is that Zack Snyder repeatedly bragged that the adaptation was faithful to the core, and he went above and beyond to show the fans this is true. We saw pictures of sets and characters, and for the most part all the cast was well received. We had reports from people who saw early screenings and test footage of the film completely praising it. Kevin Smith, who many consider a nerd God, said that it was f****** astounding, as well as “Remember that feeling of watching Sin City on the big screen and being blown away by what a faithful translation of the source material it was, in terms of both content and visuals? Triple that, and you’ll come close to watching Watchmen. Even Alan Moore might be surprised at how close the movie is to the book.” I believe I can say with quite confidence that if Alan Moore ever saw this film, he’d have a s*** fit so large that he might just rip his giant beard right off his chin. V For Vendetta was a more “faithful” adaptation, despite it’s modern day thematic update, and he hated that, so I can only imagine what Watchmen would do the poor old cranky man.

Now, we knew the movie wasn’t going to be a perfect adaptation. There is no inclusion of The Tales Of The Black Freighter (though we will get that at a later date). The supplemental material that appeared at the end of every comic can’t be translated to the big screen, but Snyder did his best with the opening credits, and I enjoyed seeing the “history” of the Minutemen. We also knew that the ending of the movie was different, but that it “worked.” That and the costume changes were supposedly all we were going to lose. It turns out, however, that it was much more than that. I’ll forgive the opening scene of the movie being different from the book because it was actually quite well filmed, but there is a point where you begin to completely miss the point of the story and it’s underlying messages. There are many differences between the book and the movie in which Snyder’s changes simply miss the point. Here are a few examples:

1. When Rorschach discusses how it was that he lost his mind, he tells the tale of hunting a kidnapper and finding the charred remains of a little girl. In the book, he lights the kidnapper’s house on fire, chains him to the furnace, and gives him a hacksaw, then waits outside to see if he makes it out alive. In the movie, he kills the man by repeatedly slicing him in the head with a giant knife. This COMPLETELY misses the point of Rorschach’s descent into a brutal vigilante. He is not simply some thug. There is a method to his madness, and just having him cut up a guy takes away from that.

2. The way Jon Osterman becomes Dr. Manhattan is by going back into a test chamber to retrieve a watch. In the film, it’s his watch. In the book, he’s going to get the watch that he fixed and that belongs to the woman he loves. By going to get his own watch, we see nothing about the character. The whole idea was he was going back for Janey Slater, not himself. Furthermore, she couldn’t stand and watch him be torn apart in the chamber which further adds to the dramatic elements of that particular scene… at least, in the book.

3. When Dr. Manhattan leaves Earth, it’s a process of embarrassment (to an extent). In the movie, he simply leaves after an upsetting TV interview in which he learns he “gave people cancer.” In the book, he freaks out on live TV and the media harasses him so much that he decides to leave the Earth. However, he makes a stop in Arizona to collect an old photograph of him as a man – the only photograph of him as a man. In the movie, he simply has the photo with him at all times. Jon needed to go back to find the picture because it was his last attachment to humanity (aside from Laurie).

Continued below

4. When people are remembering the Comedian at his funeral, Ozymandias remembers the first and last meeting of the Crimebusters. In the movie, Ozymandias is the leader of the group, the one who organized it. In the book, it’s the last member (besides the Comedian) of the Minutemen, Captain Metropolis. This scene is incredibly important because at the end of it, after the Comedian lights the chart on fire, Captain Metropolis starts screaming about how they could have saved the world, and the scene ends on Ozymandias staring at the plan contemplatively before it returns to him at the funeral. This is clearly an important spark for events to come… at least, in the book it is.

There are other little things I could mention, such as Silhoutte being openly gay in the movie and a closet lesbian in the book and that’s importance, or the lack of explanation of how Rorschach got his mask in the first place which gives more backstory into his character as a child, or how no one was supposed to see Manhattan kill Rorschach, or even the complete randomness of Bubastis in the film, but I feel many people will say I’m nitpicking. To me, however, this isn’t nitpicking, this is just taking Snyder up on his word of a faithful adaptation.

Furthermore, Zack Snyder being the “visionary director” that he is, took far too many artistic liberties with certain scenes of the movie. He put a high emphasis on violence and gore when there doesn’t need to be. One scene that stuck out particularly in my mind was when Manhattan was telling of his past, there is a scene where he kills some men about to shoot at him. In the book this is a one panel ordeal. In the movie, the scene drags on because Snyder felt the need to film the guts hanging on the ceiling. That’s just not necessary. A lot of the extra violence Snyder added wasn’t necessary at all. For all the violence that exists in the book, it’s really not that much of a focus at all. There’s also the highly upped sex factor Snyder put to the movie, completely reversing the two sex scenes of the book. The first sex scene is supposed to be long and awkward – in the movie it’s short and goofy. The second sex scene is supposed to be short but drive the point home – in the movie it’s long, features a lot of nudity and probably one of the dumbest ideas for a soundtrack I’ve ever heard. If Snyder REALLY wanted to make a serious adaptation to the greatest graphic novel of all time, did he really think that playing “Hallelujah” when Dan Dreiberg is able to get it up appropriate?

Now, there were good elements of the film. Jackie Earle Haley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were perfect in their roles. Patrick Wilson was also a great casting choice. They all played their characters true to the book and it made me very happy. But when you have a main cast of 5 characters, they all have to be good in order to pull off an ensemble performance, and Matthew Goode as Ozymandias was just God awful. The character of Ozymandias in the book and the movie are two very different entities. Ozymandias is supposed to be a charming and charismatic genius, but in the movie he’s just a well tempered playboy who happens to have a twisted vision. One of the best moments of the book is at the end where Ozymandias watches his wall of televisions and screams “I DID IT!”, and an even better part of the ending is when Ozy has a talk with Dr. Manhattan where he asks if he did the right thing. Matthew Goode’s Ozymandias was just so shifty and villainous, if you didn’t know he was the villain before the movie was out then I feel sorry for you. The whole point, however, was that even if he was the “villain” of the story, he was not a villain in the traditional sense. He merely just looked down on the rest of the world and thought they needed him to save it. The movie does a horrible job of translating this.

Continued below

The last thing that really upset me and that I felt needed a paragraph was the final twist to the Comedian, which is the fact he is Laurie’s father. I think the biggest pain to me was the way in which it was shown in the movie. I felt nothing. In the book, Laurie’s hatred of the Comedian is built up and built up until the climactic scene of her past in which we see her confronting him and yelling at him in a large crowded room about how he tried to rape her mother. He tearfully replies, “Only once.” It’s an amazing scene when she realizes what he meant by that. The movie completely loses it by merely having Laurie witness a fight between her mother and her step-father. It’s not as powerful and I would go so far as to say it’s entirely meaningless. This is a moment in which I believe they took too much liberty in the story telling and fell flat. Parts of the plot, unless you know them before hand, seem off in context of the film as well as off putting. This was one of them. I felt that the revelation in the movie of the Comedian’s paternity was just a moment that went by as any other moment, not something that makes your jaw drop like in the book. Same with the reveal at the end of all that Ozymandias has done. It just doesn’t come across as well or as powerful. This leaves me most disappointed of all.

I am well aware that one day, a super deluxe uncut version of the film will be released in which many of the things missing now supposedly will be back in the film. Things that are important to me such as the death of Hollis Mason and the inclusion of dialogue between Bernard and Bernie/Bernard and Walter. It is of no question in my mind that I will be purchasing this DVD as long as it includes the Black Freighter and I can have a 4-5 hour epic to watch. I would enjoy that, even with it’s differences. However, I can’t help but sit and think about what Terry Gilliam said, that ultimately, Watchmen is unfilmable. Alan Moore is right – there are things done in the book that just do not translate to any other medium. One of my favorite things about the book is the high amounts of metaphors, such as the scene with Dr. Manhattan being interviewed on TV and Laurie and Dan getting into a street fight at the same time. The way this works out in the book is so phenomenal to look at, and the metaphors shown through the use of the Tales Of The Black Freighter are what make Watchmen a timeless and peerless piece of literature. Watchmen did things and does things that comics to this day do not do, and I’m sure Zack Snyder is a fan of the book, but I am wondering if he really understood it when he read it.

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."