Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut

A compromised pirate themed draft of that bloodied, iconic smiley; key art that proudly and inaccurately boasts 'The Complete Story'; a four disc added-value Blu-Ray box set heaving with various re-edits and flash glide stagings of the original Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons text. It must be the holiday season. Compiled from various antiquated straight-to-market shelf fillers, the juice in this US only set is yet another version of Zack Snyder's feature. This newly compiled 215 minute print of Watchmen finds further time to digress, widening its sphere of interests to include street level news vendor chatter, and a drifting meta-text.

The animated Tales of the Black Freighter movie has been woven into the feature, mostly in isolation. We aren't treated to Gerard Butler voicing bleak, situationally specific introspections over pre-Giuliani New York. Instead the segments are chaptered into the feature on downtime, usually jumping off from a trip to the newsstand. Bleed-in is minimal, the only non-diegetic intrusion comes from an agitated Silk Spectre II, apparently urging the circling Freighter to wind down a little quicker to allow her a character moment. This brief dialogue intrusion highlights something of a tonal mismatch. The inclusion of this animated Freighter adds another less intended layer of deconstruction. Butler rabidly racing through largely undoctored Moore text is an excitement way out of most of live action cast's range. Disappointing then, but not completely without merit.

While for much of the duration the Freighter segments only obliquely contrast the main movie narrative - they tend instead to operate on a pitch black comedic agenda - a place is found for the pitiless conclusion. Inserted immediately prior to Ozymandias' big reveal, the fate of the mariner neatly undercuts any test audience tinkering in the main feature. In this context, the Black Freighter interludes are explicitly and retroactively positioned as Adrian Veidt's unconscious noodling on his mission, granting the character a head-space he is denied elsewhere. Freighter drains Veidt's 'victory' of even the barest sense of triumph, giving the film's conclusion some much needed mutation. The discovery of Rorschach's diary at the right-wing rag headquarters now plays less like a gag, and more like it did in the original comic: a tiny cog springing to life in a deliberate, unknowable machine. The use here of Freighter falls short of Moore and Gibbons' weaving multi-lead commentary, but it does patch a nagging hole in Snyder's interpretation. As ultimate a cut as we're likely to get.

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