Watchmen Extras

Since receiving the movie version of Watchmen on Blu-ray, I’ve been going through the extras slowly but surely. The moderately hyped, ridiculously titled ‘Maximum Movie Mode’ is pretty nifty, even if it fails to say anything interesting about the movie in three hours of audio-visual commentary, image galleries, text overlays, and picture-in-picture videos. Like the movie, the technique is far more impressive than the ultimately shapeless content it provides.

The second-disc featurettes are unsurprisingly superficial as well. The best one is probably a half-hour documentary-lite titled “The Phenomenon: The Comic that changed Comics,” which briefly introduces some of the most obvious points of the book while singing its praises in nonstop hyperbole. This may be considered an easily palatable introduction to the book for people who haven’t read it (and honestly: how many people buying this Blu-ray are unfamiliar with the comic book?). But in drawing its commentary on the film from the likes of Malin Akerman, Zack Snyder, Dave Gibbons, and a parade of DC Comics executives, it’s not exactly providing the kind of insight that would make this stuff interesting to the fans for whom this was most likely intended. Some of the most cringe-worthy sound bites actually come from Time magazine book critic Lev Grossman, who proudly proclaims that Watchmen showed us the underbelly of superhero archetypes, and that we “loved them all the more fore it” (???). The whole thing suffers badly from the absence, both in body and in spirit, of Alan Moore, whose fundamental authorship is consistently undervalued, while a constant source of annoyance is the frequent use of the god-awful ‘motion comic’ version of the book (a DVD release that stupidly animates the panels from the book, supplemented by some absolutely terrible voice casting).

Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there, as the 26-minute “Real Superheroes: Real Vigilantes” combines endless scenes from the film with Discovery Channel-type reportage on real-world vigilante, again with commentary from the film’s cast and crew, along with pretentious-as-hell Grossman offering this kind of insight: “They didn’t really have superpowers; they were just dudes wearing costumes. And it makes you think really, really hard about questions of ethics and morality in a way we’re sort of not used to, but Watchmen forced us to.” Wow. I guess Richard Schickel isn’t the only idiot working as a critic for Time magazine…

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