Lightning Review: Watchmen The Complete Motion Comic Blu-ray

Who watches the Watchmen? I watched Watchmen (The Complete Motion Comic).

Price: $US35 Blu-ray, $US30 DVD

So how are we watching Watchmen on Blu-ray before it's even hit theatres? It's actually the motion comic version that's been available on iTunes for some time but has just been released to DVD and Blu-ray this week.

It's an interesting idea that's being adopted by Marvel and others—add a bit of motion to the original art and a comic book becomes a movie. Does it work for Watchmen?

Actually, yes, yes it works pretty well I'd say.
Even though I'm more of a comic book guy, seeing Dave Gibbons' original art blown up on a 1080p big screen is a fantastic experience. Of course images are cropped, zoomed and panned for the widescreen format, but you can literally freeze any single frame of the six hours and capture a beautiful, poster-worthy still. That, in itself, is absurdly cool.

Animation is for the most part tasteful and smooth—if you didn't know Watchmen was a comic, you might just believe that it was always meant for television. But there's one major design flaw - the art is ALWAYS in motion. Either a camera is zooming or panning, or characters are moving this way or that. It sounds like a small point, but I found myself getting a bit motion sick watching the disc...and I don't often become motion sick with games or television.

Some scenes do work very, very well with slight animation, though. When Dr. Manhattan becomes Dr. Manhattan, the famous panel is done incredible justice on screen. Or when Rorschach first interrogates a bar's worth of patrons by breaking fingers for intel, I'd argue that the well-planned layering of movements crowd enhances the original art. But when Night Owl takes out his ship for a midnight cruise, the epic nature of his craft, bursting through a cloud of steam, is undermined by simplistic animation.
And then there's the small matter of voice acting. In short, there isn't any. The motion comic is merely narrated by actor/audiobook reader Tom Stechschulte. Predictably, his voices for each character were often so similar that, especially as lips do not move on screen, I couldn't tell who was supposed to be talking. Oh, and have you ever listened to a rape scene between a man and a man acting like a woman? The lines lose some punch.

Buyers of the $US30 DVD set will be disappointed by no real extras, while the $US35 Blu-ray version lacks a menu system of merit and only includes a brief 3-minute behind-the-scenes of the Watchmen film by Dave Gibbons alongside an appreciated digital copy (PC only). You also score $US7.50 off seeing the movie in theaters.

I'd still recommend people start with the actual Watchmen graphic novel. But if you never learned to read or just appreciate big, pretty pictures, the Watchmen Complete Motion Comic may be worth a viewing. At minimum, it's a good use for your HDTV during your next hipster party.

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