I had my issues with Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen (see my review here), but those issues aside, this is a superhero film like nothing you’ve ever seen on the screen before. The idea of costumed superheroes into the real world of global politics wasn’t necessarily new when it was written in the early and is certainly not now, but the execution of the graphic novel pushes every element of the conception to mythic and apocalyptic dimensions while acknowledging the psychosis driving so many of the characters. Watching the film again, this time less wedded to the original graphic novel and more open to the temporal storytelling of the film, I found it a more satisfying experience. And part of that satisfaction comes from the expanded canvas of Zach Snyder’s “Director’s Cut,” which runs 24 minutes longer with added footage that serves character and story rather than spectacle.
The most obvious additions are the death scene of Hollis, the original Nite Owl (it’s a beautifully executed scene that perfectly translates the scene from the novel), and scenes of Nixon and his cabinet contemplating a first strike as the cold war moves closer to going nuclear. (No, the pirate comic is not added back in – and if you saw the abomination that came out as an animated version of “Tales of the Black Freighter” then you’ll be glad its not here – but you do see a few glimpses of the pages of the comic book and the characters around the news stand). But just as enriching are the little character bits laced through the film (especially Rorschach, perfectly embodied by Jackie Earl Haley right down to his throaty, phlegmy “hrrrmmm”), and the added length provides more time to reflect on the characters, their motivation and their fractured psyches: not just the schizoid conviction and moralistic hysteria of Old Testament avenger Rorschach and the sadistic psychosis of The Comedian, a brutal Fascist beating and murdering whoever he can under the facade of patriotism, but the growing disconnection of Dr. Manhattan and quantum logic that makes him both everywhere at once and tied to the moment of human experience, and the God complex and false piety of Ozymandias, who manages to profit from his plan to save mankind while putting on a show of complete altruism and pious regret for the people whose “sacrifices” made his plan possible (aka justification for killing anyone and everyone his plan calls for). It’s more compelling than exciting, a thoughtful film swirling with metaphysics and meta-storytelling, and I find that those dimensions come through even better on home video, which is well suited to slower narratives filled with novelistic detail. The longer cut delivers just that.