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9.4 25 10
FanFix August 16, 2012 15063
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Watchmen Midnight is a 3.5 hour magnum opus and easily my new preferred way to watch the Watchmen (which I haven't seen since theaters).

Much of the stated purpose is to bring the film closer to the original graphic novel, and it achieves that in spades. Re-editing the film so that the Black Freighter and pieces of the Under the Red Hood documentary at the end of every chapter, the depth and density of the novel and it's themes are fully encapsulated. We look back into the past as well as the present, we fully understand this world and the pull of vigilantism on the greatest generation. It's not unlike looking at WW2 and Vietnam, the original minutemen of WW2 era had it cleaner, simpler, good vs. bad, while this new world is gray. The film jettisons some weak pop cultural music choices (Halleluiah and the gratuitous sex scene is gone) to make this whole thing more powerful. Also gone are the feats of superhuman violence, everyone here is human except the one and only super, Dr. Manhattan.

The meta commentary on superheros, along with commentary on media, politics, and society all come to a head far better in this version. Certainly the Black Freighter material still feels superfluous and primarily it's because we rarely see the character who the allegory is about. But once one extends that allegory to represent the world rather than a single character and some neat intercutting with the world helps, it becomes a bit more powerful, but only a bit. The added depth of more scenes with the original Nite Owl, and the history of the superheroes in this world with the mockumentary, show how we move through both the past, present, and future, not unlike Dr. Manhattan, seeing all things at once.

The movie is so much stronger for many of the changes, Jackie Earl Hayley and Jeffrey Dean Morgan stand out the most as the two most bizarre characters, but the rest of the cast is also very strong in their roles. By re-editing the whole sequence on Mars with Silk Spectre and Dr. Manhattan as one sequence rather than intercut with other activities it works far better. And people don't give enough credit to the Dr. Manhattan scenes in general, his origin in particular. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's The Comedian is an enigma, a scary one, a psychopathic killer and rapist that got caught up in his own power and the scenes with him are powerful. And obviously Rorschach, the man who only believes in justice, to the bitter end. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre's relationship is also stronger and in a way sweet, Dan's neuroses really coming through, the only regular guy in this wacky bunch of weirdos. This is an incredibly dense psychological and sociological study of the world of vigilantism and it remains fascinating.

Certainly this film is a bit slower, as we extend a lot of scene and lose some of the action, so from a pacing perspective there's something to be desired. But I loved every minute of it, because it's absolutely so thematically dense, that if you're paying attention there's just so much to see and unravel. The juxtaposition between the Under the Red Hood mockumentary and the present is just so vivid, and the different characters' neuroses and issues - just so beautifully realized. I love this version.

One thing that didn't work for me, were the titles, I didn't like them overlayed in the movie itself. It didn't feel necessary.

Finally the beautiful opening credits are popped in at the end, it's the one choice that I'm not a fan of (especially since we lose The Comedian killing JFK), but I understand it and can appreciate the execution, particularly that now we have the context we review everything that happened that got us to this point, much like Dr. Manhattan.

What a movie. I'll probably try and watch my blu-ray of the Director's Cut at some point to compare as I haven't seen a version of this film since theaters. But thank goodness this version exists!

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