One of the larger criticisms of movies adapted from books, especially comic books, is so much of the character, plot and subtext is lost in translation when adapting the story to a general audience.
When news of Watchmen, probably the most popular graphic novels of all time was slated to become a live-action feature film, fanboys around the web lit up bulletin boards speculating how on Earth would they be able to pull this off. Watchmen is not one story, but a series of subplots, wrapped around the main plot - an enigmatic murder of a retired costumed hero. To make it even more conflicting, there's a completely separate comic book, The Black Freighter wrapped within the book. Watchmen fans were buzzing and practically demanded the essence of their beloved comic not be butchered in Zach Snyder's version.
Warner Premiere's Watchmen: The Motion Comic is a modestly animated, unabridged version of the book. The DVD is true to the novel and breaks the story down into twelve chapters on two discs. Every single frame of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's graphic novel has been brought to life with seemingly low-tech finesse reminiscent of cartoons from the mid 60's circa Marvel's Spider-man, The Incredible Hulk and The Mighty Thor. Unlike a cartoon, the animation relies on the composition of the comic book cells completely. This includes the original drawings, the text bubbles and even narration boxes to create the illusion.
You definitely appreciate the brevity of film as you make your way through the chapters. The entire series is over five hours long and has a series of lull points where the story meanders during character subplots. Still, the novelty of the concept will hold your interest and get you through the slow spots.
While so much attention is given to the visual elements in the series, its surprising and disappointing that very little depth was added to the audio. Sure, the original soundtrack complements the animation brilliantly and every "zap" and "boom" is there for added effect. However, voice acting range for the characters is unfortunately missing. Instead of the expected movie cast voicing the characters, the entire series is voiced by one person. TV veteran actor Tom Stechschulte lends his talents to define each character which gets a bit unnerving at times as he voices everyone from a pubescent Silk Specter to a middle aged African-American psychologist, Dr. Malcolm Long analyzing costumed vigilante, Rorschach. Eventually his voice blends completely into the canvas of the picture and you rarely notice effort he provided.
I was surprised that no special features were included on the DVD. There are trailers for Warner Premiere's The Black Freighter, a full length animated feature taken from the Watchmen novel, and the highly anticipated Wonder Woman but there are no interviews or behind the scenes offerings.
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic can be considered a comic book fan's dream come true, but it offers very little to someone who is not a fan of animation or the book. If you're not interested in reading the graphic novel, this is a great primer to wet your appetite for the upcoming film.
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic, directed by Jake S. Hughes, starring Tom Stechshulte, 325 minutes. Not Rated. List Price $19.99. Blu-Ray $26.99. Individual chapters available on iTunes $1.99 each.