Well, this is an interesting idea. As if we needed another reason to stop reading books, we now have the DVD equivalent of an audio book. Basically this two disc set contains the entire printed text of Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s legendary graphic novel. With limited animation, occasional sound effects, and voice acting by Tom Stechschulte, this is the kind of project that lives or dies by the original subject matter. And since we’re dealing with arguably one of the greatest comic books ever written, this ‘watch the book’ format is surprisingly involving.

Some plot – Set in an alternate 1985, where America won the Vietnam war and Richard Nixon has been re-elected for the fifth time, this sordid, dense mystery involves the violent death of a government sanctioned vigilante known as The Comedian. The investigation brings about a reunion of sorts of former crime fighters, as the bitter, psychotic vigilante Rorschach is absolutely convinced that The Comedian’s murder is both part of a plot against former costume heroes and somehow connected to the ever growing tensions between America and the Soviets.

The DVD is divided up into two discs, with chapters 1-6 on the first disc, and chapters 7-12 on the second. The total run time is a massive 5 hours and twenty-three minutes. While, as noted above, this is basically a glorified audio book, it works far better than I expected it to. The best compliment I can pay is this – I only watched the first chapter, as I’m seeing the movie on Tuesday and want to be able to judge it as a stand alone movie rather than as an adaptation (it’s been long enough since I last read the comic that I only remember the big plot points). Despite this intention, I genuinely wanted to continue and may in fact watch the whole thing once I’ve seen the film.

The image is crisp, clean, and brightly colorful. The animation is fluid and there are no complaints to be had with this fine video presentation. I’m sure the Blu Ray is better, but this is still a solid presentation. The DVD comes only with the single extra – a sneak peak at the new Wonder Woman film. The DVD also comes with a $7.50 coupon towards a ticket to the Watchmen feature. The Blu Ray apparently contains a brief featurette and a digital copy. Normally I couldn’t care less about the lack a digital copy. But surely something that is the equivalent of a book (ie – something to be read on the toilet) should have the option to be viewed on a portable video device.

In the end, this is a surprisingly successful experiment and a canny cross promotional item. Warner Bros can now say that they have given fans a completely faithful animated adaptation of Watchmen, regardless of how good or bad the Zack Snyder film is (imagine… a to the letter adaptation that even Alan Moore might approve of). It’s very much a case of both having and eating your cake.

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