Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood
DVD, Blu-ray, VoD
Directed by Mike Smith & Daniel DelPurgatorio (Black Freighter)/Eric Matthies (Under the Hood)
Starring Gerard Butler, Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino
Warner Home Entertainment
Release date: March 24, 2009
And you thought we were done with our Watchmen coverage? Well Warner Brothers has a few more dimes they can squeeze out of the property, so now we get a stand-alone DVD release of a couple of glorified special features. Is this disc worth buying, especially knowing that the animated section of this disc will be on the eventual DVD release of Watchmen? I’d say yes, if you’re a big fan of the book or the movie (or, like me, both). More casual fans will probably be okay waiting for these to be included when the regular movie comes out on DVD.
The good thing to say about this is that the two features here — Tales of the Black Freighter and Under The Hood — are both very well done. First you get the main draw of the disc, the animated feature Tales of the Black Freighter. Readers of the book will know what this is, but for those who haven’t read the book, the Black Freighter is a pirate comic that is told in conjunction with the main story and serves as an allegory for those events. It the story of a captain (voiced by Gerard Butler) whose ship is attacked by the titular Black Freighter, and then must struggle to get to his home before the freighter crew kills his family.
The story works fine on its own, but honestly, it’s going to have much more powerful once it’s edited into the main film. Like the Watchmen movie, Black Freighter stays completely faithful to the book, which is a very good thing, but due to the nature of it, it’s going to be A-Maz-Ing when it’s in the film and you get the context that it really needs. Butler turns in a great performance as the Captain, which is good since he’s pretty much the only character, and the animation is up to the usual Warner/DC standards. I guess my only complaint is that it’s only about twenty minutes long, which is about a third of the length of the other feature on the disc, the Under the Hood documentary.
Under the Hood is done as a fake news program and goes into the career of the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, and the rest of the original generation of heroes from the movie. The biggest point of this film is to fill in more of the background info that was only hinted at in the film’s opening credits. It’s kind of an interesting exercise, but readers of the original material will know all of this, and if you haven’t read the book, the film does fine without this information. It is a good excuse to see more of Carla Gugino as the original Silk Spectre and Steven McHattie as the original Nite Owl, and they both do good work that expands on the short time they were given in the film. Really though, this is just a normal DVD feature sold on its own, which makes it feel like a bit of a rip off to me.
So is this necessary buying for those who enjoyed the movie? Well, I wouldn’t call it necessary, since we know that the best part of it will be on the eventual DVD release of Watchmen, and I don’t know about you, but I hate paying for the same thing twice if I can help it. However, if you’re one of those who HAS to see it now, it’s at least worth the money and you won’t feel ripped off. But if you’re not 100% excited about Watchmen, you won’t really be missing anything by holding off on this one. Still, it’s very good, and may at least be worth a rental, or maybe the digital video on demand version, which is much cheaper. At least I can say that like the film, this disc is a faithful interpretation of the material and lives up to the original, so it’s not all bad; plus, the Blu-ray version is premium quality and is a real asset to the animation.
The DVD and Blu-ray both come with “Story with a story – Exploring the comic-within-a-comic concept in Watchmen,” which is a featurette on Black Freighter, as well as Chapter 1 of the Watchmen Motion Comic and a first-look at DC universe’s new animated Green Lantern DVD. The blu-ray also also comes with a digital copy of the film, which can be downloaded to your computer and placed on hand-held video devices and also has exclusives on BD LIVE — “The Why of Watchmen with Executive Producer and Director Zack Snyder” and “The Two Bernies,” which contains extra exclusive footage from the Watchmen.