Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter - Blu-ray Disc Review

Category: Watchmen Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: March 16, 2009 | Publication: | Author: Justin Sluss
Publication/Article Link:

The movie itself:4 of 5 stars
Video quality:4.5 of 5
Audio quality: 4 stars
Bonus materials:3 stars
also includes “Under the Hood“
1080p in VC-1 on a 25gb disc
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1
are in Hi-Def with Digital Copy

- 2009
- 26 minutes & 38 minutes
- Warner

This uses 5.74GB & 7.26GB for the films out of 17.6GB total.
Street Date: March 24th, 2009

Overall Verdict: Recommended for fans only

The Movie Itself is an animated short film based on the comic book “Tales of the Black Freighter” which appeared in the graphic novel “The Watchmen” that inspired the live-action film adaption — currently in theaters. This part of the graphic novel didn’t get included in the theatrical version of the film but Director Zack Snyder has apparent plans to include this in the “Director’s Cut” of the film when it comes to home video — likely sometime later this year. The story is that of a pirate ship called “The Black Freighter” and not your usual choice for comic book material — as it appeared in the graphic novel. You should keep in mind, “The Watchmen” is a graphic novel about a world with everyday people as superheroes and it wouldn’t really make too much sense for comics in a world like this to be about superheroes, like in our world for example where the majority of comic books are about just that. The lead character here is voiced by Gerard Butler who previously worked with Zack Snyder on another graphic novel adaption of Frank Miller’s “300“.

Overall, in closing — “Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter” is a definite MUST-SEE for fans of the film and/or graphic novel. Since these won’t be included in the film until it makes it’s home video debut in the form of a “Director’s Cut” this is your best bet to see this portion as the Director eventually intended to include in the film. Also worth noting, Zack Snyder served as Executive Producer on this and the bonus feature discussed briefly below.

Also included on this release, since the main feature (discussed above) only runs about 25 minutes or so, is the standalone TV interview with “Hollis Mason” discussing his book “Under the Hood” which also does not appear in the theatrical version of “The Watchmen” film. This will be discussed in further detail in the bonus materials section, as it technically is a bonus material.

Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the VC-1 codec on a BD-25 (25 gigabyte single layer Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio for the feature film (”Tales of the Black Freighter“) and in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio for the bonus feature (”Under the Hood“).

The video quality for “Tales of the Black Freighter” is very nice and obviously has a nice comic book-like visual style. The black level is very solid which makes the black outlined animation look even sharper. The color palette is extremely vibrant, just as it was originally in the graphic novel’s comic book panels. Because of the film’s short 26 minute runtime it doesn’t suffer from any compression issues, despite being only on a BD-25 disc. The overall presentation is very nice and enough to earn the main title a “4.5 Star Rating” for video quality.

The video quality for “Under the Hood” is very unique in the sense that it uses first a 4:3 screen size (in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio), features a combination of mostly live-action video and occasional CGI. The video here was purposely digitally modified to achieve a retro 70’s newscast feel and fit the feel of the stock video footage included which are supposed to be from older time periods. The obvious film grain, noise, dirt, hairs and so forth that plague this are all intentional so I can’t really begin to criticize anything in particular about the video quality on this bonus feature, as it does a great job of setting the vibe to deliver the content in a somewhat believable visual presentation.

Audio Quality on this release is presented in both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 @640kbps. “Tales of the Black Freighter” features some very impressive 5.1 surround, delivering a realistic soundscape with sound effects and the film’s Score by Tyler Bates coming through brilliantly. The dialogue is very well delivered here, being in the form of Narration by our lead character voiced by Gerard Butler. Dialogue makes use of primarily the front center channel and does some occasional panning in the front left and right channels. The bass presence isn’t overwhelming but it’s just enough to help create the impressive 5.1 soundscape that overall earns itself a decent “4 Star Rating” for audio quality on this release.

The audio quality on “Under the Hood” may be in both Dolby Digital and TrueHD 5.1 but it’s subtle television interview content makes for a “front-heavy” presentation that only contains a tad bit of rear channel or bass presence. For the 1985 and 1975 time period that most of this footage is supposed to be taken from, this audio presentation is fitting. Dialogue is delivered perfectly and gets the job done, requiring no volume adjustment. No real complaints here.

Bonus Materials are presented in both High Definition (HD) and Standard Definition (SD) video quality. Sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, except where noted otherwise.

BD-Live is included on this release which allows users on a “Profile 2.0” Blu-ray Disc Player to access online content via Warner’s server. Here you can access title specific content related to “The Watchmen” as well as access trailers for upcoming releases from Warner, index your Blu-ray Disc collection and much more. This feature will not be enabled until street date, So I can’t tell you specifically what all is included for this particular release.

Digital Copy is included on a second DVD-ROM disc of the “Tales of the Black Freighter“. This is only available in Windows Media format and not in an iTunes compatible format. Also this does not include a digital copy of the bonus feature, just the main feature.

“Under the Hood” (37:36 - HD) is a live-action/CGI bonus feature included which is a fictional interview with the original “Night Owl“, “Hollis Mason” played by actor Stephen McHattie. The TV interview is hosted by fictional character “Larry Culpeper” played by Ted Friend and includes some of the actors from the film reprising their roles here. This proves to be very much worth the watch to fans of “The Watchmen” film and/or graphic novel. Sound quality here is in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 @640kbps.

“Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen” (25:01 - HD) takes a look at the two “books” featured in the original graphic novel, “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood“. Also discussed is the connection between the stories to the main story and similarities between characters and such. Interviews with the cast of the live-action “Watchmen” film are included, such as Jeffrey Dean Morgan who portrays “The Comedian“. Interviews with the filmmakers and behind the scenes footage on the set are also included here. Overall, this is a very informative and entertaining featurette that is sure to leave fans extremely pleased — as well as anticipating the eventual Blu-ray Disc release of the film.

“Watchmen Motion Comic: Chapter One” (25:31 - HD) is included with Dolby Digital 5.1 @640kbps Surround sound. The entire “Watchmen Motion Comic” is available as a standalone Blu-ray Disc, also from Warner. This proves to be a very nice sample and definitely worth watching if you don’t already own the release.

“A First Look at Green Lantern” (10:12 - SD) gives us a pretty lengthy preview of the upcoming DC Universe animated feature-length film “Green Lantern” which is scheduled to be released on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc — likely later this year. The filmmakers and DC comics staff discuss the comic book character here and the animated film adaptation of “Green Lantern“.

Overall, the bonus materials here we get are pretty impressive. We get the bonus feature “Under the Hood” which is a major plus to fans of the graphic novel and/or film. The Digital Copy, the first chapter of the “Watchmen Motion Comic“, “The Books of Watchmen” and even first look at the upcoming “Green Lantern” animated motion picture all prove to be worth watching. Fans will enjoy what they get here.