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

Category: Watchmen Reviews
Article Date: March 17, 2009 | Publication: | Author: Brad Brevet

Posted by: stagewomanjen

Quite frankly I am tired of Watchmen at this point and I haven’t even participated in the massive debates that have been going on online. Just listening to one side complain about the other side not getting it while others feel the need to consistently beat the film down is an endless exercise that achieves nothing.

Sure, I didn’t particularly enjoy the theatrical release of Watchmen, but I also didn’t hate it. There isn’t anything to necessarily hate. I was more-or-less neutral on the film and knocked it down a couple of extra notches based on a few annoying factors in my theatrical review, that is where my opinion to this point ended. However, we now have a new piece to the puzzle and it is an interesting addition as it doesn’t really work on its own, but in the context of Zack Snyder’s film and its announced DVD future there may still be room to win over the negative nancies (myself included).

For those that haven’t read the “Watchmen” graphic novel, “The Tales of the Black Freighter” is a violent pirate comic read by one of the characters within the story and it coincidentally mirrors the story being told in its own alternate universe. Personally this is part of the reason I find the graphic novel appealing. “Tales of the Black Freighter,” along with other factors, provide a layering effect that strengthens the central plot line and adds additional depth. It is one of the reasons a filmed adaptation was thought to be impossible for so long and one of the reasons the simplified story shown in theaters didn’t particularly move me.

As it is presented here with the Gerard Butler providing the voice of the protagonist it is an interesting 26-minute short, that will certainly appeal to the fans of the graphic novel more than unfamiliar audience members who are likely to watch it and wonder how it could possibly fit in with what they saw in theaters. However, it is best to leave room open for animation fanatics who may be interested in giving it a peek. As a standalone feature it is a bit of a toss-up, while it was fun to watch I can’t necessarily say it is worth the purchase. The true test is going to come when Warner releases Snyder’s director’s cut with additional footage and Black Freighter playing along with it. I have no idea how he is going to pull that off and make it work but if he does it could truly turn many opinions on the theatrical feature from negative to positive.

Also included on this disc is “Under the Hood,” another short pieced together from the pages of the “Watchmen” graphic novel inspired by the faux superhero autobiography of the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie). This is a feature more likely to resonate with folks that saw the theatrical release of Watchmen as it ties in well to the film and simply provides a little bit of background story as well as features actors such as Carla Gugino and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. “Under the Hood” runs 38 minutes and when it comes to a standalone product it works better than Black Freighter.

Supplements include a documentary on the making of both “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood” as well as detail their involvement in the Watchmen universe. The doc is titled “Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen” and I would honestly say it is the best thing on this disc, but is also likely to be included in special edition releases of Watchmen down the line, releases I am sure die-hard fans are going to buy anyway which makes buying this now a serious waste of money. You also get the first chapter of the Watchmen Motion Comic, which is also available for purchase, as well as a 10-minute preview of the upcoming animated feature centering on the Green Lantern from Warner’s DC animated direct-to-DVD series.

Finally, the BD-Live features for the disc were not yet live for me to review, but according to the press release you will get a featurette titled “The Why of Watchmen” with Zack Snyder as well as a deleted scene from the theatrical release titled “The Two Bernies”.

Admittedly watching “Tales of the Black Freighter” come to life was more fun than the whole of watching Watchmen, but it all still feels incomplete and it will remain incomplete until Warner releases the director’s cut. I can’t recommend you buy this title because it just doesn’t make good economic sense. You are feeding your curiosity, a curiosity that can be satiated merely by renting this one from Netflix. Save your cash and wait for the big release and you will be much happier in the end. And let’s all keep our fingers crossed that the ultimate version of Watchmen somehow manages to appeal to all sides.


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