“The Black Freighter, the Hell bound ship’s black sails against the yellow Indies sky. I know again the stench of powder and men’s brains and war…more blood”
Zack Snyder had a big problem. He was trying to make a film out of a graphic novel that many acclaim as the best graphic novel ever written. Many directors before him have declared the project unfilmable. Alan Moore, the writing part of the book’s creation team, was dead set against a film version of the book and refused to have his name associated with the film. A lawsuit had broken out between Warner and Fox over who exactly owned the rights to even make the movie. The fans were making their expectations known loud and clear: Mess this up and we’ll get you for it. Did I say Zack Snyder had a problem? On second thought he had several, and not the least was that he found himself staring into the abyss of an unreleasable four hour film. Cuts were going to have to be made, severe cuts. One of those cuts was the comic within a comic story of The Black Freighter.
Inside the world of The Watchman there is a popular comic store. In the graphic novel a young boy spends many afternoons there reading the latest issue of his favorite, namely, Tales Of The Black Freighter. As the boy digests his fantasy book, the graphic novel takes time out to reproduce some of the pages from that fictional comic. In Zack Snyder’s very real world of filmmaking, this was an obvious cut that could save him some 40 minutes of that crazy running time. Of course, there are some incredible Black Freighter fans out there who believe the story should remain in the film. Snyder’s idea? Release the animated Tales From The Black Freighter segment as a separate DVD and Blu-ray release to coincide with the film, with promises that the footage would one day be reintegrated back into The Watchman proper when that film eventually reached home video. This Blu-ray is the result of that compromise decision.
We join the action after a sea battle has obviously played out. The lone surviving pirate is clinging to some wreckage. As he drifts upon the waters facing sharks and the elements, he spots a sight far more chilling to him than anything nature could deliver. This supernatural apparition is none other than the famed and feared Black Freighter. The sight conjures images that frighten even this hardened pirate enough that by the time he makes it to land he has gone assuredly insane. We are privy to his thoughts as he descends deeper and deeper into madness.
The animation is very sharp and vivid. Now having seen the film, however, I’m not exactly sure if I see this working as an integrated part of the movie. It’s far too stylish and contemplative for my tastes, and I found the 40 minute running time long and tedious. It can’t help but completely derail the pace of the live action film. Like the movie, it is startlingly faithful to the panels out of the book and can be considered as almost an animated comic.
The second part of the release deals with the book within a comic. Under The Hood was a tell all superhero book written by one of the retired heroes, Hollis Mason (McHattie), the original Night Owl. It’s a part of the comic, and to a smaller degree the film. Here we’re treated to an 80’s style expose television show much in the likeness of Geraldo. Here Mason and other members of The Minutemen, the first generation of heroes, talk about the book and what life was like as a hero in the 1940’s. The piece touches on elements from the film like the original Silk Specter’s (Gugino) relationship with The Comedian (Morgan). It’s a clever little send up and much better feature than the animated Black Freighter piece. It’s loaded with images from the film, and is a very clever tie in to the entire alternative universe that is The Watchmen. There are even vintage 1980’s commercial breaks.
The Black Freighter is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Under The Hood is in full frame to mimic its 1980’s television broadcast style. The release is a full 1080p image, but brought to you with an inferior VC-1 codec. The colors of the animated feature are bright, particularly the reds. There aren’t any compression problems, but this is a very short running Blu-ray. You’ll find a rather vivid presentation to that part of the release. Under The Hood is intentionally rather badly presented, again to imitate the style.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track Again the animated section has a more modern nice surround to it. You can hear waves and seagulls chattering from you giving you some realistic surround effects. The 80’s television stuff might as well be mono. It’s all dialog.
Watchmen Comic Chapter 1: This entire series is also available on video. Consider this a teaser.
Story Within A Story – The Books Of The Watchmen: Cast and crew of the film talk about the sub stories that are presented here and help you to connect the dots as to how it all relates.
First Look At Green Lantern: This 10 minute piece is a sneak peek and behind the scenes look at the Green Lantern feature coming to home video.
Honestly, this will all end up included when The Watchmen reaches Blu-ray. I suspect it’s worth a rent only for now. It’s kind of a bit old news for now, but our copies got sidetracked before getting to us. But for now, “The truth is out”.