Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tales of the Black Freighter + Under the Hood

I just picked up copy of the Blu-Ray and I have to say I was quite impressed.

The original graphic novel of Watchmen features a story-within-a-story called Tales of the Black Freighter. The story is originally intertwined with scenes of a character reading the comic book, within the Watchmen universe in multiple chapters in the story. Due to super heroes being "real" there's no interest in super hero comic books – pirate stories apparently have taken their place.

The story presented in Tales of the Black Freighter is a story of a young seaman who attempts to return home to warn his town of the coming of the Black Freighter. His ship is destroyed and he is marooned on an island. To escape he must use means that slowly drive him more and more mad. His madness ends up being his undoing. The film ends with the song "Pirate Jenny", from "The Threepenny Opera." Gerard Butler voices the main character of the story, "Tales of the Black Freighter."

Under the Hood was a wonderful compilation of the appendix material found in the graphic novel. It takes material not only from Hollis Mason's Under the Hood excerpts, but also some of the other interview material as well. It's all presented in a well-presented mockumentary fashion.

I was quite impressed by the wealth of visual material on display, from interviews, to faux archival footage, black-and-white photos, and newspaper headlines. The short film really dug deeper into the history and universe created and only hinted at in the Watchmen film. The short film features the characters of Hollis Mason (who wrote the book Under the Hood), Sally Jupiter, Wally Weaver, Sally’s ex-husband, The Comedian, former villain Moloch, and others.

This ends up providing the same basic aid to the story that the excerpts provided in the graphic novel helped expand the Watchmen universe. In many respects I would almost suggest this to someone who has not read the graphic novel, as they would be introduced to the world, some of the characters, and have a sense of history to go with it. The downside is that it may only be interesting to someone who already is familiar with these characters, as it plays the documentary angle extremely straight. In other words, people may find it "boring" since they’re not invested in the characters and history already.

I’m hoping that much of this footage somehow makes its way into a future extended release, or at the very least is provided as a recommended companion piece when the ultimate edition comes out.

While I did not expect a lot from Under the Hood, I ended up being more impressed with the short film than I did with Tales of the Black Freighter. Both were good, and something that should be looked into if you enjoyed Watchmen.

Black Freighter - *** out of *****
Under the Hood - *** 1/2 out of *****

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