Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter Review
It is rare to find a comic book that is so complex and features such a variety of characters and plot lines that you know only great, gifted minds could have created it. This is what the Watchmen is all about. Weeks after the motion picture ‘Watchmen’ came out in theaters I discovered the comic books. My first real exposure to the Watchmen universe was the motion picture. I found the film captivating, so I found myself trying to find out more, I had to find the comic books. The Watchmen was originally created by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons and its circulation was from September 1986 to October 1987. Tales of the Black Freighter was a fictional comic book within a comic book with a parallel story to that of the Watchmen. Without giving too many details away now let’s get into the review.
As previously mentioned, Tales of the Black Freighter is a fictional comic book within Watchmen. The story resembles that of the Watchmen: the main character deals with moral decisions, justifications for his actions and his own fall as the story unfolds. The story revolves around a sailor, voiced by Gerard Butler. In one hellish night his ship gets destroyed and his crew is all killed by the Black Freighter. He survives and he makes it a quest to go back to his town to warn residents about the Black Freighter. To achieve this he will go to great lengths including using the bodies of his dead men to make a shift raft. Once he reaches town, full of madness after enduring the nightmares he’s been through, he kills an innocent couple and makes his way to his home. In the darkness of the night, seemingly confused he kills own wife thinking it was a pirate. The sailor quickly makes his way to the beach where he sees the Black Freighter. Knowing of the things he has done he goes aboard the ship and realizes the Black Freighter was not coming for the town, but for him.
In this release, the mockumentary Under the Hood is also included. This is not a real part of Watchmen, but was made to give more background stories on the original costumed heroes. This episode is shown to the viewer ala 60-Minutes. The journalist talks to Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) the original Nite Owl and throughout the duration of the episode he also has pieces with Silk Specter (Carla Gugino) and Moloch the Mystic (Matt Frewer)who give more insights into the lives of the old masked heroes. This short intentionally or unintentionally provides a look into a few characters that didn’t make the final cut of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. This piece is created with the fans in mind, and will certainly make them happy!
In conclusion, these two pieces make it very hard for fans of Watchmen to miss this new release. Tales of the Black Freighter is much easier to understand when viewed in animated motion. While Under the Hood offers a much better background than the comic and motion film provide for the fans.
For starters, both short films are presented differently. Let’s begin with Tales of the Black Freighter. The film sports a nice 1080/VC-1 codec with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Visually this short film is impressive. The colors are very vibrant, the blacks are very dark, and on top of all this the details of the film are very good. Every now and then you’ll see minor imperfections, but the film is solid, very clean video, and the distractions are seemingly non-existent.
Under the Hood is presented completely differently, the video is presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This short was made to mimic a 70s TV show. The video is full of artifacts and noise closely resembling that of regular standard definition. Yet in my opinion, the detail is still very visible and the intention of the director to present the short in this way is excellent.
Both short films will deliver and the fans won’t be disappointed.
Both Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood carry Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound. The Tales of the Black Freighter track is excellent, the dialog is very crisp, and the environment sounds immerse the viewer even more deeply into the film. The sounds of flesh tearing apart, waves, and other background sounds are very noticeable. I must say the music in this short film fits perfectly with the visuals being displayed to the viewer.
Under the Hood is completely different. While we expect everything to be top notch, we must remember that this should sound like a 70s TV show. The track is by no means weak, as it delivers clarity for the viewer. The track was heavy on the fronts. Again we have to keep in mind that the intention of the producer is to mimic the sound of a 70’s TV show while keeping the fidelity and clarity of a high definition audio track. The dialog is delivered perfectly and does the job.
Overall the audio on both shorts delivers and will leave the viewer utterly satisfied.
What could the studio have included in this release? Let’s take a detailed look into the film’s goodies.
– Digital Copy: This release also includes a digital copy of the Tales of the Black Freighter. Unfortunately the digital copy will only be included in Windows Media format and not iTunes format.
– Story Within a Story: Behind the scenes footage of the production, a look into Tales of the Black Freighter character designs, commentary with Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“The Comedian”), and filmmakers. The fans also get a sneak peak at some of the scenes and characters that didn’t make the theatrical cut of Watchmen that will surely make their way to Snyder’s Extended Cut (although not mentioned, but the fans can ultimately tell the scenes that didn’t make the cut.)
– BD-Live: With your Profile 2.0 player the viewer can access the net and download the featurette “The Watchmen” with Zack Snyder.
– Motion Comic First Episode: This is also featured in the extras. The first episode of Watchmen motion comic can be watched in its entirety. The production is excellent and highly recommended for fans and new readers alike.
– A First Look at Green Lantern: A preview of the full length feature Green Lantern that will be out on Blu-ray and DVD later this year.
In conclusion, this release delivers the goods and no fan of the comic will be disappointed. New readers and newcomers to the story will not find be very intrigued, but I recommend at least a rent.
Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood is available on Amazon.