Riding the coat tails of the theatrical release of Zack Snyder’s silly mess Watchmen, Warner Premiere has made some of this travesty worth while. Produced and directed independently of the feature (though meant to be included with Watchmen on its DVD release) are two tie-in movies taken from the graphic novel, “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood.”
The first, “Under the Hood” is a faux dateline esque special called “The Culpepper Minute”, which features interviews with most of the principle ‘older heroes’ from the film including Stephen McHattie as Hollis Mason, Carla Gugino as Silk Spectre, Jeffery Dean Morgan as The Comedian, Matt Frewer as Moloch, as well as most of the secondary characters from the film. All turn in surprisingly candid and somewhat believable performances as their respective characters, yet holding a little bit of a wink and smile so as to not take it too seriously. It is for this reason that this fake documentary/investigative report works extremely well, though I feel its enjoyment would only go so far as viewing it as an awesome fan project that is only meant to supplement the graphic novel. Never would I include this in the cannon of an actual film, though the documentary has piercing subtly and pathos compared to the actual film itself.
However the same cannot be said of “Tales of the Black Freighter”, which was as ill conceived and executed as the film itself. “Tales of the Black Freighter” was designed in the graphic novel purely as a means of playing with the narrative of the story in the comic book format, really just another experimental part of the book. The idea of incorporating this hideously disgusting, Aeon Flux inspired looking cartoon into the already seriously flawed movie Watchmen would just be another major mistake in the series of horrible ideas and directions that made the film into less a film and more a visual satire on the graphic novel, insulting it and its fans. Even as a stand alone piece, “Tales of the Black Freighter” is a well designed, but thoroughly nasty endeavor to behold. If you were one of the many who used to watch shows like Aeon Flux and The Maxx on MTV back in the early 1990’s then perhaps the film will appeal to for its pure joy in displaying the grotesque. In fact, the only real treat of this short is Gerard Butler’s wonderful portrayal of the Mariner, as it was not until I saw that Zach Snyder did not direct “Tales of the Black Freighter” that I realized Gerard could be good when actually directed.
To round out the disc we have a “Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen”, which features interviews with writers Dave Gibbons, Len Wein, and some of the actors and production people from the film and DC Comics who discuss the importance of the stories within the graphic novel. Its generally a fun, informative piece, though one only wished they knew it was a movie and not a comic book being made. This I felt was Snyder’s inherent flaw in making the film verbatim in some ways and then taking totally outrageous departures in others. This also the reason why neither one of these short pieces quite work, “Under the Hood” is a far more enjoyable film to watch. Finally there is the first chapter for the Watchmen Motion Comic, as well as a preview of the new Green Lantern animated movie.
All in all a mixed bag, as “Under the Hood” is a fun visual companion piece to the graphic novel, but “Tales of the Black Freighter” is so vile that you will most likely shut it off before its finished. Though I must say, I am slightly curious to see how these two shorts are integrated into the Watchmen director’s cut when it comes out on DVD. But for now, save this one for the true fans, the casual viewers can give it rent if they care for the book.