Customer Reviews: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood [Blu-ray]
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VINE VOICEon March 24, 2009
Is "Tales of the black Freighter" a very cool animated short film and a fantastic companion to the Watchmen film? Yes. Should it have been sold as a separate full-priced DVD altogether? No way. What this is is essentially a disc of bonus features marked up to the price of a feature film. This is no bueno. I was looking forward to a fleshed-out version of the story with tons of great material, but unfortunately there is very little on this release that you haven't seen if you've read the graphic novel.

The feature tale is 25 minutes long, looks cool, and has all the brutality of the comic and maybe even more. But God, do I hate me some roaring sharks. Filmmakers, take heed: SHARKS DO NOT ROAR! That aside, the film is good and would have made an amazing bonus feature on the double-disc DVD release of "Watchmen", but packaged by itself, it just isn't enough. Even when thrown together with a 37 minute live-action interview featuring cast members from the film discussing the original Nite Owl's tell-all autobiography "Under The Hood" it's not enough. The contents of "Under The Hood" is mostly just a reiteration of things from the graphic novel and even some redundancy from the film. Again, an outstanding bonus feature, but not worth a lot by itself. It's nice to get more Carla Gugino without that awful aging makeup, though. Also featured is a half-hour documentary about the projects, and a 10 minute preview of the promising "Green Lantern" animated feature. All good, but one more time: it all amounts to nothing more than a disc of bonus features that should have been saved for the "Watchmen" DVD release.

If you are a complete rabid maniac over anything "Watchmen"-related then by all means, pick this up. But know what you are getting. This is not a feature-length release that will substantially enrich your appreciation of the film. It's more of a cash-in to scrape some capital from the hardcore fans while they await the real DVD. I would recommend a rent for this if you're really itching to see it like I was because I for one would have been seriously bent if I'd spent $15 on it. It's definitely worth seeing because it is a very well done animated version of the comic within the comic, but as a full-priced standalone release it reeks like a boat built out of corpses. If I were you, I'd wait until it's packaged with the film before buying.

2 1/2 stars, rounded down for taking advantage of the film's supporters.
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on March 21, 2009
Tales of the Black Freighter was a story within a story in the Watchmen graphic novel. A young black man visits a newspaper stand everyday and reads comic books without paying for them. A pirate story bled through the pages and introduced the reader to a man who had lost his entire crew thanks to the attack of the Black Freighter. He decides to head home in hopes of warning the people before the Black Freighter makes it to his town. After making his way back to shore, he uses the corpses of his crew to make a raft and sets out to sea. He winds up going mad in the process as the Freighter impairs his judgement of what's truly fantasy and what is actually reality.

The storyline was almost identical with the source material in this animated feature. The only issue I had was the character design. Everything else looked fantastic and was animated beautifully. The sky was incredibly vibrant the entire time and the sea looked almost lifelike at times. The characters were animated rather poorly, in my opinion though. It may just be the design, but their quality looked poor and their animation wasn't up to par in comparison to everything else around them. Reminded me a bit of the character designs in Aeon Flux. All in all, it's well worth seeing. But it's rather short as it only clocks in at around twenty one minutes without the credits.

Under the Hood is the autobiography of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. It's basically his version of the events that transpired during the time he was a superhero and was a part of the Minutemen. There's a feature devoted solely to this autobiography on the Black Freighter DVD.

The feature is basically a live-action documentary of Hollis Mason/Nite Owl being interviewed about Under the Hood and everything he included in his book. It also focuses heavily on the Minutemen, the original team of superheroes from the thirties. Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre and Edward Jacobi/Moloch are also in it quite a bit. There's even a brief cameo from The Comedian. It's really just a companion piece to the film that sheds a bit more light on characters that were only briefly touched on in the actual Watchmen film. A must see for anyone who was a fan of the film.

Rating: 7/10
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on December 12, 2015
I'm sure this will make Watchmen zealots salivate, but I found it somewhat lacking. I can't put it specifically, but the reading was more effective and, animation wise, it was somewhat lacking. I'm always comparing with what's been acomplished by anime, and I'm still not convinced by this style, but it carries the story.
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on April 28, 2009
By this point we all know about the new live action super hero movie, Watchmen. We have all experienced the hype around it and even if we haven't seen it yet, we all have the urge to see it eventually. Those who, like me, have not read the comics will be very unaware as to what "Tales of the Black Freighter" is all about.

Within the comics, Tales of the Black Freighter is told as a comic within a comic which within the Watchmen series is known as "Marooned". This short animation focuses around a Mariner Captain who is the soul survivor of his ship which is attacked and destroyed by the murderous crew of the Black Freighter. Stranded on an island amongst the dead, rotting corpses of his fellow sea men, he becomes desperate to get to his homeland before the Black Freighter to warn his family of their impending arrival.

He proceeds to construct a raft out of the corpses and the broken pieces of his destroyed ship. On his journey, thanks to the starvation and reclusion he endures during his trip, the captain delves deeper and deeper into insanity to the point if which he starts to have conversations with one of the corpses that make up his raft.

Gerard Butler of "300" fame lends his voice to this feature as the captain who narrates the entire piece, as well as lending a bit of voice acting to it in the dialogue between the captain and his dead friend. The voice acting is haunting, yet effective. It remains almost monotonous throughout and somehow helps to maintain this idea that, thanks to his desperation to get home before the freighter, his mind seems to deteriorate more and more.

The animation is also something that is used to its maximum potential in a way that presents a realistic picture, without becoming overly detailed. There are a number of moments that I think the depiction of gore is a bit much, but I believe that the Watchmen movie and its accompanying short film keep extremely loyal to the comic, so it's understandable why it would be depicted in a way.

The whole idea about the way in which the mind of the captain is displayed in this feature is ultimately very clever. The reason it's frightening as it's not just a focus on the individual character, but more of an observation into human insanity in general and what levels we would stoop to in situations of pure desperation. This engagement of the captain's mind is also made that much more effective in the way the entire story is narrated by the fantastic Gerard Butler.

I would say that you're best waiting until the Watchmen movie DVD comes out as I believe this will be included with it as a sort of set. As a stand alone DVD I don't really see the point, but it certainly was an entertaining watch, even if it is only about half an hour long.
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HALL OF FAMEon March 25, 2009
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic Watchmen, and I wholeheartedly believe that Snyder's interpretation of the material is the most faithful film adaptation that there could have been. Case in point, Tales of the Black Freighter, which takes the comic within the comic read by the young man at the news stand, and transforms it into an animated tale. Featuring the voice of Gerard Butler, Tales of the Black Freighter is beautifully animated and wonderfully done overall, with enough attention paid to it to make it as relevant to the film as the story was to the comic it appeared in. Even better however is the Under the Hood documentary, derived from the prose sections of Watchmen that bookended each chapter in the story, and features Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, detailing past events. There's a lot to enjoy here with this DVD, however considering that Snyder will eventually re-edit into his Ultimate Director's Cut of Watchmen somewhere down the line, there really isn't much point in picking this up. Despite that though, whether you are a longtime Watchmen lover or are a newcomer thanks to the film, Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood are definitely worth seeing at the very least, and if this doesn't strengthen the idea that Snyder truly does appreciate the material he's drawn from, then nothing ever will.
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VINE VOICEon June 30, 2009
A nice companion to the film itself that deepens and expands upon the underlying themes of the story by adding further layers of richness and texture to what can only be described as a meticulously fleshed out fictional reality. That fictional universe becomes more and more relevant to our own the more thought and time one is willing to commit to Watchmen, and the more one is willing to deconstruct aspects of the real-world and the comic world and dwell upon the insights and observations that Watchmen so vividly and artfully convey.

The Black Freighter takes the form of an animated parable, a story-within-a-story, that draws upon and mirrors the main plot in a haunting fashion. The animation is quite good and different enough to stand on its own. The other feature here is "Under the Hood", a TV news show documentary that was made to be part of the film and features interviews with some of the characters and gives various additional plot queues and further develops not only the characters themselves, but the history and context of the alternate world (and alternate timeline) they live in. I'm reminded of the way Robocop used in-movie faux news broadcasts and commercials to bring its vision of a not-so-distant dystopic future to life while also making certain cultural criticisms of the film more readily apparent. In a similar fashion, Under the Hood and Black Freighter take Watchmen beyond the limits of mere narrative story-telling, and use this power as a means to heighten the story's core metaphors and analyses--namely, the moral and social deconstruction of "heroes" (super and non super), the paradoxical relationship between human ethics and human nature, and the seemingly irreconcilable relationship between the individual and modern mass society. The struggle to maintain order and emotional or even philosophical consistency within a chaotic and often irrational universe and the meaning and value of the human experience in such a universe is a critical problem that the story continually brings to light and examines, and these features further expound these ideas with both creativity and elegance.

These features were removed from the theatrical release due to concerns about running time, which is a real shame considering that they represent such a considerable artistic effort, attention to detail, and a most impressive commitment to staying true to the original graphic novel. Whether they are worth viewing by themselves will depend on how much you liked the film and how interested you will be in seeing more pieces of that world fall into place. There's some nice documentary content covering the creation of these pieces and their removal as well, and fans will appreciate that.

Supposedly, these features are to be reunited with the film in the director's cut version due out shortly. I suspect that this might be too much for some more passive viewers, while those more impressed with the original will appreciate the extra depth they provide. But it is yet to be seen whether the editing will he able to include these features in a way that feels "natural" as a part of the film. I would therefore recommend seeing both versions, once available. As a movie buff, however, I'm really excited to see someone pushing the envelope this much in terms of what this medium is capable of and how fiction can be much more than just a linear narrative. I'm not a fan of Zack Snyder (I hated his other work), but he deserves significant props for what he's undertaken here, as any typical director would have simply cut such extraneous material without a second thought and watered this film down to something much simpler and much less interesting. The theatrical release of Watchmen was engrossing enough as it was, but the addition of these features transcends the traditional limitations of film as a medium and elevates what was merely a very good movie to a level of storytelling that can only be described as a completely immersive fictional experience. After watching this DVD, I cannot wait to watch the film a second time and I'm even more excited to see how the director's cut comes together and these materials are returned where they belong. While I withhold judgment on the success of that reassembly, I expect and hope the whole will be much more than the sum of its parts, and with such loving care and so much attention to detail given to the creation of the parts themselves, the resulting whole has the potential to be a cinematic accomplishment of the highest order.
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on June 10, 2013
It was very different from the movie from Zack Snyder but I still liked it. I had to watch it twice to really get a full understanding of it. What I didn't like is that the movie is only about 30 minutes long.
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The DVD contains two features: Tales of the Black Freighter, that oh-so-bloody pirate comic embedded in the overall Watchmen strip (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), and Under the Hood, a TV-show-interview with Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) about his bestselling, tell-all autobiography about his time as the original Nite-Owl during the first superhero boom of the late `30s/early 40s.

Tales of the Black Freighter was remarkable, grisly, and just plain cool. Even if you don't like pirate stories, guaranteed you'll dig this. It's a story about survival, the need to save others and the consequences of choosing that path, and what might happen to a man who becomes so obsessed with an ideal that he runs the risk of distorting reality completely.

Under the Hood was equally well done. Done as a "look back" magazine television show--complete with commercial breaks with products in the Watchmen graphic novel--it explores the origin of the superhero fraternity through the very realistic eyes and humble spirit of Hollis Mason. You forget that it's fiction quite easily and the segment also has that nostalgic feel of the Watchmen movie.

Also included is the very cool motion comic of the first chapter of the Watchmen graphic novel. This was just plain cool and the animation was far more than I expected. Thought I was only going to get a few sliding frames ala some anime segments but instead got a lot of animation for each panel of the graphic novel. In fact, this segment alone sold me on getting the whole graphic novel animated DVD. Likewise, you also get a behind-the-scenes featurette on the back stories that are Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood and what they mean to the overall Watchmen experience.

The reason I gave it four stars instead of five is solely because five stars means I've been blown away and, well, the Watchmen theatrical film already did that and this isn't quite as good. It's my hope, however, that on the Watchmen director's cut they splice in Tales of the Black Freighter as shown above. Very cool. They shot all the newsstand scenes with the kid reading the comic book for it anyway so might as well use them.


A.P. Fuchs
Canister X
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on March 14, 2009
Following on the smash success of "Watchmen" Warner Brothers Premiere has released "Tales of the Black Freighter" on DVD and Blue Ray. The features laden set is truly impressive an tells the story within a story of The Black Freighter in an animated format. Fans of the graphic novel Watchmen will remember that the newsstand owner had a patron who would read a pirate adventure and that the savage tale also served as a counter point to the events happening in the Watchmen universe.

The animated feature is voiced by Gerard Butler and tells the story of a captain who is the lone survivor of an assault by a mysterious freighter. Convinced that the freighter is headed to his home, the captain faces a series of ghastly challenges to stay alive and return home. As the obstacles mount, the captain slowly starts to lose his grip on reality which leads to a startling finale.

The top flight animation serves the episode well as does Butler's solid voice work. The episode is briskly paced and runs in at roughly 3o minutes.

Another feature of the set is the Under the Hood segment which tells the story of the original Night Owl Hollis Mason and provides a background on the world of the Watchmen. Done in the format of a television interview show, the great segment features characters from the film as they tell the story of the original Night Owl and the formation of The Minutemen and Watchmen as well as the villains they faced and the pending Keane Act.
This was a fantastic and unexpected feature of the disc and when combined with the look at the upcoming Green lantern DVD made this collection an absolute gem.
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on March 29, 2009
This DVD is a worthwhile supplement to The Watchmen feature film. I feel that the Under the Hood short will entertain fans of the film more than the Black Freighter animated short.

My issues with the Black Freighter feature may lie with its format. Instead of being interwoven with the main story arc, as it is in the graphic novel, we are viewing it in its entirety here. As a result, I feel that we lose some of the suspense and foreboding, that for me came with being fed the narrative in pieces. As, I have read, that this story is first and foremost allegory to the main narrative, and therein might lie the problem. As a stand alone story, it is entertaining, but unspectacular. But, when we inevitably (hopefully) get the deluxe edition of the film, with all elements once again interwoven, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on each of the stories.

The animation is beautiful and brutal. Gerard Butler's performance is solid, but like his performance in RocknRolla, his performance seems to hit the ceiling early, and stay there. My exposure to Butler is limited to 300, RocknRolla, and Tales. I haven't really felt any complexity to his performances. In 300, he nailed the character, but his other two performance seem to fill a role more then elevate the character.

I think the Under the Hood feature is superior, and hits he right vibe of the source material. It left me wanting more. The Black Freighter left me wanting more, but only because I thought it simply needed more in order to build the tension and help sell the main character's descent into madness.
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