DVD REVIEW: Watchmen: Tales from the Black Freighter/Under the Hood

Watchmen: Tales from the Black Freighter/Under the Hood
(Warner Premiere and Paramount Pictures 2009)
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Created as supplementary stories to the Watchmen feature film, both of the short films on this DVD attempt to add a new depth of understanding to the larger story of the flawed masked vigilantes.

Each narrative was included in the original graphic novel, though both add new layers of meaning in completely different ways and seem targeted at very different audiences.
Tales from the Black Freighter, an animated short that acts as an allegory for well meaning men performing terrible crimes in the pursuit of justice and good, follows the story of a ship wrecked Captain’s gruesome journey home.

Rated R, this film is most definitely not for children, including multiple scenes of grisly images and gruesome violence. The narrative itself plods on like some sort of Edgar Allen Poe tale, complete with intense internal monologue and descents into the dark madness of isolation and hopeless situations. The film is actually quite predictable, though perhaps on purpose so that audience members can draw parallels with certain characters in the larger Watchmen narrative.

Under the Hood is a short historical retrospective set in the world of the Watchmen, including interviews with many of the original Minutemen, the precursors to the Watchmen.

Rated PG, this film seems much more relevant to the theatrical release as it adds depth and background information that the film is unable to include. An interesting collection of interviews with the first generation of masked vigilantes, as well as some ex-super villains, and every day civilians, the dichotomy of morality present in super heroes is explored. Most fascinating is the question of whether super heroes are good or bad for society. The resounding answer seems to be, both.

In the end, the DVD acts as a well-made supplement to the Watchmen feature and is probably most enjoyable for hardcore fans. For those who liked the movie but didn’t read the graphic novel or have much of a vested interest in exploring the deeper meanings of the Watchmen narrative, you’re not missing much.

Kenneth Joachim

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