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Watchmen: Tales Of The Black Freighter DVD Review

In stores 3/24/09.

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"Watchmen: Tales Of The Black Freighter & Under The Hood" will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 24, 2009 (it will also be available on OnDemand).   This will definitely appeal to fans of the graphic novel wanting to see more after watching the movie in theaters.

At first hearing about this release, it felt like just another movie tie-in.  I was interested in seeing the "Black
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Freighter" story was it was a big part of the story but wouldn't work if it was forced into the "Watchmen" movie.  The feature has a running time of 25 minutes and 40 seconds.  It rightfully is given an R rating for being "violent and grisley."  

The Tale of the Black Freighter story appeared as a comic within a comic in the graphic novel.  It deals with the story of a sailor being marooned after an attack by ghostly pirates on board the Black Freighter.  With his crew dead, he must find a way back home before those aboard the Freighter attack his home and his family.  During his venture, he must undergo changes and experiences horrible events.  This was meant to mirror the events in the world of Watchmen.

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The animation is excellent.  In the beginning there is a lot of deep dark reds used to represent blood in life and death.  The water effects are also amazing.   Written by Alex Tse and Zack Snyder along with Gerard Butler providing the voice of the sailor, "Tales Of The Black Freighter" is a nice journey.  You may be able to figure out where the events are going but it is still a fun ride.  I am glad that some quality animation was given rather than simply have a rushed product with the Watchmen name slapped on it.

The second feature "Under The Hood" runs at 37 minutes and 34 seconds.  Presented as a television interview show, "The Culpeper Minute" is an 80s style show complete with commercials (even by some Veidt products).   The topic of the show is the novel "Under The Hood" written by the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason.  "Footage" from an earlier 1975 interview were also included to tell Mason's story and that of the Minutemen.

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I'll admit when I first heard about this, I wasn't too thrilled.  It just seemed too cheesey after all the features we've seen online from The New Frontiersmen website.  Once it started, I saw that it was more than just a gimmick feature.  We get to see more from the actors that portrayed the Minutemen in the movie.  For those that didn't get enough of the original Silk Spectre or the Comedian, there is more 'interview' footage with them.  We get to hear what motivated some of the heroes at the time and what brought about the formation of the Minutemen.  There is also more of Moloch and even the newsstand vender guy.  It's all done well and nice to see that even more thought was put into the making of "Watchmen."  The material here would not fit into the movie but is great in getting more insight into these characters.

There is also another feature on the disc.  "Story Within A Story: The Books Of Watchmen" is a 25 minute 'making of' feature that provides even more insight into these two books from the world of Watchmen.  We get to hear more about what it took to bring these about.  Again, you really get to appreciate the work that was put into making the movie.  Maybe the thought was to simply find a way to generate even more money but it's refreshing to see the passion that Zack Snyder brought in making the movie.  

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There is also the first chapter of the Watchmen Motion Comic which runs at 25 minutes and 29 seconds.  (The "Green Lantern: First Flight" feature found online is also included).  You do get a lot of material here to justify the retail price.

How does it rate overall?  I did enjoy it.  More than I thought I would.  I do wonder why it's being released two and a half weeks after the movie opened in theaters.  Perhaps to give everyone a chance to see the movie?  To me, it seems like something you'd really want to jump into after seeing the movie.  That being said, as much as I did enjoy all the features, they do kind of feel like just that.  They almost feel like the "Special Features" we would see on the "Watchmen" DVD.  In its defense, they do play better than your typical "special features."  There was definitely some production put into the making of this.  It's not just a bunch of left over footage thrown together to add more content.

Obviously fans of the graphic novel and movie will want to see this.  Seeing the "Black Freighter" story on its own was a nice move.  If you craved more of the Comedian, Silhouette and even Dollar Bill, you'll want to check this out.  Those that didn't "get" or understand the movie may want to pass on this.

I give this a 4.5 out of 5.  I fear that the material could someday be packaged together with a "collector's edition" of "Watchmen."  If that were to happen then it would obviously demean the value of this release.  It is a solid product.  The "Black Freighter" feature was well handled and the extra insight into the Minutemen characters was fun and entertaining.  At the end, that's what really matters.  It was entertaining.