A lot of times when you adapt material for the big screen, you have to leave something out…maybe it wasn’t directly important to the story being told, or it was too long, or too difficult to film. I’m sure Watchmen is full of this…but that doesn’t mean all the stories can’t be told. Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under The Hood (available March 24th on DVD, Blu-ray, and on-demand/download. It takes the story from a comic book as seen in the movie/graphic novel and the supplemental background story and brings them to life.
Both “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under The Hood” were supplemental pieces of the original graphic novel, which did not become part of the movie but were produced in parallel.
“Tales of the Black Freighter” takes a pirate comic that is intertwined in the graphic novel, and specifically a story called “Marooned” and gives it its own life. They story itself is not directly related to Watchmen itself, but is part of the world where superheroes exist in real life, so comics focus on other genres. The story itself does realte to the Watchmen story as an allegory, however. The animation style does not match what was done for the Motion Comic, or the WB comic animation style being used today, but much more of the more graphic anime styles such as Akira or Aeon Flux. Perhaps keeping it different than any of the other material helps keep it separate, much like it was presented in the original form. There are some pretty grisly scenes that earn it an R rating.
“Under The Hood” is adapted from some of the supplemental material from the graphic novel. It is presented as a live action news story (very 60 Minutes style) about the “Under The Hood” book written by Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl, about the original Minutemen. Set in 1985 like the Watchmen story, but looking back at a previous 1975 news magazine story as a retrospective, with interviews with Mason, Sally Jupiter, and Moloch, played by the actors from the movie. It even includes vintage commercials.
Both are pretty much what you would expect from the special features section of a video release…except it is at least months before such a release, and only a few weeks after it was released in theaters. This could be a new market for supplemental material – release it while the film is in theaters to provide additional stories and specials so each can feed off each other. I’m not sure whether the market will bear it, especially if there is an expectation that these materials will also appear on the actual video releases, and especially at the current price point. But the materials themselves are well done.
There are a few other features on this disc:
Story Within A Story: The Books Of Watchmen – Bringing “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under The Hood” to life.
Watchmen Motion Comic: Chapter One”: A preview of the already released Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic.
Green Lantern: A First Look: A making-of preview of the upcoming animated Green Lantern. It is based around the Hal Jordan story, but is apparently not adapted from any particular storyline. Unfortunately none of the finished animation is shown.