In order to make the Watchmen movie as faithful to the graphic novel as possible, the producers wanted to include as much material as they could. Some of the supporting material that was not included in the movie has been collected in this direct to home video release, Tales from the Black Freighter, which also includes Under the Hood. Is this stuff really important to the overall Watchmen storyline, or is this just a way for producers to milk the property for as much as they can?
Tales from the Black Freighter
Tales from the Black Freighter is a pirate comic within the Watchmen graphic novel about a ship captain who, being the sole survivor after being shipwrecked in a pirate attack on his ship, tries to return home to warn about the coming of the pirate ship. The captain is so fixated on returning home to save his loved ones that he commits a series of horrendous acts without hesitation.
I found the Tales from the Black Freighter storyline to be superfluous in the graphic novel. I understand that it could be read as an allegory either to what's happening in the main Watchmen storyline, or to the Cold War in general. But I considered it filler that doesn't give any interesting revelations regarding the Watchmen storyline. Similarly, this cartoon doesn't really add anything to the Watchmen movie.
That said, the storyline, while repetitive when put alongside the movie, is cool on its own and faithful to the comic. The animation is awesome, too. It's much more graphic than I was expecting and the style is more "bronze-age comic book" than it is "manga anime", which is a nice change of pace. Overall, it's a cool little tidbit, but nothing that increased my appreciation of the movie.
Under the Hood
The other feature is Under the Hood, a mock 60-Minutes style TV news special from 1985. Through interviews with side-characters from the movie, it fleshes out what happened with the Minute Men prior to the movie.
Most of this comes from the supplementary material after each chapter in the graphic novel. I liked the 80's format of the program, including the bad film quality that gave it an 80s character. I also liked seeing some of the side characters get some development, specifically Hollis Mason, Moloch, and the newsstand guy. Unlike Tales, Under the Hood does add some important plot points that make the overall movie more interesting.
Two special features are of particular note. First is the preview for the Watchmen Motion Comic. While I previously said that I would pass on this, the preview made me rethink it. The motion comic takes the actual artwork from the Watchmen graphic novel and animates it slightly, with a narrator reading the comic. Seeing the artwork in HD was truly awesome. But since there was only one guy acting out all the roles, it got silly when Laurie was introduced. Still, I might pick it up for the artwork alone.
The other cool special feature is the preview for the new Green Lantern animated movie. The movie looks cool with great voice over actors and somewhat interesting character designs. The designs still have a bit of a Bruce Timm influence, which is great if you're a fan but not so great if you want something different or unique from DC cartoons. This is definitely a movie I'm looking forward to, though.
Both features were cool for what they were: Tales was an allegorical story that, while not really adding much to the Watchmen experience, was nifty on its own and featured great animation. Under the Hood fleshed-out some of the side characters and added more depth to the movie. But truthfully, neither feature could really stand on its own and I had the impression that this was nothing more than a special feature disc that should be included in a Watchmen DVD/Blu-Ray special edition release. It's worth watching if you're a fan, but you might want to wait to buy it because I'm sure that it will be included with some home video release of Watchmen.