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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood (review)

The sinking of Watchmen at the box office means that if you need another cinematic fix of the grim graphic novel, you’re probably in a minority (I’m there with you). But you can help yourself to another serving with “Tales of the Black Freighter” and “Under the Hood,” two shorts together on one DVD. “Freighter,” of course, is adapted from the Alan Moore/David Gibbons source material, the comic-book story-within-the-story of the British sailor lost at sea and descending into his own form of madness as he strives to reach home before a notorious pirate ship can — or so he believes — arrive there and wreak havoc. The adaptation — by screenwriters Zack Snyder and Alex Tse (who wrote the Snyder-directed feature) — is appropriately bleak and rife with animated horrors even more powerful than they were in the still illustrations of the graphic novel. And Gerard Butler (RocknRolla), as the voice of the sailor, is excellent, as always, bringing a just-right note of harsh authenticity to the slipping away of the sailor’s sanity. But the tale, which unraveled in startling fits and starts over the course of the larger story in the original work, loses a bit of impact divorced from that larger tale, which it mirrored thematically and hence saw the shock of it magnified. Ironically, though “Under the Hood” is offered as an aside on this DVD, it’s actually longer than the under-30-minutes “Freighter.” Structured as retrospective episode of a talk show in the alterna-world of Watchmen, it presents much of the textual material of the graphic novel — the book excerpts, the magazine articles — as interviews with Sally Jupiter, Hollis Mason, and others. It’s a nice opportunity to see some of the cast from the film — Carla Gugino, Stephen McHattie, Matt Frewer — expanding their roles from the feature.

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MPAA: rated R for violent and grisly images

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
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