Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood

Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood
Give them credit for this much at least: while the studio may have taken on an impossible task in trying to please the geek community by adapting the most beloved graphic novel of all time, they've certainly given it their best effort. Zach Snider's Watchmen is as close in fealty to a Watchmen book on screen as one is ever likely to see, and while time and construction issues demanded that books-within-the-book Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood be excised from the theatrical version, the simultaneous DVD release helps provide those efforts for clamouring fan-boys. Except there turned out to be fewer clamouring fan-boys than they were expecting. So great is the challenge that this DVD release pretty much admits defeat right up front: the Watchmen story cannot be told without the comic-within-a-comic context of Freighter, nor without the back-story/context of the first-gen Minutemen portrayed in Hood. It comes in a "making of" included here and is meant to be a sell in the sense that "See? We're not ignoring important elements," but it confirms what Watchmen author Alan Moore has argued all along: it can't be filmed, not properly. Broken into two pieces, both mini-books suffer to a greater or lesser extent for their independence. Grisly pirate story Tales of the Black Freighter, presented as a 45-minute animated film, no longer serves as an in-book commentator (in a world with real superheroes what does escapist literature look like?) and absent the intrusive form it takes in Watchmen — when panels and narration invade and entwine the primary story — it's frankly forgettable. Freighter was never meant to be a satisfying narrative on its own; by fleshing out its story, it only moves further from Watchmen itself. Better is Under the Hood, because at least it exists in the world of Watchmen by treating it within that context. On DVD, it's a newsmagazine "feature" on Hollis Mason's tell-all book, featuring investigative interviews with various parties involved: Sally Jupiter's self-deluded revisionism, Comedian's angry hand-in-camera refusals, etc. It works because it exists within the universe of Watchmen; in fact, it's good enough — and crucial enough to the overall story — that it comes off as a key piece missing from the theatrical feature. All of this is boosted by the making-of featurette, which praises the production up and down for not ignoring the two in-comic books, and how wicked awesome it is that they're included. Except they're treated like the science achievement awards of the Oscars: only good enough for a brief mention, not for a main stage showcase (Warner)