Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter (2012)

The original Watchmen comics featured a parallel story in which a character within the narrative was in turn reading a comic book.  The events of the story he was reading were a parallel of the main plot; intended to contrast, compare and reinforce the themes of the work.  But it was felt that they would make the film too long if they were included in the screen adaptation, so they were excluded from the theatrical release.  Instead, they were turned into a 20-minute animated featurette that you could purchase separately.

This proves a bad choice.

Read as small snippets within a larger narrative, the Tales of the Black Freighter have a certain grim resonance.  Bundled into one single block however, the content comes across as goofily excessive.  Gore and blood and squelchy stuff!  The tone it conveys is not the one intended at all.  The film is also hurt by the decision to render all the comic's narrative text as voice over, which quickly becomes wearing.

Fortunately, at least for a metafiction geek like me, the DVD also comes with a half-hour mockumentary called Under the Hood.  This purports to be an episode of a TV show from within the Watchmen setting, which covers the release of the autobiography of one of that world's first costumed heroes.  It's nicely put together, and several of the minor characters from the film get a bit more time on screen in it, which is quite neat.  Still, unless you're as into this sort of thing as I am, it's probably not worth buying the DVD for it.

But then I suspect this DVD was always intended for the die-hard fans in any case, since the average movie-goer wouldn't know there was a Tales of the Black Freighter to notice it was missing from the film to begin with.  And on that basis, you probably already know if this is something you'd want to see or not.

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