Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood (2009) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Adventure / Animation / Drama / Fantasy
Warner Brothers || R - 63 minutes - $35.99 || March 24, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-03-19

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.

.:: A U D I O ::.

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith (Tales of the Black Freighter); Eric Matthie
Writer(s): Dave Gibbons (graphic novel); Alex Tse & Zack Snyder (written by) (Tales of the Black Freighter), Hans Rodionoff (written by) (Under the Hood)
Cast: Tales of the Black Freighter: Gerard Butler; Under the Hood: Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Supplemental Material:
  • 2 Featurettes
  • Watchmen Motion Comic - Episode 1
  • BD-Live

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40), Full Frame (1.33)
  • English (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

Released more as a companion piece to the Watchmen feature film, Tales of the Black Freighter / Under the Hood are both interesting stories taken from the “Watchmen” graphic novel. And in terms of Black Freighter, it will be featured in the Zack Snyder’s director’s cut for Watchmen when it comes on DVD and Blu-ray.


This animated short (only 24-minutes) is the animated comic book within the “Watchmen” graphic novel. It’s explained that since in a world where superheroes were real, then obviously comic books would find another avenue of storytelling: pirates.

Tales of the Black Freighter begins with the aftermath of a brutal attack that left the men of The Mariner’s command dead, yet he survived. The Mariner (voiced by Gerard Butler – 300), finds himself on a deserted island and desperate to get home before the evil scoundrels of the Black Freighter – the undead who took the lives of his crew – get to his wife and two daughters.

Animated in the same style as certain segments of Batman: Gotham Knight, Black Freighter is a great animated short that, while taking a predictable path, the path it takes is intriguing and absolutely disgusting. The story has an interesting parallel to really our own society, probably more today than even when it was first released in the 1980s.

Also great is the use of Gerard Butler’s voice in the main role. There’s nothing more of a thankless job than that of a voiceover or voice talent, especially when you are basically the only one. Butler manages to give a certain strength to the character while not going overboard and delving into his King Leonidas voice from 300 (“THIS IS SPARTA!!!”). I read that because Watchmen director Zack Snyder couldn’t find a part for Butler, he gave him this one.

UNDER THE HOOD ***½ / *****

With Under the Hood, this is a mock-umentary feature (36-minutes) that uses the fictional novel written by Hollis Mason via a “60-Minutes”-esque show from 1985 taking a retrospective look from a 1975 interview with Mason and others including The Comedian (in a quick cameo) and Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino).

The second part of this release is definitely something for the “Watchmen” graphic novel fans. It lifts many lines and items from the autobiographical “novel” within the graphic novel. As only a common fan having never read the graphic novel, I wasn’t as appreciative of this endeavor as many others will be. That said, it’s still a well made feature that also comes with funny commercials.


I will first get the two expendable features out of the way: First Look at DC Universe’s Green Lantern (10:11) and the Watchmen Motion Comic Episode 1 [HD]. The former is available on the recently released Wonder Woman DVD/Blu-ray while the other was just released as well and if you are a fan of the graphic novel, you probably already bought it. If you haven’t, then good news is you can at least check it out before spending the money.

The crown jewel of this release is Story Within a Story: The Books of Watchmen (25:01; HD) explain how Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood connect to and expand the world of Watchmen. The first half deals with “Under the Hood” explaining the intent of this best-selling novel within the “Watchmen” while the second part goes into creating the Black Freighter animated short. Lastly there is BD-Live with trailers and hopefully in the future more features and a Digital Copy compatible only with Windows Media (i.e. no iPod or PSP).


Tales of the Black Freighter is presented in widescreen with a 2.40 aspect ratio. For an animated short, this looks great in 1080p high-definition. Since this is also meant to be inserted in an upcoming director’s cut, obviously the quality is going to have to match, and with this, it certainly should. Given it is a darkly toned story; colors are fairly muted with plenty of reds and other dark colors.

Under the Hood comes in 1.33 full frame but is also in 1080p HD. Since the mock-umentary takes place in 1975 and 1985, you’re going to get purposely placed grains, scratches and imperfections so there’s not much to say with the quality.

Both features comes with OK Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks with Black Freighter getting the most out of the track, though it’s not exactly the greatest track, but serviceable. Under the Hood, like with the video, is downplayed to match the quality of a 1980s TV special.


Although I wasn’t overly enamored with the Under the Hood, Tales of the Black Freighter is a great animated short for both rabid and casual fans. Fair warning, I have to wonder if this disc will also be available in some massive deluxe edition of Watchmen, so I’m not sure if I can fully recommend this release. But if they don’t, I have no reservation in picking this up.