Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notes On Black Freighter and Under The Hood

The Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter came out Tuesday on DVD and Blu-Ray, so we Geekanerd HQ held a late night screening. We watched everything on the disc, most notably the film adaptations of the Black Freighter pirate comic and a fake documentary based on the prose passages at the end of each chapter of the Watchmen graphic noel. AKA, the stuff that n00bs don't even read.

Even though this disc is being billed as "BLACK FREIGHTER! feat. Under the Hood" I was way more impressed with Under the Hood than the 'toon. Here's why:

Matt Frewer As Moloch
I am ashamed I didn't recognize Matt Frewer right away, since the man has so much Geek Cred: he's Max Headroom for godsake. He's great in the movie as Moloch, an ex-villain who's keeps pace with Dan Drieberg when it comes to being sad and washed up. Even with those silly ears, he gives what might be the most subtle and real performances in the film. So it's awesome to see him show up for a sit-down interview with the crew of Under The Hood. My favorite part on the whole disc occurs when he, in a completely non-book piece of dialogue, explains that he got out of the villain biz because once Doctor Manhattan came on the scene, he was afraid of the severity of what villains would have to do to compete. This sad observation is a piece of foreshadowing that I think Moore might have approved. Well, probably not. I approve, though.

Production Design

Under The Hood is fashioned after a 70s news magazine program, so there's lots of file photos and old footage of heroes from various eras.

Dollar Bill posing next to a revolving door....IRONY!

Poor, poor Mothman.

Silk Spectre glamor shots. You can tell this is in the past, because she's smoking, which is now against the law in photographs.

Silk Spectre on the plane that bombed Hiroshima. Symbolism!

Bernard the Newspaper Guy
From the first time he came on screen I was thinking, SAY IT....and he did. "Inna final analysis!". The collection of minor characters centered around the newsstand are one of my favorite things about the Watchmen, and it was unfortunate that they couldn't be incorporated in the movie. So it's fun to see Bernie actually get to do a little pontificating on camera. The only downside is they give him some pretty cheesy lines, at one point basically restating the Comedian's groaner of a line about how awful it would have been if America had lost in Vietnam. Hey, dramatic irony. I see what you did there.

Jupiter Family Snapshots
This is hilarious, and perfectly sums up this unfortunate mother-daughter relationship.

Over all, Under The Hood is just as good as all the awesome viral material that was released in the run-up to the film. Sure, there's some silly dialogue, a few performances by actors who were clearly cast only for their resemblance to Dave Gibbons drawings, but over all, it feels like a very high quality fan video that a bunch of die-hards put together out of love for their favorite comic. That's actually pretty much how I feel about the Watchmen film in it's entirety. But Under The Hood is shorter, and that's always a good quality in fanvids.

PS: Oh yeah, Black Freighter. Kinda looked like it was animated on Flash, though it wasn't. Must be the digital coloring. The weirdest thing is that unlike the panel-for-panel accuracy of the film, the look of Black Freighter is totally different than the book - no crazy Dave Gibbon colors, instead it looks like they just picked one of those ready-made Photoshop palettes and called it a day. Why did they venture away from the look of the book only to make it LESS visually interesting? Strange decision. Also the sharks during the shark look kind of cute. The animated gore is positively tame compared to the snuff-fest of the rest of the film. Still worth watching for the story itself, solid-to-impressive voice acting, and Nina Simone singing Pirate Jenny over the credits, which is much more chilling than anything that precedes it.


sentenza1982 said...

Very interesting ! Is this some kind of extra dvd to complete what's missing in the film ?

sbryce said...

I just read that whole post wondering what the Geekanerd HQ looks like, I imagine its prolly something like AHR's living room.

AHR said...

Yes, but my apartment is under a volcano, so it's still pretty cool.