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Friday, May 01, 2009

The Watchmen companion DVD, Tales of the Black Freighter, is now out and available from Netflix. It's a very mixed bag. The "Tales of the Black Freighter" short gets everything exactly wrong; animated straight from the comic, there's no sense of the wonderful inter-cutting between narrative frames that justifies its presence in the original; in short, it's another fetishistic recreation that entirely misses the point.

The "Under the Hood" short, in contrast, is probably the best piece of Watchmen I've seen, in that it comes closest to accomplishing what so many of us had hoped the movie might: a creative translation of the comic form to the film form, as opposed to just making the pictures move. Here, Hollis's autobiography is replaced with an episode of "The Culpepper Minute," a 1970s news magazine a la 60 Minutes, that was devoted to the book. (In fact, it's a 1980s rerun of the 1970s episode, a nice bit of doubling.) The short isn't perfect by any means—it's a little corny, and there are, among other things, some truly anvilicious moments of ironic foreshadowing—but by and large it nails the format, making good use of the graphics novel's huge scope in the process. (Lots of interesting characters who barely saw screen time in the film get their chance in "Under the Hood.") This one is definitely worth the half-hour; it actually made me like the film a little more.