By Lindsay Robertson With the recent release of Watchmen on DVD, Lindsay Robertson takes a closer look at the excised content, Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood. When adapting books to screenplays some parts have to be left out. Sad but true. This involves a great deal of decision-making and inevitably results in hoards of fanboys grumbling about all the best bits cut. The Watchmen story spans over forty years and has an immeasurable number of subplots, meaning that an unusually vast amount of detail had to be abandoned for the big screen. Tales of the Black Freighter is an entire comic strip that is almost seamlessly integrated into the action of the book, reflecting on the events and social climate of the story. It serves as an allegory for the demise of sanity and humanity, which is thematic to the novel and parallels the experience of several characters. As much as it enriches the plot and however much I rack my brains I still can't begin to think of how this could have possibly been included in the cinematic cut of MWatchmen without A) interrupting the flow and B) whacking an extra twenty minutes on to the film's already extensive running time. The answer: create an adaptation of Black Freighter as a stand-alone animated feature. Genius. Instantly I remembered the anime sequence from Kill Bill Volume 1 – a back-story that could have been left out leaving no plot holes but which arguably stands as the most brutal and moving segment of the entire film. To animate Black Freighter seemed perfect, as it was originally a fictional story within Watchmen lending itself well to a different artistic medium. Animation also solves the problem of creating violent imagery and effects for supernatural events, both of which have to be believable for the story to work. Unfortunately the main feature fails to live up to its potential. I remember Black Freighter as one of the darkest and most gruesome parts of the graphic novel (which speaks volumes - Watchmen deals with rape, murder and nuclear warfare among other subjects) but this adaptation fails to make the same sort of impact. The characters are not very well drawn and the animation is nothing special, meaning that the captain's mental anguish is not truly felt by the audience. Nothing about it succeeds to shock and even the ending feels poor as a payoff. Still, the narration is not bad and Gerard Butler's voice does fit the part, but is it just me or does his accent sound more Scottish the more mental he becomes? This piece could have been an imaginative journey into a person's tortured and deteriorating sanity but in the end it feels like a wash out. To be fair though, watching the captain twat a seagull off the ship's mast is still enjoyable. That's not to say the DVD is not worth bothering with if you want the full Watchmen experience. This release also contains the fictional documentary discussing Under the Hood (the autobiography of the former costumed hero Hollis Mason/Nite Owl, excerpts of which appear in the book) plus a featurette on the books within Watchmen and the first chapter of the animated comic. The Under the Hood documentary is a detailed and insightful exploration of the Watchmen universe. The creators manage to create a feel of authenticity with the visual style of a 1970s television documentary complete with commercial breaks, to the extent that you experience a sense of nostalgia for events that never actually happened. Stephen McHattie portrays Hollis Mason with a great deal of heart making him a genuinely lovable character, so much so that the movie’s deleted scene of Mason’s murder becomes almost unbearable to view. The Minutemen are all brought to life through this feature and each character is given an enhanced back-story (most are barely involved in the Watchmen film save for the evocative images in the opening credits). Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre’s role is also fleshed out here as she discusses her image, iconography and her personal life, keeping well-practised composure when quizzed about her alleged assault by The Comedian. This is one of the many parts of the feature where you can see minor articles of the graphic novel come alive through the actors’ portrayals. Other perspectives on the concept of the super hero are provided by a plethora characters with street vendors, criminal psychiatrists and scientists all appearing to voice their opinions. These are all recognisable figures in the story of Watchmen yet not one appearance feels like a lame excuse for a cameo role. Even the thinly-veiled precursors to the events of the film’s plot do not feel out of place. One of the last scenes, in which Hollis Mason expresses hope that “one day Nite Owl and Silk Spectre would eventually get together” sounds genuinely sweet rather than contrived to fit the movie. The Books of Watchmen featurette explores the ideas behind Under the Hood and Black Freighter as well as the concept of including source material in the graphic novel and the methods used in adapting these to the movie. Behind the scenes shots and interviews with the cast are secondary here to the discussion of the literary and cinematic devices. Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen talks about the Black Freighter story and its origins at length. Interesting analogies are drawn with the pirate story and the characters – Adrian Veidt’s ambitions, Rorshach’s capture and Dr Manhattan’s exile to Mars. This is a thought-provoking featurette for Watchmen fans. The last item on the DVD is the first part of the Watchmen Motion Comic, available in full as a separate release. It’s an interesting way to experience the original graphic novel but one aspect stands out in terms of criticism – the creators should have used a woman to act out the female parts. Hearing Laurie’s parts of the dialogue being read out by a man attempting to use a feminine tone is just laughable and it’s a pity that it should be so distracting. Overall Under the Hood is essential viewing for fans of the film and graphic novel alike and it alone would merit the purchase of the DVD. The special features are an interesting bonus, however the Black Freighter animated feature is a wasted opportunity. While it’s not terrible in itself, it still makes one of the most powerful subplots of Watchmen into a forgettable and slightly pointless venture.