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Film Review: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter

watchmen-tales-of-the-black-freighter-posterWatchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter is the tale of one man’s struggle against the sea, time and himself to save the people he holds most dear in his life, namely his wife, his youngest daughter (Salli Saffioti), and eldest daughter (Siobhan Flynn). The Mariner (Gerard Butler), captaining a ship destroyed by a pirate vessel known as the Black Freighter, is soon left at sea alone with only his own ingenuity to save him. Improvisation is the only means of escape for the Mariner from the island he is quickly marooned on. It is when he is back on the high seas in his “man-made” raft that the true story of this short film kicks into high gear. Whether it is the salt water he drinks or a derangement brought on by the isolation coupled with fear for his family is never made clear but by the end of Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter his intent (and their causation) is rendered moot by his actions. While on the raft, the Mariner is attacked by inhabitants of the sea and his own conscience. He believes his old shipmate, Ridley (Jared Harris), has come back from the dead and is talking to him. It is Ridley who brings the Mariner’s worst fears to life and makes them that much more deplorable. Ridley’s remarks also increase the Mariner’s thirst to stay alive and his desire to seek revenge because he knows there is no way his raft can beat the Black Freighter back to his home of Davidstown.

If the viewer has seen Christopher Nolan’s excellent film about dueling magicians, he or she will know that when the Mariner arrives back in Davidstown, he experiences what is known as The Prestige. The consequences of The Pledge and The Turn become all to clear to the Mariner and he has only one resort, one course of action, one sanctuary left to him. If the viewer has read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 12-issue comic book series Watchmen, they know that Tales of the Black Freighter is a supplement to the events in those books. That fact allows this animated narrative to be viewed in two ways: as a stand alone short film (which has been done up till this point) or as an appendage to Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film (one of Rorschach’s mask symbols adorns the Mariner’s raft sail). When looked upon as an appendage of Watchmen, it is clear that this film parallels Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) and all the events that surround him in that film. When Tales of the Black Freighter is integrated into an eventual special edition of Watchmen, Ozymandias’ storyline, which was almost the least developed in the Watchmen film yet grew in prominence in the 12-issue series until the final book was concluded, will be buttressed and given more depth by its implied implications.

Daniel Delpurgatrorio and Mike Smith’s Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter is a tightly packed and quick paced animated short film with a good enough story for a full length narrative, though I would not want to see this tale elongated artificially.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

  • Joshihno

    Hmm, intriguing — thanks for reviewing this — I will check it out for sure!

    Have you by any random chance seen “Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic”??
    If you’ve already reviewed it elsewhere I apologize.
    I am partway through the 5 and 1/2 hour running time (split into the 12 chapters), and I have to admit it’s better than I thought it would be, based on the premise … even with that length, it still is a slightly abridged version the whole, and yet I find it funny to see what notable snippets were left out of that, but still made it into the 2 hr 45 min feature film.

    Anyway it’s an interesting combination, done by Dave Gibbons himself (with help from others), of the comic panes brought to moving life, combined with a single narrator/actor doing all the characters, and sound effects … like in a book on tape or something … it’s kind of bizarre actually, but I just like see the moving palette of the exact same unique colors and images from the original graphic novel taking place on a big widescreen TV — and strangely, even though this format keeps Alan Moore’s ideas and especially his words much more intact than Snyder’s version, his name is nowhere to be seen in any of the credits or packaging. Very weird — I know he doesn’t like any of the other films based on his work … he must truly hate his name being attached to any version even like this one on DVD.

  • Joshihno

    Hmm, intriguing — thanks for reviewing this — I will check it out for sure!

    Have you by any random chance seen “Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic”??
    If you’ve already reviewed it elsewhere I apologize.
    I am partway through the 5 and 1/2 hour running time (split into the 12 chapters), and I have to admit it’s better than I thought it would be, based on the premise … even with that length, it still is a slightly abridged version the whole, and yet I find it funny to see what notable snippets were left out of that, but still made it into the 2 hr 45 min feature film.

    Anyway it’s an interesting combination, done by Dave Gibbons himself (with help from others), of the comic panes brought to moving life, combined with a single narrator/actor doing all the characters, and sound effects … like in a book on tape or something … it’s kind of bizarre actually, but I just like see the moving palette of the exact same unique colors and images from the original graphic novel taking place on a big widescreen TV — and strangely, even though this format keeps Alan Moore’s ideas and especially his words much more intact than Snyder’s version, his name is nowhere to be seen in any of the credits or packaging. Very weird — I know he doesn’t like any of the other films based on his work … he must truly hate his name being attached to any version even like this one on DVD.

  • Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter is good, well acted.

    I have not seen “Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic”

    I wish more actors were doing the voice of the characters in The Motion Comic. Too bad.

    Alan Moore’s name being absent is not strange at all. He can not stand how his work has been butchered by Hollywood.

  • Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter is good, well acted.

    I have not seen “Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic”

    I wish more actors were doing the voice of the characters in The Motion Comic. Too bad.

    Alan Moore’s name being absent is not strange at all. He can not stand how his work has been butchered by Hollywood.

  • Amazing, it seems you are a big fan of Watchmen, I don’t know much about it, thanks for sharing.

  • Amazing, it seems you are a big fan of Watchmen, I don’t know much about it, thanks for sharing.

  • Cool – Glad to hear this turned out well!
    I am just going to wait to see it when it is spliced into Snyder’s Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD coming out in the Fall. . .

    thebonebreakers last blog post..Upcoming Film: The Landlord

  • Cool – Glad to hear this turned out well!
    I am just going to wait to see it when it is spliced into Snyder’s Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD coming out in the Fall. . .

    thebonebreakers last blog post..Upcoming Film: The Landlord

  • No problem.

  • No problem.

  • I’m looking forward to the “Ultimate Director’s Cut” as well.

  • I’m looking forward to the “Ultimate Director’s Cut” as well.

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