WatchmenZack Snyder is in post production on his big screen adaptation of Watchmen, and is currently sitting on a three-hour superhero movie.

“The main picture is nearing three hours long and I know I have a fight on my hands just with that,” Snyder told the New York Times.

And the eventual Ultimate Edition DVD version of the movie (think Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings extended editions on crack) will no doubt be over four and a half plus hours in length. More on that in a bit. Since a big screen adaptation of Watchmen was first announced, many fans of the original Alan Moore comic book mini-series wondered how Tales of the Black Freighter, the story-within-the-story, would be handled, if at all.

Watchmen Newsstand

Black FreighterFor those who don’t know, Black Freighter is a comic book within the Watchmen universe which chronicles “a castaway’s increasingly desperate attempts to return home to warn his family of the impending arrival of the Black Freighter, a phantom pirate ship which houses the souls of the damned.” In the comic book, Tales of the Black Freighter is read by a teenage boy while he sits beside a newsstand whose proprietor contemplates the latest headlines and discusses them with his customers (seen above, comic book to film comparison thanks to Maxim). According to Wikipedia, “This juxtaposition of text and images from the story within a story and its framing sequence uses the former to act as a parallel commentary to the latter-which is the plot of Watchmen itself.”

Black Freighter

Back in February, Gerard Butler told Empire Magazine that he would be voicing the lead character in Black Freighter and that it will be animated in an anime style. I guess the original plan was to shoot the entire tie-in using a style similar to 300, employing green screens and computer generated locations. But the New York Times confirms that the budget was indeed too high (over $20 million), and that Warner Bros will be releasing a 100% animated Tale of the Black Freighter on DVD a mere five days after Watchmen hits theaters on March 6th 2008. How cool is that? Diane Nelson, president of Warner Premiere declined to say how much this animated feature would cost, but did reveal that it is budgeted for 30 percent to 50 percent higher than a typical direct-to-DVD effort. he DVD will also include a documentary-style film called “Under the Hood” that will delve into the characters’ backstories.

Since the film adaptation was first announced, I wondered if such an R-rated non-mainstream superhero movie could really make it’s money back at the box office. And while I’m not discounting the film’s eventual opening weekend just yet, its now becoming more clear that Warner Bros has a long tail plan. While it’s a cool idea to release Black Freighter alongside the theatrical release, truth is it’s Warner Bros plans to make you reach into your pocket four separate times. They expect fans will buy a ticket to opening night, buy the “Tales of the Black Freighter” direct-todvd animated movie days later, followed by a limited feature DVD of the movie, and eventually an “ultimate edition” DVD, which will include tons of special features and have the two films edited together into one megamovie, just as it appears in the graphic novel.

Also, AICN has just posted a 1940 photo of The Minutemen, a team of superheroes which formed in 1939 and disbanded a decade later. The photo below features the classic olden day versions of Silk Spectre, Nite Owl, Captain Metropolis, Mothman, Silhouette, Comedian, Dollar Bill, and Hooded Justice. Click the image below to see the full resolution version on AICN.

Watchmen Minutemen Movie

I have also scanned a couple frames from the comic book where the photo actually appears.

Minutemen Comic Book Watchmen

Discuss: Is mainstream America interested in watching a three hour Watchmen movie in the theater? 

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