Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Under the Hood (Eric Matthies)

Now, on with Hollis Mason's tell-all interview, along with many other recognizable characters, here in "Under the Hood". 

A short film that evokes the magazine-like news features of the '80s, "Under the Hood" is an effective secondary sweetener that gives your viewing experience of "Watchmen" a more intimate feel. Headlined by an aging Hollis Mason aka Nite-Owl in a sobering interview that tackles the story of his life, from his childhood years up to his days with the "Minutemen" and his subsequent retirement from masked vigilantism, "Under the Hood" is truly insightful both as a pseudo-documentary and as a precursor to much grander things in a parallel world teetering on the edge of chaos and oblivion. 

Of course, for some who have already read the graphic novel, this supplemental short film is nothing new. But as one of those who were slightly disappointed by Zack Snyder's "Watchmen" adaptation, it's still quite refreshing and commendable for Snyder and company to have conceived "Under the Hood" for the sake of enriching and extending their cinematic translation of "Watchmen" while also exemplifying an almost unsurpassed dedication to the source material. 

Now, what I liked most about "Under the Hood", aside from the sincere performances by Stephen McHattie (as Hollis Mason) and company, is the very genuine '80s feel of the whole short film that seemingly suggests media tranquility days or weeks before the world of "Watchmen" ironically heads into an imminent nuclear destruction. The fun little commercials also helped in heightening this sense of calm as products such as the very resonant 'Nostalgia' perfume populate the screen with a laid-back and feel-good advertising atmosphere. 

But this calm exterior slowly subsides, though almost unrecognizably, once the characters' opinionated insights come to play. Like a quiet bomb awaiting its own implosion, words uttered by the likes of Hollis Mason, Sally Jupiter aka Silk Spectre I (Carla Gugino is also great in this one) and even a very Woody Allen-like Wally Weaver have underlined the anxious fate that awaits both the remaining members of the Watchmen and the world itself. 

"We've been replaced". Hollis Mason sadly stated as he pertains to Dr. Manhattan's god-like status that, for him, replaces not just the costumed heroes of a bygone era like him but also humanity as a whole. But on the other hand, when asked about Dr. Manhattan, a street smart news vendor named Bernard (that's also one of the more significant bit characters in the graphic novel) highlighted Dr. Manhattan's great contribution by answering that America would not have won in Vietnam without him (of course, in "Watchmen's parallel universe, U.S. did won). Different people with different opinions that has since shaped the world of "Watchmen"; it surely is a joy both to hear and to watch.

Once started as an autobiographical interview cum advertising ploy for Hollis Mason's book "Under the Hood", the short slowly turns into a full-formed mosaic of opinions (by way of separate interviews) regarding issues prevalent in the "Watchmen" universe as given by different individuals ranging from flawed masked crime fighters of the past to ordinary bar owners and psychoanalysts. 

"Under the Hood", unlike "The Tales of the Black Freighter", is a film that cannot stand alone. Snyder's "Watchmen" must still be watched first (or the other way around). Speaking in terms of "World of Warcraft", "Under the Hood" is the "Frozen Throne" to "Watchmen's" "Reign of Chaos". A potent companion piece, "Under the Hood" is an effective "Watchmen" short that boldly underscores the world of "Watchmen's" proverbial calm before the storm.


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