March 23, 2006

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

V for Vendetta receives a thumbs-up from me. Adapting graphic art to a movie is not easy. Adapting Alan Moore's work is bloody difficult and has so far resulted in everything from the mediocre to the disastrous as far as I'm concerned. Add to that the complexities of a portraying a protagonist whose face and body are never seen, and a story which could easily fill a five-hour movie if done faithfully - and it gets hinky, to quote a certain U.S. Marshal.

To my surprise, the chopping and reworking, while visible almost immediately to anyone who has read the book, came across as almost apologetically tender as well as (pardon the term) graphic. Surgical, really. Big chunks of the story were missing, yes, but their excision was handled with deferential care. While they were obviously missing, their absence was not papered over with out-of-place shoddy add-on justifications. There simply hadn't been room (in movie terms, 'room' translates to 'minutes' which translates to 'money').

Ditto the additions. There are, of course, additions to the film which don't come from Moore's book. I'm sure some people will consider them revoltingly offensive - why add contemporary reference points to this story, when it is a classic by itself? That is a perfectly defensible position, and I would hardly say that the story would not be more faithful had they been left out. However, once the excisions had been made for time's sake, then props were needed - and the use of some contemporary references allowed the audience's imagination to 'fill in the gaps' without nearly as many screen minutes being dedicated to 'backstory', which itself would have been damaging to the flow.

This doesn't make the movie a 'great movie' or even a 'good movie.' It makes it, for me, an understandable decision, and makes the adaptation one which was (in my opinion) pulled off well given the limitations. I will say that it failed in one respect - it fit within the confines of its limitations so well that it drew attention to those very limits, rather than hiding or misdirecting the audience's eye away from them as a masterful stage show might. This of course is the magic of the Wachowski brothers' act - they are special effects men, and their first creation, the Matrix, was defined by its ability to live entirely within a box and make you believe that the world itself existed within a tight and narrow place.

So no, I didn't have any feel for the world outside where V for Vendetta actually showed us in its footage. On the other hand, we're never shown that in the book, either; that's the point. Britain stands alone. England Prevails.

And in the end, the backdrops and thrusts and drops and platforms holding up the stage are what Codename: V really wants us to see - right before he sets them aflame and kicks them over.

I enjoyed the movie.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason the gunpowder treason ever should be forgot.

Posted by jbz at March 23, 2006 7:31 PM | TrackBack


Hm. I wasn't all that enamored of 'League' even in book form. I liked it, but not nearly as much as the other two you mentioned. So I won't recommend you run out and grab it. I do think that the movie was an abomination, above and beyond anything to do with the premise or the story. If I had gift $ on amazon, though, I'd pick it up. I haven't ever regretted reading anything of Moore's, let's put it that way, even if I might have regretted buying some of his stuff versus something else at a particular time.

Posted by: jbz at March 23, 2006 9:53 PM

So should I read League? I saw it on a plane, and wow... it was terrible. Even down to the premise. But Watchmen and V (the books, haven't seen the movie) were terrific premises and great writing. So I'm torn about picking up and reading League.

Posted by: Luis at March 23, 2006 8:42 PM
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