Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Alan Moore, since the travesty that was the film of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, has demanded that all adaptations of his insanely brilliant comics work be done without his name appearing anywhere on the project1. In addition to aforementioned travesty, this also includes the adaptations of From Hell, and now, V for Vendetta.
I saw aforementioned travesty; did not see From Hell. Yesterday, I saw V for Vendetta. In my own, highly biased opinion–the graphic novel is one of my favorite books of all time–Moore was right to take his name off the project.
In fairness to the filmmakers, I will list the things I thought they got right. Natalie Portman as Evey. Hugo Weaving as V. The entire sequence involving Evey’s incarceration and Valerie’s autobiography. The look of the post-apocalyptic London, and the sense of impending uprising. Stephen Fry as Gordon Dietrich, the one moment in the movie where I thought the change was arguably an improvement. Costuming.
But beyond that, I was disappointed. I wasn’t expecting the same level of depth and complexity, but I was expecting something more than a caricature of Moore’s work–something that borrowed the trappings of V, but watered down his personality and attached too much text where subtext had once been. I came very close to audibly groaning when V actually said “I fell in love with you,” when it was clear enough already. I didn’t like that the government heads had all their humanity bled out of them and that V had too much humanity on display–the moments of hesitation, the moments that it seemed he didn’t know what to do next; these all rang false to me. I highly disliked that the Chancellor’s party had been responsible for the viral outbreak–the important thing was not that they were so evil that they caused a disaster, it was that a disaster occurred, and they took advantage of people’s fear to foment totalitarianism.
The film seemed a muddle of message by the end of it, and the half-baked rock song about “revolution” during the credits made me feel like I’d just watched a film that tried to encourage dissent not because your government may be carrying out horrible things in your name, but because dissent is cool, kids. It felt like the marketing circus around Green Day’s American Idiot, without any of the righteous anger and intelligent artistry that makes that album so powerful.
There’s also something to be said about learning when to let the original author’s words stand. There were a number of places in the film where subtle dialogue changes were made in the adaptation, and in almost every case, the screenwriter’s choice was the lesser.
Example: When Valerie speaks of her first girlfriend, she writes a memory of what she remembers most about her.
Screenplay: “It was her wrists. I fell in love with her wrists.”
Novel: “Her wrists. God, her wrists were beautiful.”
In addition, I saw the screenwriter chucking most of Moore’s efficient dialogue to the side and exercising his own cleverness. V’s first speech, a winding series of words beginning with the letter v, is atrocious. There was entirely too much Shakespeare, as if the only way to make it clear that V was a patron of the arts was to give him references that predate Queen Victoria, even though the film made it clear that most everything was on government blacklist. (In the novel, the first words V says to Bishop Lilliman are “Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth…and taste.”)
I will admit at all times that I am biased. I love the novel to death. It could not have received a fully proper adaptation unless it were an HBO miniseries, but it deserved better than McTeigue and the Wachowskis gave it.
I was entertained, but little more.
1 I was greatly amused to see the credit for V for Vendetta read “Based on the novel illustrated by David Lloyd.”