Sunday, March 19, 2006
V on V
Okay, so. Being the geek that I am, I went to see V For Vendetta this past Friday afternoon. I went to the first show of the day, because I couldn't possibly wait any longer - this film has been postponed at least once, due to (if memory serves) the train bombings in London this past summer.

For the benefit of those not in the know, V For Vendetta is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore. For the further benefit of those with no cultural awareness, Mr. Moore has written some of the best and most influential graphic novels of all time. OF ALL TIME, people. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I suggest you run out and acquaint yourself with From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Watchmen (which is quite possibly singularly responsible for changing the face of superhero comics). But I digress. The man is a genius and a true master of his craft.

He's also a complete lunatic. You won't see his name associated with this film - it's conspicuously absent from the credits of this film, and will be absent from the credits of ANY future films based on work he published with DC comics. He's been ranting for years about how he was raped by Hollywood and DC is the devil and he's been cheated and used, etc etc. I used to assume this was because most films thus far based on his work have been crap. Okay, that's not fair - they weren't crap. They were quite good, really. From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were both well made and completely entertaining, as was Constantine (based on a character Moore created). Good films, sure... but they bore little if any resemblance to the original books. So I always kind of figured that Alan Moore was pissed off at the loss of his artistic integrity. You spend your life creating these wonderful stories and amazing characters, crafting messages with depth and philosophy and whatnot. From Hell had footnotes, FFS. And then the film comes out, and it's all been cut down and re-written and Heather Graham is playing a whore (quelle surprise) whose fake British accent keeps changing every ten seconds. I can certainly see how one might feel raped by Hollywood under such circumstances.

But then recently I read an article that pretty much said he was pissed off because he wasn't getting paid what he thought he was worth. Forget artistic integrity, do what you want with the work, the characters, Heather Graham. Just show him the money.

So, I lost a little bit of respect for an idol there, but so what. He's still a genius mastermind, and if you haven't read V For Vendetta yet, I really wish you would. And I wish you'd read it BEFORE you see the film. Here's why:

The comic is a brilliant Orwellian drama. V is a vigilante madman, desperate to reclaim society from the grasp of a totalitarian government. In the comic, the government is portrayed via the use of an analogy that gives it human characteristics. The government has a brain, a voice, hands. It's a creepy narrative device, and it's one of the things that sets this story apart from other 1984 clones. The heroine (if you want to call her that), Evey Hammond, is about to turn to prostitution having hit rock bottom. The people are oppressed. Concentration camps exist, experiments are carried out. Everything is bleak, and V is dead set on revolution.

The film, while enjoyable, makes a lot of changes to the core plot. Evey Hammond is far from being a prostitute, she seems to have a pretty cushy (if thankless) job at a television station. The people aren't oppressed, unless you call sitting around in middle-class homes watching television all day "being oppressed". The only real sign of government control is an enforced curfew. The creepy dictator only ever appears on a gigantic TV screen, as is required for every film ever made about an Orwellian society (see also: 1984, Equilibrium, and I think maybe possibly Freejack? But it's been years since I saw Freejack, and for good reason).

The underlying message of the comic is still present in the film, at a very basic level. I was telling M the other day... the average American moviegoer is maybe kind of stupid (sorry, fellow Americans, it's true. I present as evidence the success of Larry the Cable Guy). It takes a certain degree of intelligence - both book smarts AND social awareness - to fully appreciate something with the kind of political and philosophical foundations found in the graphic novel. They really had to dumb that stuff down, or I think the average person might get a bit bored.

I know that sounds harsh, and I guess it seems like I'm selling my fellow humans short. But honestly... deep down you know I have a point. See also: The Fast And The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and the forthcoming The Fast And The Furious 3: Tokyo Drift for examples of what the average American has the mental capacity for.

I'm rambling a bit. In summary: this film isn't complete crap. But it didn't impress me half as much as the comic did, either. And despite glossing over some serious issues, it did successfully raise some provoking questions like "just how do we define terrorism, anyway?" In the current socio-political climate, I think "terrorist" is a word that gets severely abused. But you have to figure that out for yourself.

So yeah, sure, go watch this film. I guess you have my permission.