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A sort of review of V for Vendetta

Movies based on books ought to be expected to be as separate from their origins as movies 'based on a true story'. To complain that such a flick is not true to its source is perhaps to assume that it should have to slavishly recreate the original work. A movie can sometimes do well with that sort of approach, (as, say, with Fight Club), but not all films can stand to follow the particulars of a story written more than 20 years ago for an entirely different entertainment medium and audience.

Saying V for Vendetta works on its own as a movie, does a fair job expressing the import of the individual over the government and dealing with difficult issues such as terrorism, is not to say it is superior to the comic it is based upon. Saying one should attempt to appreciate or enjoy it as a piece by itself (as most will, having not read the book), is not to say comparisons between the comic and the film should be avoided altogether. It is possible to have had fun watching V, and still find it a questionable piece of filmmaking with writing paling in comparison to 1984, A Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, The Trial, Farhenheit 451, or even Dead or Alive 3. So too might one dig the film version of V while thinking it a poor substitute for the work of Alan Moore and David Lloyd, even if seeing the movie at full price is cheaper than picking up a copy of the 1989 version.

Even so, I don't think any comic fan who goes to see V will or should expect it to supplant the original in their hearts. We can all agree that would be silly, right? And none of us thought the movie would do everything like the book, yeah? So why make a show of contrasting plot points of the two very different pieces? If the movie works, it isn't because it bows its head and follows Alan Moore around. If it doesn't work, that can and probably should be explained without having to look at Moore's distant scripting or Lloyd's black and white drawings. The book and the movie just aren't the same thing, and there's no reason to treat them as such.

It is possible to make a movie too true to its source material. This is sometimes pointed out as one of the things that held back Gangs of New York, and I would say Sin City suffered from ripping almost all of its material directly out of the comics.

Oh, how did I like the film adaptation of V for Vendetta? That's right, I am supposed to mention something about that. I liked it. Sure, I thought it was flawed, and I would have trouble deciding whether I would score it as a 2.5 or 3 star movie out of 4, but it was generally more thoughtful than your standard comic adaptation, while remaining more fun than a lot of other material coming out of Hollywood these days. By no means should it be thought of as a masterpiece or even a candidate for Best Picture, but it was enjoyable and managed itself without stumbling over the special effects too often.

I also feel like it might do some good for the comic industry. Every comic movie given any sort of success brings higher sales of the book it was inspired by, after all. If the general public continues to treat it as well as most critics have and with the same sorts of box office results as it got this weekend, more people are going to buy Moore's V, at least a few kids are going to get the 'Absolute' recoloured version for their birthdays, and just maybe some of those folks who wander into the comics section of their Barnes and Noble will find themselves interested in something else on those racks.
Is this something to complain about? Probably not.

A lot of fans will, however, make an issue of how the movie stacks up to the comics, just as Alan Moore has. And a lot of critics will be confused by the bits that have been at least somewhat inspired by Moore, considering them morally distasteful or intellectually muddled, which is to say that the political themes of the film may challenge some of the opinions of viewers while not resolving everything in easy or stark terms of good and evil--isn't that awful?

Comments

  1. Wait, wait, wait -- you're saying that Fight Club the movie followed the book? How long has it been since you've either a) read the book, or b) seen the movie? It followed it, but not too much and certainly not slavishly to detail.

    Ok, now I have to go back and read the rest of the review.

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  2. Ok, the rest of the review was good. I saw V on Monday afternoon and liked it very much. I haven't read the book, though -- and as you point out, now I want to.

    I was absolutely assuaged, aghast, and amused by the awesome, astute alliteration of which I am an abecedarian.

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  3. Never read Fight Club, but I did talk to a number of people who either read the book just before or just after seeing the movie when it was relatively new, and I've seen or been told of (I forget which, or if it was both) quotes from Palluhinick or whatever saying he thought the movie was very faithful to his book, except for the ending, which he liked better in the film version anyway. But, if you tell me the impression I've been given is wrong, I can't exactly back up my statement or feign certainty. Not if I want to be fair, anyway.

    As to the book, yeah, you should check out Moore's other work prior to the '90s as well. He did some neat things as an independant, and even managed to thrive under DC's supervision (though this is perhaps because DC was being destroyed by Marvel at the time, and Moore was usually put on flagging or newly created books). I haven't been a fan of anything he's done in the last 16 years or so, but what are you going to do?

    As to your being a novice alliteratition (neologism ahoy), you're better than I ever want to be. ~_^ A lot of people complained about that scene, but I thought it was humourous. V had a nice balance between kitsch and a serious 'action movie' approach. The opening scenes did a lot to establish that tone.

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  4. So there's a colored version? I, and you can make fun of me for this, refuse to read black-and-white comics, except for the first collection of Girl Genius, and that one only because the rest of them are colored.

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  5. You're missing out if you refuse to read something like Usagi Yojimbo because it is in black and white, you're really missing out.

    As to V, every edition since 1989 (with the previous black and whites only seeing print in early '80s England, IIRC). There's a new, deluxe, very expensive version from DC's 'Absolute' line which I'm pretty sure features a new colour job. Same with Watchmen.

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