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Saturday, January 08, 2005
Why A V For Vendetta Movie Is A Bad Idea
So, now that I've recovered from my initial shock and dismay regarding the prospect of a Wachowski Brothers produced film adaptation of V For Vendetta (my true initial reaction involved a lot of swearing, even for me), I thought I'd make a case as to why this film is a bad idea, citing examples from my experience with previous films based on Moore's work as a retailer. (There will be spoilers here, but it's my belief that the "Spoiler Warning" rule doesn't apply to material that's 20 years old or more. By the way, Gandalf doesn't really die, Rosebud is a sled, and Norman is a cross-dresser.)
--I shouldn't have to defend the quality of the source material. And yet, every time a crappy movie is made based on a comic or book that's good, that's what happens. Before the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie came out, when people asked me to recommend a good comic and I suggested LOEG they took my suggestion in good faith. Now they look at me as if I've gone insane and I then have to take the time explaining that "No, all they really took from the comic was the title, they're completely different." The exact same situation applies to From Hell, with people reluctant to pick up the comic for fear of page after page of psychic detectives smoking opium. If you further doubt me, go ahead and recommend the Steve Gerber written Howard the Duck comics to your non-comics reading friends and see how they react. As Mike has discovered many times, the sheer awfulness of that film has perhaps forever destroyed the reputation of the comics it was based on. And I realize that I am in the minority on this, but be prepared for the same reaction to the Sin City comics once the film is released.
--The public at large doesn't seem to understand the concept of "based on." To return to the LOEG example, I've lost track of the number of people who assume that the comic is an adaptation of the film, not the other way around. Since comics are such a specialty item, for a limited audience, and since this V film is being advertised via it's connections to The Matrix, it's entirely likely that most people hearing about the film are never going to realize that it was a comic first. And the vast majority of people who casually discover the comic after hearing about the film are going to assume that the comic is derivative of the film. Which would be fine, except:
--Since more people will see the film than read the comic, this will create an incorrect assumption about the content of the comic. Let's be honest here, the Wachowski Brothers and their creatures have not shown themselves to be people interested in making thoughtful films about political repression and the anarchist philosophy. They're not going to make a movie in which V takes the time to educate Evey. No, they're people who make action movies, specifically action movies which contain lots of pseudo-intellectual dialogue that sounds good but doesn't actually hold up to any thought in service to "kewl" special effects and stunt scenes. And here's another harsh truth: there is no way in hell they found an actor to play V who consented to having his face and voice obscured for two hour or more by a Guy Fawkes mask. We're going to see V without the mask. So, already I'm seeing one of two possible ends for the film; V is really Evey's father after all and he rescues her from the totalitarian government, or he's some damnably handsome guy that Evey falls in love with...and he rescues her from the totalitarian government. In either case, he's not going to die in the end. This is because:
--There are lots of things about the source material that American film-goers will not accept. You know how my problem with the Sin City movie is a combination of lack-of-faith in the creators and the belief that American's are going to laugh their assess off at a black-and-white film with spot color and Mickey Rourke's Muppet-esque make-up? A lot of that applies to V as well. The symbolism of the limited color palette? Gone. V as a murderous terrorist? Gone. The huge cast of characters, each with a story to tell and a role to play? Gone. V always being one step ahead of his enemies? Gone. Americans want their stories simple and easy to understand. We're going to see V as the heroic freedom fighter, rescuing Evey from the one or two bad eggs that have spoiled the other-wise impeccable political system. We're certainly not going to see V blowing up any buildings in these hyper-sensitive times. This is going to be a super-hero movie in which V solves all the world's problems by hitting bad guys, probably in a way which involves slow motion wire-fu and lots of quick cuts in editing.
Oh, and that "Remember, remember the fifth of November" line on the poster...American's don't know what Guy Fawkes day is, and are going to assume that the film is going to open on November fifth.
--The history of Moore adaptations to film, and comics adaptations in general, gives me the right to be skeptical about this one. If anything, Moore's work has proven itself to be untranslateable to film. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has proven to be the most faithful adaptation of one of his works, and we all know how that turned out. Even an adaptation that is generally regarded as having some merit, and I'm aware that the From Hell film has it's defenders, still fundamentally misunderstood the source material. Any film which purports to be an adaptation of From Hell and makes the identity of Jack the Ripper the central mystery of the film, is a film whose makers didn't understand what the book was about. Making V For Vendetta of all things into a movie suggests that someone, somewhere just wanted to make a comic book into a movie because X-Men and Spider-Man made lots of money.
--It will affect sales. From Hell has enough of a reputation amongst intellectuals that it's sales haven't been too badly hurt by the film. But LOEG at this point only sells to hard-core comics fans. The casual reader has no interest in it, thanks to the film. When I do get interest in it these days, nine times out of ten it's a child or parent who is interested because they just saw the film and expect that the comic is going to be just like the movie. And given the sales patterns we usually see on comic-to-film adaptations, I'm going to get a lot of requests for the V trade up until the movie comes out. And then no one is going to want it. Especially if the movie is, as I expect, crap, and bears no thematic or stylistic resemblance to the comic.