Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Remember, Remember, The 5th Of November

By B.E. Earl

Hey kids! One thing I forgot to mention about March 17th in my last posting was that it is the US and UK major release date for the new Wachowski produced film V for Vendetta. In anticipation of this event, I sat down last night and re-read my copies of the DC comic books written by Alan Moore that the film is based upon.

For those not in the know, ‘V for Vendetta’ was actually started by Moore in the early 80’s and never quite finished because the British magazine that was publishing the serial went under. Moore and DC Publications picked up the unfinished storyline in 1988 and finished it with reprints of the first part of the comic and new material. As Moore himself states in the preface, nothing much has changed (except the age of his daughter) since he first started the story as Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party were still ruling Great Britain. ‘V for Vendetta’ was his attempt to comment on a society that he felt was rapidly going down the wrong path.

The titular masked hero/villain, V, is a freedom fighter of unknown origins who not only is attempting to change the landscape of society in this future view of Great Britain, but is also on a vendetta against those who had seriously wronged him and others like him in the past. In this version of the future, Great Britain has survived a nuclear war that had destroyed much of the rest of the world. Having removed all American nuclear weapons from British soil by Parliamentary edict some time ago, they were no longer a prime first strike target. The nuclear winter and resulting famine and flooding, however, caused a drastic change in the government of the country. A fascist regime took over and soon Great Britain became a violent and corrupt Orwellian society.

Our hero, V, chooses Guy Fawkes Day in 1997 as his coming out party and actually succeeds where Fawkes failed in blowing up Parliament. The act is more symbolic than anything else as Parliament’s power had long since gone the way of the dodo. Along with his na├»ve young accomplice, Evey, V proceeds to rain destruction down on the fascist government and send the whole country into chaos. He also continues his bloody quest to hunt down his former tormentors and make them pay for they had done to him.

The graphic novel is extremely well written and intelligent, maybe even more so than ‘Watchmen’ for which Moore is more often lauded. The way that Moore was playing with the conventional form and content of comic books was revolutionary at the time. Even as dated as it seems now (the comic book’s future date was 1997/1998), we can see how well this story could translate into a timely piece of political filmmaking. I would love to see the Vicious Cabaret section from the comic book played out on the big screen, but I understand it has been excised from the screenplay. Too bad.

I understand that film is going to be different from the graphic novel, as should be the case with a work of this scope that has a multitude of secondary plots and characters. That is the great thing about adapted works of art. You always have the original to go back to. Moore himself has had nothing to do with this film having given away the rights long ago to his friend and collaborator David Lloyd. He has said that adaptations of his work have nothing to do with the work itself. Each should stand alone.

I’m hoping that this adaptation stands alone, but I’m also hoping that it contains enough of the wit and intelligence of the original to show the rest of the world the true genius that is Alan Moore. We shouldn’t have to settle for anything less.

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