Comparing V and the Watchmen movies with Moore’s originals
I’ll not lie: my appreciation of Alan Moore’s work is recent.
Say, circa 2010 – that was the year I moved from a 350 MB-per-month 3G connection to something that could actually let me search for things other than study notes and bitmaps of WWE Divas. That was the year I purchased a DVD drive and turned my creaking computer into the family TV.
One of the first films I watched was V for Vendetta, which famously propelled the Guy Fawkes mask to worldwide Anon fame. I didn’t like it. While V stood out as clear as as sharp as a 12 o’clock shadow, the rest of the film felt like a caricature of 1984. The last fight scene looked awful. So I went looking for the guy who wrote the script, and discovered that it was written by the legendary Wachowskis. But Wikipedia told me it was based on the work of this guy called Alan Moore, and that Moore famously hated the movie, and one thing led to another and before long I had borrowed both the V for Vendetta comics and the Watchmen comic and was poring over them obsessively.
I watched the movie again last night. I felt it had some substance now, or perhaps I had enough substance now to appreciate it. It’s a liberal vs. fascist tale, and it’s a murky mirror reflecting some disturbing parts of where we’re heading today, what with all the alt-right and the left and governments being what they are today. The fascist state is on the rise, and V could practically be a mascot foe the antifa, albeit with a slightly better uniform.
But it’s also not difficult to see why Moore hated the damn thing so much he asked his name to be taken off the credits. The original V for Vendetta is not a liberal vs fascist tale: it’s a rich story that pits two extremes of fascism and anarchism against one another, and compares and contrasts how much damage each does (at least from my understanding). In terms of story, the movie is the first act of the comic.
(Also, nobody is acting in the movie. Natalie Portman’s acting is completely flat. Hugo Weaving is utterly wasted behind a mask. All the supporting characters, bar Gordon, have just one facial expression each).
There was the same issue with Watchmen, although much, much less: while the storyline was simplified, I felt Zack Snyder’s movie retained the themes – the weird sort of Catch-22-ish deal that looked at superheroes for what they really were: violent, disturbed people in colorful suits.
Moore famously said that comics are a different medium from film, and that his work belongs in that intersection between picture and pencil. I agree. But I just found out that Moore wrote a massive novel called Jerusalem last year, and from the snippets I’ve read it sounds like his language manages to replicate those pictures pretty well:
“A diffused gold plume rose smokily through the engulfing negative-space gelatine, a cloudy and unravelling woollen strand of lemonade that trailed up to the gumdrop pane of the vat’s surface quite near Michael’s plaid-clad feet as he stood on the framing wood surround.”
I’m off to see what the man does with just text. I expect it’ll be rich, require multiple readings, and probably be one of those things that should never be put into film.