Constantine, Review by Case Wright


CONS.jpg

Can one act stain your soul for all eternity? It turns out that if you attempt suicide, you’re going to Hell.  Anywho, Constantine was a comic by Alan Moore (Watchmen) long before Keanu Reeves played the demon fighter.  Full disclosure, I have purchased, but not read the comic. It’s long and I’m not sure if I can get through it for this horrorthon, but I WILL TRY!

Constantine was born with a “gift” that he could see demons among us.  This drives him out of his mind; so, he commits suicide and is sent promptly to Hell. He’s tormented for what seems like an eternity, but in our time was just two minutes. He returns to Earth because paramedics revive him.  Because he attempted to kill himself, he’s condemned to Hell when he dies.  How do I know this?The “Half-Angel” Gabriel tells it to us in really clunky exposition.  It turns out that Heaven and Hell are basically in a Cold War and can’t directly fight on Earth.

Constantine REALLY doesn’t want to go back to Hell.  His solution is to fight demons for a living to get into heaven. He does an exorcism here and there and fights evil, but this isn’t his ticket back to heaven- as I was told by MORE exposition.  Constantine is kind of a depressive and a little whiny at times.  I guess that’s why I kept getting annoyed by him.  Yeah, Yeah, your life sucks, but there’s no reason to do this all the time:

CON2.jpg

There’s a lot of these “I’m so broody Boohoo” moments in this film.

Like this one: broody 3.jpg

This one was a long trip to bummer time with a soupçon of anger:

broody 2.jpg

Between the complaining, Constantine uncovers a plot that Lucifer’s son Mammon is trying to break into earth and cause a lot of trouble.  Trouble….Trouble….that starts with M …. and ends with N, which stands for Mammon!

Constantine was entertaining, but it seems kinda all over the place at times.  The parts that had him hot on the trail of Mammon and his evil plans were fun, but all the side plots and side characters were a mixture of goofy and dull.  Overall, it was a good burgers and fries flick.  Not to say that the comics or the cartoon (yep, there’s a cartoon, I know because of Google) aren’t awesome, but if they are the same quality as the movie, they are beach reads or I’m stuck on public transportation reading.  There might be sequel.  Will I watch it? Yes, because despite my snark, I’m basically 14.

 

Winchester Before Winchester: Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 “Ghost Dance” (February 1986, written by Alan Moore)


The Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House stands in San Jose, California.  The home of Sarah Winchester, construction began on the house in 1883 and continued nonstop until Sarah’s death in 1922.  The result was a gigantic and maze-like mansion that was built without any master building plan.

Because Sarah was the widow of the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arm Company, it was rumored that her mansion was haunted with the ghosts of all the people who had been killed by a Winchester rifle and that, because new ghosts were always arriving, Sarah had no choice but to keep adding extras rooms to the house.  Those legends served as the inspiration behind the new horror film, Winchester.

However, Winchester is not the first time that the supposedly haunted mansion appeared in popular culture.  In the 45th issue of Swamp Thing, Alan Moore took readers on a trip to the Winchester Mystery House.

Swamp Thing #45 was a part of the American Gothic storyline.  For 13 issues, John Constantine led Swamp Thing across America so that he could witness and sometimes battle modern versions of classic monsters.  In the larger DC mythology, the events in American Gothic were due to the first Crisis on Infinite Earths.  (While the rest of the DC Universe was worrying about whether they would live on Earth-1 or Earth-2, a South American cult was planning on using the crisis as their opportunity to take over the supernatural dimension.)  In reality, American Gothic was an excuse for Swamp Thing’s writer, Alan Moore, to indulge his interest in both the occult and contemporary affairs.  The Winchester Mystery House and its connection to gun violence was a natural subject for Moore to take on.

Entitled “Ghost Dance,” the story begins with two couples, David and Linda and Rod and Judy, arriving at the long abandoned Cambridge House.  While David fills everyone in on the history of the mansion and the legends about the ghosts, Rod openly flirts with Linda and makes jokes about The Shining.  Though the name may have been changed, the Cambridge House is drawn to look exactly like the Winchester House.

It does not take long for the four of them to get separated and lost inside the mansion.  Rod starts to make love to a nude woman who he thinks is Judy until her wig falls off and he discovers that she is actually the ghost of Franny Mitchell, who was shot in the head by a scorned lover.  Rod flees and, after opening a door that would have led to a room that was never actually built, he falls to his death.  Judy dies when a herd of bison, all killed by a Cambridge Repeater Rifle, burst out of a closet and trample over her.  After seeing two long-dead gunfighters reenacting their final gun battle, Linda faints while surrounded by the blind-folded spirits of people who were executed by shooting squads.  As for David, he goes mad as he watches the spirits of everything ever killed by a rifle march through the house.  It’s all the ghostly rabbits that finally cause him to snap.

Towards the end of the issue, Swamp Thing finally does show up, long enough to save both David and Linda and to send the spirits back into the chimneys of the Cambridge House.  After Swamp Thing leaves with John Constantine, Linda finally regains consciousness and tells David that she wishes he had died instead of Rod.

Sometime later, David visits a gun shop and buys a Cambridge Repeater of his own.  Feeling less alone now that he has a gun in his hands, David says he is going back home to see Linda and it is inferred that at least one more ghost will soon be moving into the Cambridge House.

Though controversial when it was first released, “Ghost Dance” is one of the high points of Moore’s run on Swamp Thing.  At the time, several readers felt that the issue was too blatantly anti-gun and there were the usual complaints about the story’s violence and sexual content.  Moore was one of the pioneers of the idea that comic books, even ones that featured “super heroes” (or swamp things), could deal with real issues and mature themes and that’s what he did with this story.  Whether you agreed with his opinions or not, the unapologetic approach that Moore took in Swamp Thing was always far more interesting than the safe, middle-of-the-road approach taken by most of the other mainstream comics of the era.

Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #45 (February, 1986)

  • Writer: Alan Moore
  • Letterer: John Costanza
  • Inker: Alfredo Alcala
  • Penciler: Stan Woch
  • Colorist: Tatjana Wood
  • Cover: Steve Bissette and John Totleben
  • Editor: Karen Berger

“Crossed + One Hundred” #1 : Zombie Apocalypse, Alan Moore-Style


4253003-01

Who are we kidding? Of course I was gonna pick this book up — despite having no previous experience with, or knowledge of, the Crossed  “universe” — because, hey, it’s a new six-part Alan Moore series, and while there are very few creators who can “sell me” on a new title based on their involvement alone, Moore is (and frankly always will be) one of them. Still, for those (like myself) who need a brief history of the basic premise here before diving in, here goes —

4253978-01-oldcountrycgc

Crossed is veteran comics writer Garth Ennis’ take on the zombie apocalypse. No one knows what caused it. The zombies are called “the crossed.” To date there have been several mini series set in this world, each featuring a different cast of characters. They’ve all been published by Avatar Press. That’s it.

4253982-01-futuretense

A threadbare setup? Sure. But that has its advantages — namely, other creators can jump in and provide their own unique take on the proceedings, and to date, many have (most notably David Lapham and Simon Spurrier). Now it’s Moore’s turn, and what’s not to be over-the-moon thrilled about? Rich, detailed, amazingly-well-realized speculative worlds have always been his stock in trade, going all the way back to Halo Jones, and with Crossed + One Hundred he’s taking us, as the title would imply, a century into the future after the dead got up and started walking around. The cast of characters is entirely new for this series, and if you’ve never read any Crossed comics before this,  you’ll do just fine.  So get it! Now, let me tell you why —

4253984-01-crossedculture

In truth, the aforementioned Halo Jones is a pretty apt comparison for what’s apparently going on here as a whole, since our protagonist, one Future Taylor, is a young lady trying to make her way in a world that both she, and we, don’t fully understand — and, as with Halo, Moore has created an entirely unique, dense-but-eminently-decipherable dialect for his characters to speak in. It may take one read-through or so to fully get your head around the various terms used, all of which have evolved from where our language is at right now, but that’s part of the fun here. For those who struggled with the first chapter of Moore’s prose novel, Voice Of The Fire, rest assured, this is nothing like that, and really, you’re not going to have too much difficulty figuring out what folks are saying.

4253980-01-boxsetleather

Okay, so, with all of that out of the way, then — how’s the story? And the art?

I’m pleased to report both are astonishingly good. Moore has given us a rag-tag group of survivors, living in a converted steam train, that are immediately fascinating and complex. Ms. Taylor, our entry point into this great unknown, is the band’s “archivist,” a sort of scavenger of lost knowledge and information, and most of the action in this initial chapter takes place in an abandoned library that our intrepid nomads come upon. Through Future’s (an interesting thing to note here is how all the youthful characters have optimistic names) journal entries and her interactions with others we come to see her, in no time flat, as a strong-willed, inquisitive, multi-faceted woman who hopefully has what it takes to survive, and possibly even thrive, in this hostile world. There’s a lot of talk about “strong female characters” in various media this days, and within the space of about six pages Future Taylor puts the likes of Katniss Everdeen (or however you spell that) to shame by being a living, breathing, realistic person who just happens to have been born in a  time, and under a set of circumstances, that have caused human civilization to go down, to put it in the mildest possible terms, an unexpected path.

4253981-01-newworldbagged

As for  for the other inhabitants of this perhaps-dystopian-and-perhaps-not makeshift “society” — knowledge and learning are at a premium here, since everyone knows so little of how they came to be in the world got to be in its current state and there’s no centralized education system (or, for that matter, centralized anything) left. I get the feeling that Moore intends to use this situation as a spring-board for exploring some of his well-known anarchist ideals, but we’ll see — I hate to predict any sort of plot trajectory with any degree of certainty when it comes to The Bearded One because his capacity to completely surprise us is so firmly established.

One thing he also firmly establishes here, though, is an overwhelming sense of dread. I mean, dread so thick you can cut it with a knife. Future and her cohorts only have the briefest of encounters with The Crossed in this first issue, and survive these skirmishes with relative ease, but there’s nothing but unease hanging over them from page one to page 24. It definitely takes skill to wring that much tension out of nearly-thin air, and if there’s one thing Crossed + One Hundred excels at right out of the gate it’s in imbuing its readers with a sense of confidence that they’re in mightily capable creative hands. Moore knows exactly where he’s going with this story, it’s just us readers — and his characters — who are in the dark. That makes for some page-turning excitement no matter how much — or even how little — is going on.

4253985-01-amhistory

The art for this series is being handled by Gabriel Andrade, who has worked on a handful of other projects for Avatar in recent years, and  he does a really fine job here. His people look like — well, people — his monsters look suitably monstrous, and while there’s nothing particularly “flashy” about his style, his eye for detail is very welcome here as it takes more than words alone to bring a fully-fleshed-out alternate reality to life. Plus, he provided all eight of this first issue’s variant covers, so that speaks well of his ability to do a quality job even with the heaviest of workloads — I’m therefore reasonably optimistic that all six issues of this series will be coming out on time, and will manage to do so without looking half-assed or rushed.

4253979-01-designsketch

Are you excited yet, friends? I sure hope so — and I know I am. The zombie apocalypse is certainly thoroughly -charted territory by now as far as genre premises go, but if anyone can breathe some new life into it and challenge, if not entirely overturn, our preconceived notions about what such a scenario would necessarily entail, it’s Moore and Andrade. These guys are bringing their “A game” and are flat-out eager to show us something new and entirely unexpected. This promises to be not just the Crossed story to beat all Crossed stories, but a seminal tale in the history of “zombie fiction” as a whole. The next four weeks can’t pass quickly enough, I’m completely hooked and counting down the days to the second issue.

 

“The Multiversity : Pax Americana” #1 Is The Comic Of The Year — No Question


MULTIVERSITY-Cv4-05

Understand — it’s not like me to make grandiose pronouncements like “such-and-such is the movie of the year,” “such-and-such is the comic of the year,” etc. It’s pretty damn hard to pinpoint something as being the best offering in any given medium when one person, obviously, can’t see or read everything that’s out there — and it’s probably doubly stupid to engage in such hyperbole before the year is even over.

And yet — that’s exactly what I’m doing right here, and with full confidence. That’s because the latest issue of Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity has no chance of being topped, barring a miracle of some sort. It’s just. That. Fucking. Good.

1-1

For those not familiar with the basic premise of what’s going on with The Multiversity, it’s an eight-issue mini-series from DC written by Morrison and illustrated by a bevy of the industry’s top talents — in this case,  his frequent collaborator Frank Quitely, who absolutely outdoes himself here. Yeah, okay, all his stuff’s awesome to behold, but his work  on Pax Americana leaves even his much-celebrated turns on Flex MentalloBatman And Robin, and All-Star Superman so far behind in the dust it’s not even funny. Just look at that spectacular page reproduced above and you’ll know that not only is Quitely rendering images here with amazing detail and care, he’s also pushing the boundaries of the comics page in terms of how narrative structure flows visually. I haven’t seen an artist on a “Big Two” project tell a story this hermetically sealed, with its own unique and perfectly logical, yet also expressive and evocative,  language since Dave Gibbons created the singular look and feel of the Watchmen “universe” nearly 30 years ago.

And hey, it’s no coincidence that we bring up Watchmen here since Pax Americana has been referred to, more than once, as “Morrison’s Watchmen,” and for good reason.  Each self-contained issue of The Multiveristy takes place on one of DC’s “parallel Earths,” with a slowly-unfolding, meta-fictional, ” comic within a comic” premise (nothing new for our guy Grant there, he’s been busting the fourth wall ever since his days on Animal Man) binding them all together in ways not fully understood yet given that we’re only halfway through the series, and this time out we’re on Earth-4, the Earth populated by the Charlton comics “Action Heroes” that DC acquired in the early ’80s and that Alan Moore famously first intended to utilize as his principal characters in he and Gibbons’ seminal work.  Morrison famously hates Watchmen, and takes every available opportunity to say so, and so the “intrigue factor” here is pretty high in terms of comics fans wanting to see how he’d handle essentially the same characters.

MCPAX-SMP-2

I say “essentially the same” because, of course, Moore and Gibbons weren’t allowed to use the Charlton characters in the end, and so quick stand-ins were devised — The Question became Rorschach, Blue Beetle became Nite Owl, Nightshade became Silk Spectre, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt became Ozymandias, Peacemaker became The Comedian, and Captain Atom became Dr. Manhattan. DC had “other plans” (most of which amounted to a hill of beans) for the “real” characters at the time, but in the “New 52” universe they’ve all been shelved indefinitely and so Morrison is free to use the original versions here — with the exception of Peter Cannon, whose copyright has reverted back to his creator, Pete Morisi.

The Watchmen similarities don’t end with the principal characters the story is based around, though — Pax Americana also employs a tight, dense story structure that plays around freely with timelines and often employs mirror images of the same scene told from multiple perspectives, such as in the astonishing two-page spread above. Rest assured, it all makes perfect sense, but odds are you won’t catch it all on the first reading unless you’re, I dunno, Stephen Hawking or something.

1447_multiversity_pax_americana_1_splash

And that’s part of the joy of a book like this, isn’t it? Make no mistake — if you’re not willing to invest a few hours, at least, of your time (not to mention $4.99 of your hard-earned money) into what Morrison and Quitely (along with colorist supreme Nathan Fairbairn, who imbues the world of Earth-4 with a distinctive palette all its own) have created here, you’re short-changing yourself, because this is a story that reveals more and more about itself with each successive re-read. As you continue to peruse its contents you’ll be able to glean which instances are integral to a full understanding of the complex proceedings and which are just clever structural gimmicks employed by the author to impress you, but it wouldn’t be a good mystery story — and Pax Americana is, in fact, a great mystery story, centered around the most consequential murder any society can endure, that of its leader — without a few red herrings being thrown into the mix. Heck, Morrison even takes a fun, albeit admittedly cheap, shot at his arch-enemy, Mark Millar, by deftly deconstructing the most pivotal sequence of Wanted and essentially copying it note-for-note while turning it on its ear at the same time, and has a bit of fun at the expense of the scene with Sally and Laurie Jupiet/Juspeczyk in Watchmen #2, as well. Gratuitous? Sure, but it works.

The other ballsy move Morrison makes here is in asking the same fundamental question with his story that Moore and Gibbons did with Watchmen in terms of when is it right to sacrifice the few for the (supposed) good of the many, who “gets” to make that call, and how do they arrive at their decision? Granted, it’s a weighty theme that can’t be grappled with as comprehensively in one 40-page comic as it can in 12 separate 30-page comics, but I give him credit for essentially finding a way to tell multiple (hmmmm — a multiversity?) of stories here at once, given that there’s more going on in this one issue than most comics with a standard “A to Z” linear narrative manage to pack into a year’s worth of their pages, and by utilizing the same characters (again, essentially) that Watchmen used to deal with the same (again, essentially) themes and concepts, Morrison and Quitely aren’t so much aping Moore and Gibbons as they are answering them.

None of which is to say that Pax Americana is going to make people forget about Watchmen any time soon. Or even that it’s “as good” as Watchmen. Again, it’s much shorter, for one thing — but it’s certainly as intricate, arguably even moreso, certainly as demanding, and in the end, certainly as revelatory, at least for those with the patience to give it the detailed attention it both deserves and rewards (as an added plus, you needn’t even be invested in the other Multiversity comics to get on board with this one, it reads just fine on its own).

The comic of the year? Yeah, I can say that pretty easily — even though there’s a bunch of other stuff I haven’t read, and the year’s not over yet.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Hercules”


hercules-rock-poster1

It’s been a weird week at the movies for yours truly, my friends : first off, I went to the theater three times this week, which almost never happens anymore (what do you think I am, rich?), and secondly, while I enjoyed The Purge : Anarchy about as much as I expected to (which is to say quite a bit), the other two flicks I saw both took me by surprise for different reasons : I was far less impressed with Richard Linklater’s much-celebrated Boyhood than I expected to be, and I ended up liking Brett Ratner’s new take on Hercules waaaaaayyyy more than I figured I was going to.

Though not because of anything Ratner himself did. But we’ll get to all that in a minute.

Full disclosure : I only went to see Hercules because my dad wanted to check it out. He’s a sucker for this kind of thing (he absolutely loves the old Kevin Sorbo TV series), and my mom wouldn’t touch a movie like this with a ten-foot pole, so when he mentioned he was hoping to check it out, I said I’d go with him. We’ve all gotta spend time with our parents while they’re still with us, right? But it’s fair to say, given Ratner’s involvement with this thing, that I wasn’t expecting much.

And ya know? He doesn’t deliver much — the direction here isn’t actively bad by any means, but it’s pretty straightforward stuff : the numerous “big battle” scenes are handled competently, and the actors by and large turn in decent enough performances, but there’s no real unique authorial stamp on any of the proceedings, and frankly, a  lot of the CGI is several rungs below what we’ve come to expect from these mega-budget summer popcorn flicks. All in all, technically speaking, it’s a fairly mixed bag.

Why, then, did I find myself pleasantly surprised by this latest (and third so far this year alone, by my count) take on Greek mythology’s most famous demi-god warrior? Simply put, the script offers a neat revisionist take on the hero, and is smart, intelligent, engaging, and surprising — it’s entirely unlike any iteration of the character we’ve seen before, and for my part, I really dug it.

hercules-dwayne-johnson1

Before I give all of the (or even any) credit to screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos for this film’s suceess, though, let me state for the record that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is perfectly likable in the title role, and while he may be a pretty conservative casting choice, that’s okay — he’s more or less pitch-perfect and his supporting actors (including Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Ingrid Bolso Berdal as members of his mostly-merry mercenary band and John Hurt and Joseph Fiennes as the film’s principal villains) do their jobs well, too. So kudos to everyone for putting in an honest day’s labor all the way through here. But let’s get back to the novel new twist on the whole legend/premise here, shall we?

This Hercules is radically different to his predecessors not just because he can actually talk (something Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and Steve Reeves really weren’t so great at when they tackled the role), but because he a) may not actually be the son of Zeus; b) is leader of a group of freelance soldiers-for-hire; and c) was driven from his home after having name dragged through the mud for supposedly killing his own family. Told’ja this was a new set-up, didn’t I?

There are also some intriguing moral complexities woven into the story that I won’t give away here — hey, I want to keep things at least nominally “spoiler-free” when and where I can — and the interpersonal relationships between Hercules and his fellow travelers — as well as those they lend/sell their services to along the way — have considerably more depth than any reasonable human being would expect from action movie fare such as this. I was both mightily impressed by this intriguing series of twists, and frankly taken more than just a little aback by them. It wasn’t until the end credits rolled that my “aha!” moment came and I realized I shouldn’t have been shocked at all, if only I’d done a little bit of homework beforehand.

images

As it turns out, Ratner’s film is an adaptation of a comics series (well, two comics series, actually) penned by the late, great Steve Moore. I don’t know much about the publisher of these books, an outfit called Radical Comics , but I do know plenty about Steve Moore, and you should, too. Moore, who passed away from natural causes at his home earlier this year, is probably best known to comics fans as Alan Moore’s best friend (no relation despite sharing the same last name), and was a genuinely remarkable talent and, by all accounts, a genuinely remarkable human being. His comics work was sporadic, but he was at the forefront of the “British Invasion” of the early 1980s with works such as the criminally-underappreciated Laser Eraser And Pressbutton, and outside the field of comics he was a regular contributor to Fortean Times magazine as well as being a part-time musician and experienced occultist. He lived his entire life in the house he was born in and apparently carried on a decades-long erotic/romantic relationship with a moon goddess entity known as Cybele. All in all, then, a thoroughly interesting guy, as well as being an insanely talented creative force.

I wish I’d known about his Herclues comics when they came out — I don’t know if they just didn’t get very good US distribution or what (the cover of the first issue is pictured above), but I honestly don’t recall ever seeing a single copy of any of them out on the shelves at my local comic shop, and I’m there every week. A quick search on Amazon shows that two trade paperback collections of the series are available, but one is out of print and commanding rather high prices. Oh well, think I’ll probably order it up anyway.

Here’s the kicker, though — as much as I enjoyed this flick, now I feel kinda bad for  having shelled out any cash on it. Why, you ask? Because Steve Moore’s surviving family isn’t getting a dime off it. A quick Google search shows that Alan Moore has been absolutely up in arms about how his recently-deceased friend (and, in many respects, mentor) has been screwed over by the producers of the film, and he’s called for a boycott of it. I know, I know — Moore’s got a reputation for being a curmudgeon and for telling people not to buy, well, anything, but the damn thing is, more often than not, he’s absolutely right. The cinematic adaptation of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen was, in fact, every bit as horrendous as he claimed it was going to be, the Before Watchmen comics were by and large positively awful, and the V For Vendetta movie was an atrocious dumbing-down of his far superior original work. Yeah, he was none too pleased about the Watchmen film, either, but I won’t use that as an example of him being correct because by and large I kinda liked that one. Still, his criticisms are spot-on more often than not.

HERCULES

So here’s what I’m thinking knowing what I know now : Ratner’s Hercules is, in fact, a far superior effort than I felt sure it would be going in, yes — but it’s probably nowhere near as good as the comics it was based on, and the fact that Steve Moore got swindled — even (and especially) after death — from seeing so much as a penny from a big-budget adaptation of his work is positively unconscionable. Again, I haven’t read any of these comics yet, but it’s a safe bet that anything good that survived the translation from the printed page to the screen is only there because Steve Moore put it there in the first place. In short, he’s the main reason this movie is actually pretty damn good, and that makes perfect sense when you think about it because you know full well Ratner isn’t capable of delivering the goods on his own. We all remember Red Dragon, don’t we?

Okay, fair enough — I’ve tried my best to put that out of my mind, too.

So in the end I guess I’m left with something of an ethical conundrum here — I liked Herclues. I really did. But mostly for its unique and original story. And now that I know the story behind that story (whoops, I’m being repetitious here, sorry), I sorta wish I’d never seen the thing. Okay, on that note. I’m off to Amazon to order up these books.

 

Review: V for Vendetta (dir. by James McTeigue)


“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.”

Alan Moore’s decision to want his name off the final credits for the film adaptation of V for Vendetta now makes sense. Moore has had a hate/hate relationship with Hollywood and the film industry in general. They’ve taken two of his other works in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. and bollocks’d them up (to borrow a term used quite a bit in V for Vendetta). Outside of Watchmen, Alan Moore sees V for Vendetta as one of his more personal works and after reading the screenplay adaptation of the graphic novel by The Wachowski Brothers his decision afterwards was to demand his name be removed from the film if it was ever made. Part of this was his hatred of the film industry for their past mistakes and another being his wish for a perfect adaptation or none at all. Well, V for Vendettaby James McTeigue and The Wachowski Brothers is not a perfect film adaptation. What it turns out to be is a film that stays true to the spirit of Moore’s graphic novel and given a modern, up-to-the-current news retelling of the world’s state of affairs.

V for Vendetta starts off with abit of a prologue to explain the relevance of the Guy Fawkes mask worn by V throughout the film and the significance of the date of the 5th of November. I think this change in the story from the source material may be for the benefit of audiences who didn’t grow up in the UK and have no idea of who Guy Fawkes was and what his Gunpowder Plot was all about. The sequence is short but informative. From then on we move on to the start of the main story and here the film adheres close enough to the source material with a few changes to the Evey character (played by Natalie Portman) but not enough to ruin the character. Caught after curfew and accosted by the ruling government’s secret police called Fingermen, Evey soon encounters V who saves her not just from imprisonment but rape from these so-called Fingermen.

Right from the start the one thing McTeigue and The Wachowski Brothers got dead-on was casting Hugo Weaving as the title character. Voice silky, velvety and sonorous, Weaving infuses V with an otherworldly, theatrical personality. Whether V was speaking phrases from Shakespeare, philosophers or pop culture icons, the voice gave a character who doesn’t show his face from behind the enternally-smiling Guy Fawkes mask real life. I’d forgiven the makers of this films for some of the changes they made to the story and some of the characters for keeping V as close to how Moore wrote him. Once V and Evey are thrown in together by the happenstance of that nightly encounter their fates became intertwined. Portman plays the reluctant witness to V’s acts of terrorism, murders and destruction in the beginning, but a poignant and emotionally powerful sequence to start the second half of the film soon brings Evey’s character not much towards V’s way of doing things, but to understanding just why he’s doing them. This sequence became the emotional punch of the whole film and is literally lifted word for word from the graphic novel. This is the sequence in the film which should resonate the loudest for most people whether they buy into the rest of the film or not.

The rest of the cast seemed like a who’s who of the British acting community. From Stephen Rea’s stubborn and dogged Chief Inspector Finch whose quest to find V leads him to finding clues about his government’s past actions that he’d rather not have found. Then there’s Stephen Fry’s flamboyant TV show host who becomes Evey’s only other ally whose secret longings have been forbidden by the government, but who’s awakened by V’s actions to go through with his own form of rebellion. Then there’s John Hurt as High Chancellor Adam Sutler who’s seen chewing up the scenery with his Hitler-like performance through Big Brother video conferences (an ironic bit of casting since John Hurt also played Winston Smith in the film adaptation of the Orwell classic 1984). I really couldn’t find any of the supporting players as having done a bad job in their performances. Even Hurt’s Sutler might have seemed over-the-top to some but his performance just showed how much of a hatemonger Sutler and, in the end, his Norsefire party really were in order to stay in power.

The story itself, as I mentioned earlier, had had some changes made to it. Some of these changes angered Moore and probably continues to anger his more die-hard fans. I count myself as one of these die-hards, but I know how film adaptations of classic literary works must and need to trim some of the fat from the main body and theme of the story to fully translate onto the silver screen. The Wachowski Brother’s screenplay did just that. They trimmed some of the side stories and tertiary characters from the story and concentrated on V, Evey and Inspector Finch’s pursuit of both the truth of V and his own journey in finding that truth. This adaptation wa much closer to how Peter Jackson adapted The Lord of the Rings. As a fan of Moore I understood why he was unhappy with the changes, but then Moore was and still is an avowed perfectionist and only a perfect adaptation would do.

Critics on both sides of the aisle have called V for Vendetta revolutionary, subversive, daring to irresponsible and propagandist. All because the film dares to ask serious questions about the nature and role of violence as a form of dissent. But the granddaddy question the film brings up that has people talking is the question: terrorist or freedom fighter? Is V one or the other or is he both? Make no mistake about it, V for all intents and purposes is a terrorist if one was to use the definition of what a terrorist is. The makers of this film goes to great lenghts to describe throughout the film just how Sutler and his Norsefire (with its iconic Nazi-like imagery and extreme fundamentalist Christian idealogy) party rose to power in the UK. Partly due to what seemed like the failed US foreign policy and its subsequent and destructive decline as a superpower and the worldwide panic and fear it caused as a result. V for Vendetta also ask just who was to blame for allowing such individuals to rule over them. V has his reasons for killing these powers-that-be, but he also points out that people really should just look in the mirror if they need to know who really was to blame. For it was the population — whose desire to remain safe and have a semblance of peace — gave up more and more of their basic liberties and rights for a return to order. If one was to look at the past 100 years they would see that it’s happened before. There was the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, Milosevic’s Greater Serbia, and the king of the hill of them all being Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Inner Circle.

Another thing about V for Vendetta that will surely talked about alot will be the images used in the film. Not just images and symbols looking so much like Nazi icons, but images from the events of the past decade which have become symbols of oppression and censorship. The film shows people bound and hooded like prisoners from Abu Ghraib. The reason of the war on terror used time and time again by Sutler to justify why England and its people need him and his group to protect them by any means necessary. V for Vendetta seems like a timely film for our current times. Even with the conclusion of the film finally accomplishing what Guy Fawkes failed to do that night of November 5th some 400 plus years ago, V for Vendetta doesn’t give all the answers to all the questions it raises. I’m sure this would be something that’ll frustrate them some audiences. So much of people who go to watch thought-provoking films want their questions answered as clearly as possible and all of them. V for Vendetta doesn’t answer them but gives the audience enough information to try and work it out themselves.

In final analysis, V for Vendetta accomplishes in bringing the main themes of Alan Moore’s graphic novel to life and even does it well despite some of the changes made. It is a film that is sure to polarize the extreme left and right of the political pundits and commentators. But as a piece of thought-provoking and even as a politically subversive film, V for Vendetta does it job well. It is not a perfect film by any respect, but the story and message it tries to convey in addition to its value as a piece of entertainment mor than makes up for its flaws. Alan Moore and his followers might not love and approve of this film, but it doesn’t mean the film in and of itself wasn’t a good one. Sometimes calls for literal adaptations of beloved works or no adaptation at all also becomes a form of creative oppression and censorship.