Cleaning out the Retropolis Municipal Fridge of all these blogging leftovers before they go bad. Hope they are still just as tasty. There’s no expiration date on nostalgia, is there?
“Remember remember the Fifth of November
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot…”
Often when a book is adapted for the screen, major changes have to be made to transmute one art form into another, especially considering the time constraints of a modern commercial film. One author whose work has been particularly raked over the metaphoric coals in this regard is Alan Moore. His Victorian Steampunk take on the Seven Samurai, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was turned into a bland Sean Connery vehicle with too much CGI. His exhaustively researched Jack the Ripper treatise From Hell became a standard period serial killer romp in the hands of the Hughes Brothers and Johnny Depp. Even Zack Snyder, whose Watchmen adaptation is almost a note for note , shape for shape of the source material falls flat trying to convey the subtleties and subtext of Moore’s dense text. Moore has been so soured on adaptations of his graphic novels that he has his name taken off of the credits of said films and eschewed any percentage of their profits.
Other than the Justice League animated series’ version of Moore’s “For The Man Who Has Everything”, the only other somewhat successful adaptation of Moore’s comic book work is John McTiegue’s feature film V For Vendetta, released in 2006 starring Hugo Weaving as the anarchist V (performing his entire part behind a white Guy Fawkes mask) and Natalie Portman as his hostage/protegé Evey Hammond, but even in this film, the source material deviates from the finished movie so much that the most one can say is that the Wachowskis’ script for the film of V For Vendetta conveys much of the spirit of the book if not filling the role of slavish adaptation.
The graphic novel V For Vendetta is dense and literary, “writerly” is how one of my college profs referred to it. This was a young Alan Moore finally given free rein to tell the story he wanted to tell, ready to show off to the world how darn smart and well-read he was. When V For Vendetta appeared for the first time in the Warrior comic magazine in 1982 (along with Moore’s first post-modern superhero story we talked about last week, Marvelman) in was an Alan Moore with something to prove, not the personality and reputation we associate with Moore today. V For Vendetta is dense with subtext, symbolism and metaphor, some of which had to be completely excised for the movie, other stuff that was included kind of got glossed. For example, the various departments of the government in the book were classified as body parts (the body politic, literally) and V systematically breaks the government control piece by piece. Other than calling the police the Fingermen and a few references here and there that major theme of the book was gone. And I totally understand why this choice was made. On one hand purists might consider the film version a watered down “Cliff’s Notes” version of the book while on the other a case can be made for an adaptive shorthand given the constraints of a two-hour long commercial movie.
Personally, as one of the biggest Alan Moore fans I know, think the V For Vendetta movie is great. Its full of great performances, starting with Weaving’s star turn as V, never taking the Guy Fawkes mask off, only acting with voice and gesture to brilliant effect. Despite a bit of a wandering accent Portman hits all the appropriate emotional beats of Evey, and Stephen Rea totally understands the motivations of Inspector Finch and conveys them admirably.The cast is rounded out by some truly great British character actors like Tim Piggott Smith, Roger Allam (whom the Wachowskis would also cast in their Speed Racer film), Stephen Fry and John Hurt, all of whom hit home the very British-ness of this story. Moore was writing about where he saw Maggie Thatcher’s Tory party taking England in the next few decades and not only that, offered a plausible plan as to how they could easily do so with the manufacture of an epidemic. The dystopia of V For Vendetta could easily be seen as a logical extension of the Iron Lady’s regime.
I know it’s fashionable to slag on Alan Moore now that he has entered his curmudgeonly wizard phase, but V is a solid story and the film adaptation, while not enough of a literal translation to appease purists, is a solid film that effectively adheres to the spirit of its source if not to the letter of the text. If you enjoy the movie then I would heartily recommend reading the graphic novel, as it delves deeper into that world and story with more layers to its tale.
In A Perfect World: Marvel/ Netflix deal edition
In our new segment, called In A Perfect World, I will expound upon what I think a certain upcoming project should or could be In A Perfect World. Let’s use our inaugural entry as an example. Last week Marvel and Netflix announced a deal for four 13 episode series (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones) leading into a mini series titled The Defenders. Now In A Perfect World, here’s what each of those shows would be like.
Daredevil- What is cool about Daredevil is that he is barely a superhero. Other than his radar sense (which compensates for his blindness but doesn’t allow him to really “see”) he has no superpowers and no special abilities other than his training. If not the Grindhouse/70s version of DD that Joe Carnahan pitched as a movie, then make sure you keep him street-level and plausible if not totally believable. In A Perfect World we would see the Miller/Mazzuchelli story Born Again or alternately the Bendis “Out” storyline as the crescendo of the first season of Daredevil with Wes Bentley as Matt Murdock and Piper Perabo as Karen Page, Sean Astin as Foggy Nelson.and Vincent D’onofrio as the Kingpin.
Luke Cage, Power Man: Chiwetel Eliojofor is my pick for Black Panther so I’d go with Michael Jai White for the role of Luke Cage. You’d need someone physically imposing for Luke, and Jai White has both the acting and action chops. I would go with an adapted Heroes For Hire origin story leading into a post-Defenders HFH series including Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. Plus the whole Cage/Jessica Jones thing will play out interestingly between their two series.
Jessica Jones/Alias. First off, pay Bendis whatever he wants to write it. He created the character, wrote the Alias series and made her a player in the 616 Universe. I think Saffron Burrows would be a great casting choice, or maybe Maria Bello. I hope they still have her and Carol Danvers as besties as that storyline really helped explain where her character was coming from and who she was.
Iron Fist: In A Perfect World we would get a straight up adaptation of The Immortal Iron Fist storyline starting with the Last Iron Fist story which introduces a lot of back story and context fpr the character. As I said on Nothing’s On I think in order to market this more readily in Asia they may cast an Asian actor in the role but I hope they cast someone who looks like the comics version of Danny Rand an also find someone who has the martial arts chops. I hope they highlight the long standing friendship between Luke and Danny and also bring in Misty Knight and Colleen Wing and all the supporting cast a HFH series would entail.
The Defenders- The culminating miniseries that ties all these together pretty much must include Dr. Strange, or else Marvel is missing a golden opportunity to introduce the character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Home of a family of podcasts such covering everything from comics to tv/movies, popculture, science fiction and more