The Dork Report for March 28, 2006

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta movie poster

 

For all the negative buzz regarding Alan Moore’s total disavowal of the adaptation, I was surprised to find the film kept far closer to the book than I expected. Closer, in fact, than the two other travesties of Moore’s comics, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s better than both, if by itself still not very good.

It’s impossible for me to imagine how I would have reacted had I not read the book several times, but I suspect I would have had very mixed feelings either way. When if comes to movies based on comics, it’s the prerogative of every fanboy to obsess over “what they changed.” So let me point out a few changes I feel illustrate how the filmmakers either misunderstood or deliberately warped some key themes that make the book what it is.

First, Evey’s life (and the future Great Britain, for that matter) as seen in the film is in a far less desperate state than in the book. The book opens with her at the absolute end of hope, her parents dead and herself alone, blacklisted and unable to survive. She makes a misguided and pathetic attempt to prostitute herself, runs afoul of the corrupt police, and is “saved” (in more ways than one) by V. Her susceptibility to V’s seduction is much more plausible if she herself is already a victim of the state. In the film, she’s a rather happy person with a regular job, and her encounter with V is motivated by a redundant invented character called Deitrich. Every theme Deitrich represents is already covered by the character Valerie (which is, incidentally, lifted almost unaltered from the book).

But perhaps the biggest deviation is the very nature of the fascist state Great Britain has become. In the book, it’s something that just happens; a form of order that arises out of the chaos following a nuclear world war. In the film, the great societal disruption is a conspiracy machinated by a cabal of shadowy old white men, who then step in and profit from the reconstruction. Of course, the filmmakers are obviously reaching for an analogy to the Bush Administration, Carlyle Group, Halliburton, etc. While that may make the story of the film relevant to today, it obscures a more powerful point of the book: it’s far more scary when fascism arises out of the common consent of the people, as it did with Nazi Germany.

The Dork Report for March 23, 2006

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey movie poster

 

One of the best movies ever made, on one of the biggest screens in New York. What could be better?

It’s taken me many years and many viewings to realize that the movie is actually very, very funny. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, coming right on the heels Dr. Strangelove, but the sombre serious air about the film disguised some of the comedy to my young mind watching the movie every year uncut on a Philadelphia VHF channel. Just a few of the many huge “jokes” packed into the film: the entire human condition condensed as chimp pantomime, fantastic visions of the future punctured by hilariously closed-minded humans more interested in sandwiches, and the most naked human emotions shown on screen coming from apes and computers as opposed to supposedly evolved humans.

2001 On the web: Kubrick 2001 presents an elaborate, though sometimes silly, animated explication. Then there’s The Underview, in valiant opposition to the scheming dedamned’s autoguard, helpfully including the complete Zero Gravity Toilet instructions.

The Dork Report for March 20, 2006

Mask (Director’s Cut)

Mask movie poster

 

I vaguely recall seeing Mask when I was a kid, but only recently learned A) it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and B) there’s a well-regarded director’s cut available on DVD. The film is very unconventional for the genre of disabled-person-beating-the-odds. Roy, doomed to die from Craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, loses his friend, his girl, and dies in his sleep never fulfilling his dream of traveling Europe. And yet, it is nevertheless moving and even uplifting. I think one reason is the sympathetic matter-of-fact presentation of a biker gang, a group often maligned or at least treated condescendingly by Hollywood.

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal movie poster

 

Oops. I should have let The Dark Crystal live on in my childhood memories as a Good Movie. Seeing the brilliant Mirrormask reminded me how much this movie affected my childhood, but seeing it again as an adult I find it has not aged well. The special effects of course cannot rival contemporary digital epics, but I was surprised to find the storytelling stilted and overly dumbed-down. Recent kids’ movies are pitched at a more sophisticated level, not feeling the need to start with a lonnnnng opening expository narrative and pause every 15 minutes or so to do a plot recap.

Still, you have to admire Jim Henson’s sheer bloodymindedness at spending five years pulling off this difficult-to-make film. And it scores points for just being so weird.

And a quick word about the dvd: cheap menus and a horrendous print. What’s up with that?

The Dork Report for March 17, 2006

  • Who ever said labels were misleading?
  • A surprisingly good article on the digital future of movies in Time. All the right filmmakers are interviewed, with lots of interesting (and sometimes bitchy) things to say: Mann, Shyamalan, Lucas, Rodriguez, Soderberg.
  • A for Alan, Part Two. You can cut the irony with the Ripper’s scalpel: "By asking DC to take my name off V for Vendetta and stop giving me the money for V for Vendetta, all I’m asking for is for them to treat me in the same way they’ve been completely happy to treat hundreds of much greater comics creators than I over the decades. I’m asking them to say to me the same thing they said to Gardner Fox and Jack Kirby and to all those other guys, just say to me you are not going to see a penny for any kind of future reproductions of your work and we’re not going to put your name on them."
  • Reported on the same site is this absurdity, which is too bizarre not to make The Dork Report. Unfortunately, it has a disappointingly rational (and capitalist) explanation.
  • Not through with Alan yet. The Gray Lady covers the V for Vendetta dispute.
  • Saw on Neil Gaiman’s blog that Dave McKean’s next feature film will be an adaptation of Varjak Paw for the Jim Henson Co. Also spotted this older profile on Apple.com.
  • It’s a foggy day in the cosmos today, so be sure to use your lo-beams. (guest submission from Andrea – smart chicks are hot!)

The Dork Report for March 15, 2006

The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest

 

I think, but I’m not sure, this is supposed to be a comedy. Honestly, The Ice Harvest is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. It apparently aspires to be a comedy of villainies along the lines of Bad Santa, extending even into the casting of Billy Bob Thornton, but it decidedly lacks the x-factor that can twist violence & mean-spiritedness into satire.

No matter how much I hated it, it nevertheless narrowly misses a one-star rating, which is reserved for TRUE crimes against humanity, like Polar Express.