Tuesday, April 11, 2006

v for venbeta

If Terry Gilliam threw in the towel at the sheer implausibility of translating Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's visionary The Watchmen graphic novel into celluloid (Aronofsky couldn't handle it either (thank G-d), though now it's in pre-production elsewhere), then what chance did the clunky Wachovia bros really have with V for Vendetta? Since Moore always works in collaboration with his artists, you'd think that having the two-headed brother approach for such daunting projects would help, but the Hughes Brothers fared no better with From Hell. That just leaves the Farrelly Brothers to do Batman: The Killing Joke, or perhaps Swamp Thing ("Swamp gas" is ripe with possibilities).

Watchmen is dense and complex with loads of annotations but V for Vendetta has just as many cultural quotes coursing underneath its story of fascism/terrorism. Translation towards American cineplexes is already an uphill struggle: unpacking a British icon (Guy Fawkes), dealing with fascist states from a historical distance, wrapping it all up in Constructivist Russian street team posters, all done while tapdancing around Al Qaeda landmines that pushed this thing back from its original November release.

You have to give it to them Wachovian boys though; they surfed the black trenchcoat fallout of Columbine for The Matrix as well, so what's a little bit of tube terrorism but street marketing at the end of the day? Yet the movie has to play up its knives (and not its 'daggers of the mind' to quote Willie Shakes at random much like the movie does) while downplaying the more intellectual concepts of V. He at times comes across as an uber-nerd, with stacks of books and rare records. Of course, us rock critics snicker knowingly that Cat Power's "I Found a Reason" was never released as a seven-inch record.

Apparently, Alan Moore went Smithee on the final screenplay, perhaps because nuances get buffed clean with machine guns and CGI knife-whirling. Not that the little additions like crucifix emblems (hello Christian Fascism!), the government-inflicted virus outbreaks, or the pharmaceutical industry getting implicated as population control aren't clever additions to the paranoia pile-on. The terrorism card can get played for shock value (mostly from dismissive critics), but given that they already dosed the blue pill/ red pill bit for The Matrix, why not keep the role that LSD plays in the inspector discovering V's hideout or how mind expansion created V in the first place?

What the original book hints at yet never gets explicit about is the trajectory of making a V itself. It implies both descending line, apex (or nadir, as the case may be) and ascending line. It plays on Hindu deities: V as Shiva, born of fire, Evey as Brahma, birthed in water. It suggests that while V can only cause destruction, Evey's eventual understanding of her role as creator, nurturer, creative urge will resolve the napalm-sticky pro-terror bent of the original.

The movie is content to ignore Evey as both mere street tart (she's cruising for extra cash the first time we meet her in the comic) as well as her evolution into V (guess you can't very well have your Natalie Portman starpower mugging behind a mask) while highlighting a lesbian undercurrent I scarcely picked up in the books. Maybe they don't make her into V to avoid some sorta weird Hillary in '08 subliminal hint, opting instead for the climactic "Everybody is V" demonstration (which my friend snarked was about immigrant rights). Ringing freedom in V masks may help merch sales come Halloween, but in the end such well-intended politics end up as ham-fisted and hammer-subtle as Fahrenheit 9/11. Thankfully this time there's no Matrix: Reloaded rave in a cave.


Blogger nate said...

"Thankfully there's no rave in the cave?!?"

who doesn't prefer blockbusters camped out of their mind with pomp?

8:41 PM  
Blogger beta said...

I'm just not a fan of Sprite Remix commercials overall.

7:14 AM  

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