Friday, April 07, 2006

V for Vendetta

by Alan Moore

The book that is, not the movie. I've heard enough lukewarm things about the film to not be inclined to see it, but as usual I've been hearing that the book (or in this case, the comic) is much better.

The concept is brilliant: a modern day Guy Fawkes battles the government in a dystopian future Britain. Future in a relative sense that is, the comic was written in the early eighties and is set in the mysterious, futuristic, far away year of 1997. In his introduction to the collection Moore wryly acknowledges his lack of success in predicting the future, noting that the plot depends on a Labour victory against Margaret Thatcher in the 1983 election.

V for Vendetta is one of Moore's earliest works, and it shows, the story, while it may have worked well in a episodic format is a little rambling and directionless in collected form, many plot threads are more or less irrelevant and the theme is a little obscure. In a recent interview about the movie (can't seem to find the link unfortunately) Moore declares that our central character, V, is not meant to be a hero but rather an opposing evil to the fascists, chaos in contrast to their order. I didn't really get that impression myself, a character with as much style and wit as V is always going to appear as a hero, no matter that his methods are callous and he is prepared to kill innocents to get his way.

There are plenty of great scenes though, the story of the rise of fascism in alternate history Britain is quite affecting, and even though the analogy to Nazi Germany is too explicit, that doesn't always appear to be as much of a stretch as you might hope. In fact, while I hope that such a thing never happens in my lifetime, this book has just made me feel even more than I already did that our western democracies are not as immune to being subverted by totalitarianism as we might want to believe. I'm genuinely starting to think that some kind of revolution will have to take place one day in the next century (not necessarily a violent one, but a replacement of the current system of government against its will) in order to ensure that our society will be truly free and have a real assurance of having it stay that way. God help me I'm even starting to agree with some of what Jeremy says. Our current governments are descended from the days of monarchy, and while they've transformed somewhat in accordance to Enlightenment principles, they've inherited some of the baggage of that old totalitarian form of government. Fundamentally, they still exist to 'push folk around and tell them what they should be doing', and that's the way most people like it, or at least expect it. Of course I haven't thought of a replacement system, maybe we just have to wait for the Singularity...

Moore went on to write another superhero comic a few years later called Watchmen. Set in America and using characters that were close analogues to superheroes from mainstream comics it makes a similar point but with vastly improved skill. Not only is it easily the best superhero comic I've ever read but in fact one of the best comics I've ever read. V for Vendetta, while it has a lot going for it just doesn't live up to those standards. It's not a bad book, but you're better off reading Watchmen.

That said, there's no reason it couldn't have been adapted to a kick arse movie, especially seeing as it's message is just as relevant to today's politics as when it was written. But as usual the Wachowski brothers took a brilliant concept and turned it to shit. At least we can take comfort in the fact that in 1982, and again in 1988 when Moore wrote the doom laden introduction to the collection, we were no further away from having western democracy subverted by fascism than we are now, no matter how depressing we may find the evening news.


12 comments:

andrew brown said...

seriously ive heard the movie is better than it gets credit, but oh well

Jon said...

Well maybe so, but it'll take a pretty good movie to drag my arse away from Oblivion and to the movies at the moment.

andrew brown said...

my computer isn't quite good enough to play oblivion, so i got morrowind because i wanted to see if it was any good.

played about 20 minutes last night, i didn't really get into it, should i keep trucking? i enjoyed ff7 and also gta:sa

who do know who i am eh

Joel said...

Morrowind requires a decent stint of playing, and then you are hooked - difficult to pick up and immediately be drawn in though.

Same with Oblivion.

Hopefully they'll make a Watchmen movie soon :)

Jon said...

Rumour has it a Watchman movie is in the works. It could potentially be quite good but of course there's a high likelihood they'll fuck it up.

Morrowind takes a bit to get into, and it doesn't have much in common with ff7, in many ways it's more like gta, because of the completely open non-linear world you have to explore.

andrew brown said...

gta does do a bit of hand holding though... i tend to be crap at games

Jon said...

Yeah there's a real lack of hand holding in the elder scrolls games. Still things get a lot easier as you go, just as long as you save often because it's easy to wander into places you're not ready for.

Oblivion at least does a really good job of scaling the difficulty as you level up.

Bob said...

Saw V last night and was quite impressed. I had reasonable expectations and was surprised (given the usual movies) that it lived up to them.

V didn't seem to be portraited as an anti-hero - more of a necessarily ruthless hero as you suggested. I suspect the book shows the darker side more.

Note the Wachowski brothers didn't direct this one, they wrote the screenplay and produced it. Their dialog has definietely improved and I thought it made some clever digs at the current state of affairs without going over the top (as would have been very easy...)

So probably helped by not reading the book, must check them out.

Bob said...

Oh and the director was an assistant director for 18 films before making this one!

Jon said...

Well now that I've only got one day of work left, the chance of me actually bothering to go to the movies increases incrementally...

Jungle Rhino said...

You have forgotten that V for vendetta is greatly enchanced by the hotness of Natalie Portman. That fact alone means you get good value for money.

Jon said...

This won't make me popular, but I don't actually rate Natalie Portman very much.