The last twenty years has seen a renaissance in Hollywood of the comic book character. The main players – Batman, Spiderman, Superman are alive and well with imminent releases for all of them from the major studios both this summer and the next. Then there are the B-Listers, The Hulk, Ironman, Captain America, Judge Dredd to name a few. The C in C-Lister stands for Cult (glad I spelt that right) It involves DC and Marvel characters less known to mere mortals such as myself. However, to comic fans, they are probably better than the A-Listers!
As big names such as Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder have discovered, for an adaptation to survive amongst the diehard fans, the movie has to be meticulously true to the original. You must never mess with the characters (let alone change their names), the politics, the colours, the ubiquitous dark pervasive atmosphere, their costumes, their voices (like the gruff “I’m Batman!”) and a thousand and one other things. Fail in any one, plagiarise any other film/character, or ultimately ignore at your peril the anoraks expectations (as I discovered whilst watching Prometheus) and you may as well not have bothered. And worse, the film becomes a laughing stock for the remainder of its shelf life – forever an example of how not to do it (Who remembers Catwoman? Or, god forbid, Supergirl (1984))?. Consequentially, the films end up as darker and more serious than the light hearted superheroes of yesteryear – the difference between Burtons’ Batman to Nolan’s illustrates this point. It’s as if kids comics have become more for ‘grown-ups’!
Originally a comic creation by Alan Moore (creator of The Watchmen), V for Vendetta was put to screen by the Wachowski Brothers of Matrix fame. Presumably this is why they hired Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in the Matrix films) to play V and Natalie “Phantom Menace” Portman as Evey. The film is set in a dystopian totalitarian Britain under the autocratic rule of High Chancellor Adam Sutler (originally Adam Susan in the comic). He addresses all his subjects through a big cinematic sized screen rather like Big Brother in Ninteen Eighty-Four. Presumably this is what inspired them to cast John Hurt who played Winston Smith in the 1984 film Ninteen Eighty-Four! Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) plays a police inspector disillusioned with the system who spends most of the film wandering around bewildered as though he’d just fallen in love with a woman who turned out to be a bloke! Stephen Fry appears in it too – god knows why!
Yet the film is compulsive viewing, despite the fact that it has been adapted for an American audience because someone in America thinks the Americans will only enjoy it if it is done a certain way if they know what’s good for them. Oh, the irony! If you remember being in London in 2005 you’ll remember that Parliament square was closed for the filming. Apparently the planned premiere in London on 4th November 2005 was postponed, perhaps wisely so given the then recent bombings. But since then I have noticed many protesters sporting the very same Guy Fawkes mask as worn by V (I had originally thought it was a cheap Tony Blair mask given the ear to ear grin) Not even Alan Moore has denied that it is the film that has spurred this unusual form of protest. I am pushed to think of another film that has spilled over into real life politics in quite the same degree. Actually, now I do think about it there was Brewster’s Millions “None of the Above” campaign. Oh well.