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alan moore

As most rabid fans of a comic book series can attest to, you really don’t want anyone screwing with your source material making it lose everything that made it special to being with. There’s a line that must never be crossed, yet is completely obliterated time and time again by greedy studios, hack directors, and ill-informed screenwriters. Watchmen was suppose to be the film that broke that trend, and for the most part, it is going against the most nihilistic expectations of fanboys, but after witnessing Zack Snyder’s ode to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons perennial work, maybe things would have been better off without this adaptation.

There’s a lot to like about Watchmen, the film is oozing style reminiscent of the graphic novel using the carefully drawn frames of the twelve-issue series to frame cinematic exploits of not-quite-super heroes like Rorschach, Night Owl, and Dr. Manhattan, but there’s also a lot of disappointment surrounding the film as well.

As a stand alone film the cinematography is great, the direction is tight; the script is well done and involving. The audience is introduced to the characters and through carefully interwoven bits is introduced to their past as well. However as an adaptation of the graphic novel the film is a big disappointment. Everyone know concessions were going to have to be made to accommodate a movie’s runtime and the dialog heavy graphic novel may have worked better as a miniseries than an actual film. While every scene cut from the film isn’t pivotal, there are bits and pieces, secondary characters, plot points that all build up and give the ending much more impact when the reader realizes what has happened. Here those missing elements are filled in by the minds of those who have read the novelization, but novices will find themselves lost.

The ending itself deserves plenty of talk as it is completely changed as far as the events portrayed. While the basic principles of who lives, who dies, who is to blame, and why they did it are left intact, certain elements that are part of the harrowing climax of the source material are sadly missing or altered beyond recognition here. Those viewers who already had problems with how the comic ended will have even bigger problems now as the vilification of a beloved character just doesn’t fit.

This work was called unfilmable at one point in its decades stuck in development hell and Snyder’s release proves that to be false, there was a film made here, and a pretty good one at that, but all people are going to talk about is what is missing, what is present, and how much of the cut material we’re going to get back in the eventual director’s cut on DVD.

There were a lot of claps during our screening of the film, there were also some groans and giggles by those who can’t handle the sight of a blue ding-a-ling on a 70ft screen, but I didn’t really hear any indifference, people either loved it or hated it, there appears to be no middle ground.

Knowing the development hell this film has gone through, the scrutiny that would follow it up to and after its release this had to be expected, but after all those gushing early reviews from fanboys and comic books geeks you just had to expect and adaptation akin to The Dark Knight instead of the passable interpretation we received.

V for Vendetta is the first great movie of 2006, hands down. Nothing that has been released in the last three and a half months stacks up to the canvas painted by this immersive film which, on the surface, is a hardcore action film, but underneath is a beautiful picture with excellent characters and sharp dialog.

Although the film seemed destined for failure after a delayed release schedule and the lawsuit of graphic novel creator Alan Moore requesting his name be removed from all mention of the film. When a comic book’s co-creator wants out on a project, you can only expect it was a far departure from the source material. This isn’t the case, however, with Vendetta, and even if it does stray too far away, it still stacks up as a great film.

The story centers around a terrorist named V (Hugo Weaving) who has been planning his revenge for the better part of two decades in a totalitarian ruled England which now has a high chancellor in a Hitler like role claiming he is protecting the people after a biological attack kills hundreds of thousands of people. V begins his crusade against this oppressive government when he stumbles upon Evey (Natalie Portman), a young girl working at England’s only TV network. Through the course of the film the plot thickens but the message remains the same, a vendetta needs to be settled.

There’s been some questioning if the film, which is at a political point in today’s world, and its glorification of a terrorist is really something that needs to be released in a world under the thumb of terrorists (or so we are lead to believe). Does the film glorify its main character, who happens to be a terrorist? Yes, but it also shows the consequences of his actions, and it makes ample points as to why he seeks revenge, which boils much deeper than religious intolerance.

After actor James Purefoy left the project after it had begun, director James McTeigue (assistant director on The Matrix trilogy) turned to Hugo Weaving, and he couldn’t have made a better choice. Weaving, even though we never see his face, is perfect for the role with his identifiable voice providing a creepiness with total confidence, especially in his opening monologue after bringing Evey to his underground home.

Portman also shines as Evey Hammond, a seemingly innocent young girl who is tortured (part of the head shaving we’ve heard so much about) and taught more about herself than she could have known. As we learn more and more of her back story you begin to feel the emotion she exhibits during these torturous scenes.

Andy and Larry Wachowski’s screenplay is nothing short of excellent and makes up for the lackluster Reloaded and Revolutions. After seeing the film, I did some research on the limited graphic novel series and found a great many things in common, but, again, not enough to keep Moore on board.

While not the best film ever released, V for Vendetta does make for an engaging time at the movies with a brisk pace, interesting characters, great action, and an ending that really grips you. Just seeing how this film builds up towards its climax is amazing and the money shots, promoted in the trailers, of certain buildings exploding shows that all the pieces came together in a cohesive piece of filmmaking that should live on as a genuine classic and another comic book successfully transferred to the big screen.

I’ve never read the graphic novel on which The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is based and after viewing the film I wonder if I ever will for fear of my sanity. LXG is a mish-mash of action sequences, faulty, flimsy dialogue, and in sorry need of an actual script. In fact LXG feels as though bits and pieces of every movie to be released this year have been carved up and reanimated in some bastation that might be identified as a movie.

This, believe me, is hard for a critic to say on a film that he has been anxiously awaiting since the trailers first appeared. The film looked to have it all. A dark, gritty feel coupled with interesting character brought to life from the texts in which they were described, and Sean Connery, who we all know is one of the greatest actors to step foot on this planet. Ultimately not even Sir Connery can save this film from meeting the B-Movie Bargain Bin at Blockbuster. The biggest hope you could of had for this film is the pedigree of director Stephen Norrington who successfully took Blade from comic to film, but, alas, the same isn’t true here.

LXG takes place, mainly, in Europe, where a badass known only as The Phantom is plaguing the European nations, circa 1899, to instill war and sell off his highly advanced weaponry (WWII era) to the highest bidder. In order to do this he goes to opposing nations and blows stuff up speaking the language of an “enemy” country. Seemingly people in the 19 century don’t realize that there is more than one nation which speaks bad English. With imminent peril facing the world a group of the world’s greatest scientists/spy/immortal/etc. are assembled, including Dracula’s bride Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend), explorer Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), the invisible man Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), US Secret Service agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West), and Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) with the intent to destroy The Phantom and free those whom he has enslaved.

The problem with the film really begins and ends with the script which appears to have been written in the form of a 1st grader constructing a thesis on whale migration. As you can expect this isn’t a good thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual screenplay to this film turned up in a museum for having the most loose ends and unexplained phenomenon in the world. You never actually learn where this advanced technology the Phantom has came from, he just busts down walls with a tank and runs over English Constables.

Characters appear, disappear, and change hairstyles with the blink of an eye. Of course, as with any movie focusing on an ensemble cast and special powers, there are certain problems that can be exploited by only one member of the team, but in the end these plot devices feel so contrived that you groan in disgust, mainly because you can see what’s coming.

The best acting in this mess is that of Shane West and his accurate portrayal of Tom Sawyer, now mysteriously a Secret Service agent, but when you call a teen movie character actor the best in any film you’re dwelling at the bottom of the barrel. Granted we do get some witty quips between certain characters, and the true identity of The Phantom is rather cool, if you read books, that is, but it still doesn’t relieve the sour taste in your mouth.

The film does have some redeeming factors. The action scenes, while hardly making sense, are cool to watch, and show that Sean Connery can still kick some ass, but this isn’t enough to bring the movie out of mediocrity.

In the end the betrayal by one member of the league is hardly a surprise, and how the movie will progress and end is nothing that you haven’t seen played out in countless other action films. Tack on the Hollywood ending and obvious door for a sequel and that’s all she wrote. Fox originally wanted this film to start a franchise, and I can still see that happening, but if they do decide to produce another keep in mind that for anything to succeed a script is the most important key, and a story not taken from 20 years of action films might help the cause.

LXG does a few things right, but what it does wrong knocks the film from extraordinary to just plain ordinary.