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Less is Moore

Vendetta ’s perilous journey from comics to film
By GARY SUSMAN  |  March 14, 2006

A BIG FAN OF THE COMIC: Natalie Portman argues that the film is practically a storyboard.NEW YORK — Natalie Portman says she’s a big fan of V for Vendetta , the 1980s comic by Alan Moore and David Lloyd that is the source of her new movie. “The graphic novel is practically a storyboard for the movie,” she argues at a press junket at a Manhattan hotel. Ah, but in that “practically” lies a world of wiggle room. On one side is Moore, the groundbreaking comics author with legions of devoted fans who may boycott the film because he’s disavowed it for its deviations. On the other side are general moviegoers, who might be put off by the original’s complex and politically provocative tale of terrorism in a fascist future. And in the middle are screenwriters Larry and Andy Wachowski, who would surely like another philosophically meaty action hit along the lines of their Matrix films.

The original tale, of a masked anarchist named V and the waifish girl he rescues and indoctrinates, started out in the early ’80s as a multi-issue comic. “We had this idea of him as an urban guerrilla fighting the state,” illustrator Lloyd says. “Margaret Thatcher hadn’t hit her full stride yet. We didn’t know how it was going to end.” But the series had a long afterlife, thanks in part to its literary structure. “We actually constructed it to work for people who don’t usually read comics too,” Lloyd continues. “And then when DC bought it and collected it into a graphic novel, it just kept on going.” Also, it had an uncanny prescience about contemporary politics and terror fears, including scenes that seemed to anticipate last summer’s London subway bombings, which occurred as the film was being edited. “There are tragic events you can in no way condone,” says director James McTeigue. “But what’s interesting about this film is that it asks questions about why these things happen.”

Moore is almost as reclusive as the press-shy Wachowskis or Thomas Pynchon, whose novel V Lloyd cites as an inspiration for Vendetta . Moore seldom grants interviews or makes public statements, except to denounce the film adaptations of his work ( From Hell , The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen , the forthcoming Watchmen ). At his request, the Vendetta filmmakers removed his name from the credits. “I did call him and ask him not to do that,” Lloyd says. “Alan would have been happy only with a perfect representation. “

DIRECTOR MCTEIGUE: says it's a film that asks why things like the London subway bombings happen.Short of an hours-long TV mini-series, that would have been impossible. Although the film does streamline plot and characters in ways that should appeal to mainstream audiences, Lloyd believes it hasn’t dumbed down the story or made its politics any less controversial. “I was the first person in the comics community who’d seen the film and who could say, ‘Look, it’s really good. Trust me.’ It’s not a perfect screen translation, but it’s a great adaptation that’s kept the spirit. The integrity and the messages are all there from the original. It’s like a political cartoon in a newspaper because they’ve had to use much broader sweeps than we did. In the graphic novel, we had lots of space to tell the story. So symbolism is used much more effectively. Once the hardened fans get to see it, they’ll see that it still retains the major portion of the book. I think it’s great, and I’m happy to support it.”

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