“I’ve never watched any of the adaptations of my books. I’ve never wanted to, and there’s absolutely no chance of me doing so in the future.”
You’ve heard it from the man himself. Alan Moore is no fan of movies or movies based on his adaptations. Of course, Alan Moore isn’t exactly the kind of person that you would see on the street and think “He seems like a sane man.” Although, "interesting" is the word that would describe him best, and interesting he certainly is. A talented graphic novel and comic book writer, Moore has been lauded by contemporary artists and writers such as Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis who liken Moore to a twentieth century innovator.
His work shares the characteristics of many comic book tropes— super powers superheroes, crime fighting— among many others, however, what makes his work such an anomaly is how he approaches these tropes. Constantly incorporating political undertones, revolutionary ideologies shared with Karl Marx, morality questions regarding good and evil, right and wrong, and self-reflecting identity. Such questions are not what a brainless audience member would like to attempt to answer since they only paid to see Michael Bay-esque explosions. Which is, I suppose, part of the reasons why his films are deemed unadaptable. Even Moore admits this, which is why he never gives his comic book adaptations a shadow of doubt that they will fail at concocting his genius from the pages to the big screen. However, there are some important aspects that are featured in his work that have translated well to the visual media. As ranked, here are the attempts that have been made to prolong the influential work of a complicated talent.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
"Bond believes we are his pawns. He thinks no one observes his game. But I am No One. I observe everything, and to play with Nemo is to play games with destruction."
After decades of secret missions and subliminal sexual creepiness at Bond, the great Sean Connery hung up his legendary acting cloak, but not before finishing off his defining career with this immeasurable dud. I’m not going to pretend to have read any of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman comics, but I am almost positive that they are a thousand times better than this movie. Alan Quatermain (Connery) assembles a terrible fleet of people with…extraordinary abilities— a sort of dark approach via X-Men, except instead of mutants, these are classic literary characters. Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, just to name a few. The comical self-awareness of Alan Moore’s series, which is what made it such a resonating work of gothic fiction, was left out of the film version. It was the kind of adaptation that I’m sure is the reason why Moore made the above quote.
"Time is simultaneous, an intricately structured jewel that humans insist on viewing one edge at a time when the whole design is visible in every facet."
Watchmen, if anything, proves something. What is it? Well, you know how a film adaption will get torn to shreds for too many diversions from the original source material? Well, believe it or not, it is plausible for a film to be too scene-for-scene in its adaption. It’s no secret— books and movies are two completely different mediums. Books have the luxury of dissecting a scene with narration and character perspectives, while a film has to tell you the same amount of information visually. Which is a difficult enough task since one might miss something essential to the story. Watchmen takes Alan Moore’s graphic novel to heart and duplicates it in the attempt to serene bloodthirsty fan boys and girls. In doing so, the film trades in its own individuality, not to mention, there are changes, but the film changes the wrong aspects of Moore’s graphic novel; e.g the controversial ending. The film does get a bad wrap, however. Yes, to a fault, the movie has proven that an adaptation can be too faithful to the source material. Yes, Malin Akerman did not give the greatest performance as Laurie Jupiter. Yes, there were some book diversions— and they were the wrong ones. But the film is still a visually striking one with the graphic novel's superhero complexities translating well enough to ask some truly philosophical questions regarding the role of a “superhero.”
From Hell (2001)
"I am not a man so much as a syndrome; as a voice that bellows in the human heart. I am rain. I cannot be contained."
The first adaption of an Alan Moore graphic novel, From Hell follows Johnny Depp as the real-life famous Inspector Frederick Abberline as he solves the Jack the Ripper murder case. I love dark fiction and I love history, so when they are put together— I implode. Unlike The League of Extraordinary Gentleman that followed, this was actually a decent adaptation. Correlating the White Chapel murder facts with a fictional outside story is what truly echoed to me as both a history buff and film fanatic. It also helps that the lustrous cinematography by Peter Deming as well as the nifty set design really puts you in the middle of such a chaotic time in London.
V for Vendetta (2005)
"Behind this mask there is more than just flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea... and ideas are bulletproof."
Unlike the incoherent disarray of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen— From Hell and Watchmen were not particularly terrible films. In fact, they, for different reasons, excelled to levels of entertaining and faithfulness— levels that many film adaptations never reach (Extraordinary Gentlemen included). However, what’s preventing those films from reaching the unfathomable heights of my number one pick is something that is more than likely to appear in all of Moore’s work— satire. Watchmen was a satire of the unrealistic creed of superhero mythology and From Hell, admittedly much less humorous than any other of Moore’s work, was a thorough examination of misguided science and religion. V for Vendetta, on the other hand, wore Moore’s satire pretty close to its chest. On one hand, it is a satire of media consumption and dependability. On the other hand it was a “what if” take on a totalitarian government in England. And if one were to have a third hand, it be a detailed study of the effects of a social and political movement with public unity. I could go on and on about how the character of V, sporting a Guy Fawkes mask, is the epitomized notion of revolt and anti-establishment. A notion that was relevant when Guy Fawkes raided the House of Lords in 1605 and is relevant now, in 2016, when social injustice continues to subsist. The message of individual empowerment is what will continue to reverberate and we are all eternally grateful that the film adaption did not diminish that message provided my Moore’s source material.