Scotty G Asks: Why Does Alan Moore Hate His Movies?

“I increasingly fear that nothing good can come of almost any adaptation.”

That’s a quote from Alan Moore when he was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly recently, about his thoughts on the upcoming adaptation of his masterpiece – Watchmen. It intrigued me. So with Watchmen being released in a couple of days, it was suggested to me that it might be a good time to go back and re-visit other works of Alan Moore that have been adapted for the silver screen [I always wanted to use that term in an article!] and try and find out why Alan Moore doesn’t like his work being adapted to film. There have been only 3 films so far, and I’ll start by quickly reviewing them first. Before I begin, I will admit that the only Alan Moore novel I have read is Watchmen, so I won’t compare the novels to the movies.


From Hell – I remember seeing this in the fall of 2001 on its opening weekend. It was a film that I knew nothing about going in, but was hooked into seeing because I liked the trailer a lot. . Although it received a mixed to negative reception by the critics, From Hell blew me away. For Johnny Depp, he got to play a more serious and darker character then his portrayal of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow [I think you can also compare his work in Sweeney Todd to these two films as well, as a progression of a character becoming darker and darker. Random thought, but I’m throwing it out there]. The look of the film was truly great. A lot of green mist, a ton of blood, and a creepy vibe that exists throughout the film helped make this stand out for me. I’ll state for the record that any film that has a villain, who has his /her eyes go all black, scares me. A lot of credit goes to the Hughes Brothers, as I thought it was an inspired film. There are flaws [I hate to critique Heather Graham, but she is miscast], but they can be forgiven. What truly amazes me about From Hell is that it inspired me to learn more about the Jack the Ripper cases at the time. This infatuation only lasted a weekend, but any movie that makes you want to learn more on its subject matter is always a good film [in my opinion at least]. Unfortunately From Hell bombed at the box office, grossing just shy of $32 million. It also brought into doubt about Johnny Depp being able to carry a motion picture. He quickly put his critics to rest with his next film – Pirates of the Carribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl. I think this is the best of the Alan Moore movies, and is worth rediscovering on DVD.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen {LXG} came out in the summer of 2003. Yet again, I saw this film on its opening weekend. Unfortunately, I had a different reaction to this film then I did with From Hell. This movie was a mess. It had a good pedigree going into it. Sean Connery is always entertaining, a decent cast to surround him, and Stephen Norrington (Blade) was directing. Unfortunately, there was a lot of negative buzz surrounding the film. There were complaints that the film was being “Americanized” by adding the character of Tom Sawyer to the film [he wasn’t in the graphic novel], and that the studio was micro-managing the movie. The biggest problem was that Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery were at each other’s throats, and this was released to the media. When the media smells blood, it’s never a good thing. Watching the film, it was a mess. I could care less about what any of the characters did, the set pieces were boring, the special effects were lame and I just remember wanting the film to end. Sadly, Sean Connery has never made a feature length movie since LXG. I wish he will return, and go out on a higher note.

V For Vendetta came out in the spring of 2005. I went to see this film on its opening day midnight screening [You’re noticing a trend with me and Alan Moore films I hope]. I will happily admit that the marketing campaign sold me to see this film. The Wachowski Brothers wrote the screenplay, Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, and Stephen Rea were the stars of the film, and it looked like a good action picture. This is where preconceived notions of a film can hurt it. I walked out of the movie thinking how disappointed I was. I was expecting lots of action set pieces, and explosions, and violence. I wanted to see carnage on the screen, and I didn’t get that. [This is why it’s best to go into a movie knowing nothing about it]. When V For Vendetta came out on DVD, I decided to give it another chance. How my opinion changed. It was now a smart, ironic, suspenseful, intense film that had me involved from the opening frame. I liked the premise of it, and seeing what London had become, I thought the character of V was suddenly intriguing, and I actually cared about what the main characters were doing. I think the marketing campaign did a great job of selling the film, but it was selling it as something it wasn’t, and I bought it hook line and sinker. I still think From Hell is the best Alan Moore adaptation, with V for Vendetta being a close second [LXG is a very distant 3rd], but V for Vendetta deserves another viewing.

Now why does Alan Moore hate his movies being adapted? I wanted to find out the answer to this, and I was surprised to find that it had a little bit to do with the actual films, and a lot to do with politics behind the scenes. That might not be fair of me to say, but here’s some things I read:

1) In an interview with the Onion’s AV Club – Moore seemed to be looking forward to the film. Here’s some quotes from the interview: “The Hughes brothers are excellent directors, and the actors and actresses in the film are all ones that I’ve got a lot of time for. I think that it’ll probably be a very, very good film… The sets are remarkable, and from what I can tell with the trailer, it’s probably going to be a lot more exciting than the book, more thrilling.” In the same interview he later states, “I think at an early stage, I was asked if I did want any involvement, but whenever there’s been films proposed of any of my books, my answer has been pretty much the same. If someone’s going to butcher my baby, I’d just rather it wasn’t me.” So it seems that he has no objection to this film being adapted, and wants to let other people interpret his work. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with it at this point, but this will soon change. [You can read the entire article from the Onion’s AV Club here ].

2) For League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moore did not like Sean Connery’s contract. Connery was getting $17 million of the film’s $78 million dollar budget [it could be higher depending on different sources, because of the production delays], and Connery had it written in his contract that he needed to have bigger explosions than his previous film. Connery’s previous film was The Rock, so LXG had to improve on that. [Check out the LXG page at http://www.imdb.com for more details on this]. There was also a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox about the film saying that it was similar to an unproduced screenplay. Moore was angry at the studio for settling the issue out of court, because it made him look guilty, as it made him look like he had stolen the idea for his comic from someone else. IMDB suggests that this is why Moore wanted his name taken off any future adaptation of his work.

3) For V for Vendetta – Moore wanted a public apology from producer Joel Silver. The reason for this is a little vague as apparently Silver said in a press conference that Moore had spoken to Larry Wachowski, and he was excited about the film’s release. Moore said that he had never spoken to Wachowski, and didn’t want his name associated with the film. He also said his book was about fascism and anarchy, which are never spoken in the film.

It seems that the Hollywood system is the reason why Moore does not like the adaptations of his work. We’ll see if he softens his stance. I somehow doubt it, because in an interview that was conducted by Geoff Pevere for the Toronto Star, Moore says, “”I shan’t be seeing Watchmen. The films I used to enjoy were the ones that let my mind play over different possibilities. The same is true of books and comics. I want to work a little bit, I don’t just want to sit there and have an experience wash over me.”

I hope that when I see Watchmen, when the lights go down, I can let my preconceptions disappear, and let the experience of the film warm over me. We shall see.

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One Reply to “Scotty G Asks: Why Does Alan Moore Hate His Movies?”

  1. This isn’t inside info on AM’s politics/philosophy (I’ve never spoken with him on anything), but… V, in the comic, started off with a woman forced to resort to prostitution to survive, after the fascist government has blacklisted her from any legitimate work. The film took this part out to make her more sympathetic to audiences that they thought just wouldn’t see past the surface situation. League’s film adaptation took out Quartermain’s drug problem and the way Victorians regarded Mina’s being a ‘fallen woman’. Maybe Moore has trouble with his characters being dumbed down into flawless heroes when he gives them a more 3 dimensional start.

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