If you were to ask someone with any in-depth knowledge of comics who has been the most influential writer of the last few decades, chances are Alan Moore’s name would come up. Incidentally, he’s possibly the writer most upset with how his work has been adapted.
Moore’s history with Hollywood is troubled to put it nicely. Through no fault of his own he’s been stuck with a lot of unpleasant experiences surrounding the adaptations of his work, including an accusation of plagiarism for a screenplay that he did not have any involvement with. As a result he’s cut all ties with movies based on his work, even refusing royalties and demanding he be credited as “Alan Smithee” in credits to show his displeasure.
Therefore, calling these films “Alan Moore Movies” isn’t entirely accurate. In that case, here is my ranking of movies based on works by Alan Moore. For those who think I should include other features like Swamp Thing or The Killing Joke since he worked on the series or with already established characters, I am only including movies based on characters or series that were his own original creations, so there will be (to some people) omissions.
5) From Hell
This is the biggest misfire/misinterpretation of Moore’s work that I’ve yet seen. The story of the movie focuses on Jack the Ripper and a detective with psychic powers (Johnny Depp) trying to figure out who he is. There’s a romantic subplot between Depp and one of the targeted prostitutes played by Heather Graham in an attempt to make us care more about these characters, but honestly it falls flat. The marketing and execution show this movie was clearly made to make a quick profit off of people who are interested in Jack the Ripper conspiracies and it’s incredibly standard.
Whereas the movie tries (poorly) to make us guess who Jack actually is, the graphic novel tells us in the second chapter and takes a holistic look at Victorian England, showing how the Whitechapel Murders were a small part of interconnected events involving everyone from Queen Victoria to Joseph Merrick (better known as The Elephant Man). The characters are far more fleshed out despite there being many more than in the movie and none of them are perfect. Strangely enough, Jack the Ripper is even portrayed as being right about certain things making him a more three dimensional figure.
Probably not the objectively worst of Moore’s work, but missed the point more than any others. Not even a guilty pleasure.
Rating: 1/5 ★
4) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
This one, however, is a guilty semi-pleasure. The movie focuses on a group of literary characters from the 1800s (Allan Quartermaine, Mina Harker, Captain Nemo, Dorian Gray, the Invisible Man (kind of), Doctor Jekyll/Mr Hyde, and Tom Sawyer) who try to stop Professor Moriarty from starting World War I in 1899. Sound thrown together? It is.
This has very little resemblance to the source material and has the dubious distinction of being Sean Connery’s last live-action film role. What was a complex narrative bringing in elements from many different literary works is instead a dumbed-down generic action movie…which is in all honesty a little fun to watch every 10 years or so just for the novelty of all of these characters being thrown together. Also, vampire Mina Harker’s CGI is pretty funny to look at these days.
Rating: 2/5 ★★
The exorcist John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) fights demons to prevent the apocalypse. I probably have the least to say about this movie since it’s an adaptation of the character than a specific graphic novel, but the original version of the character is a magician within the DC Universe who deals with deities from all religions and other magical events. Here he’s just fighting demons hoping to get into Heaven.
Not bad, some interesting twists to the story and a hilarious Devil played by Peter Stormare. Maybe worth a viewing.
Rating: 3/5 ★★★
Set in a world where costumed heroes and a superhero have changed the events of world history, especially the Cold War, everyone expects to be wiped out by nuclear armageddon in the near future. The only one with the apparent power to stop it is the superhero Doctor Manhattan (whose powers make Superman look like me trying to press over 10 pounds) who is becoming more disinterested in whether humanity survives or goes extinct.
I have A LOT to say about this movie and maybe I’ll do a more involved post someday, but here I’ll keep it brief. Also, I’m talking about the Director’s Cut since that’s the version I prefer and own.
This story was and remains unadaptable as anything less than a 5 hour movie with gratuitous flashbacks, and Moore specifically made it that way. This version is the best one we’re ever going to get unless someone wants to invest $200 million into the 5 hour adaptation I mentioned which very few people will see. I’m surprised that Zack Snyder was able to make this film as well as he did, a lot of the shots look like they’re lifted directly from the comic and there aren’t too many major deviations from the story…except for the big one at the end.
Honestly, I don’t mind the changed ending because it remains true to the idea represented in the graphic novel and cuts out a very involved subplot that there wasn’t any time for in the movie. A good amount is cut unfortunately, though mostly it’s elements that further build the world it takes place in and a few tidbits of characters to flesh them out a little more, but their central characteristics remain intact. Also, Doctor Manhattan’s backstory was done incredibly and is one of the highlights of the feature.
Overall, I’d say this was a fairly good movie. Nothing too special and I probably wouldn’t have seen it in the first place if I hadn’t read the novel, but definitely worth at least viewing, two if you want to go back and see some hidden elements that come into play later.
Rating: 4/5 ★★★★
1) V for Vendetta
This movie would be fun and worth seeing even if the viewer had never heard of Alan Moore. In this film the protagonist V (Hugo Weaving) and his protege Evey (Natalie Portman) fight to bring down a fascist government in England in a world where most other countries are either in turmoil or gone. Meanwhile the head of Scotland Yard is trying to figure out who V is and stop him before he can carry out more attacks, instead discovering a darker secret that led to the world he knows.
The characters and acting in this movie are especially well done, with Weaving and Portman giving excellent performances (especially impressive as we never see V’s face). The story is intriguing in how the government came to power, V’s backstory, and Evey’s transformation throughout the running time. Yes, there’s a lot that can be easily seen as commentary on the Bush administration, but I don’t find it distracting.
All of the action scenes are inventive and fun, especially the ones where V cleverly manipulates situations to get himself out of tight corners. His scheme against the government is the main plot of the movie and it’s taken in a lot of interesting directions. There’s a lot cut from the original story and it’s extremely simplified in comparison, but it’s replaced with enough entertaining scenes to make up the difference.
In all honesty this is the only Moore adaptation that I can say is as much fun to watch as it is to read. I’d actually recommend buying it even if you’ve never read the original.
Rating: 5/5 ★★★★★