Black Adder II

[Screenshot]My comments on the first Black Adder still hold, for the most part. There are some major changes, most of which sit well: the translation of the title character from a weaselly schemer to a hard-luck victim of fate makes watching him less painful, but somehow it seems the series has a lot less in terms of amusing personalities bouncing off of each other. I blame this mostly on Miranda Richardson, who is a fine actress, I’m sure, but hardly in Brian Blessed’s league as a comic antagonist. The three principlals seem balanced in their roles, at least. This one’s supposed to be better than the original, but I must confess I actually preferred the first season. But, hey, I’m looking forward to season 3. New antagonists! And Hugh Laurie! These days those two groups would be the same, but this was back when Hugh Laurie played idiots instead of irritable geniuses.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

The Point

[Screenshot]I heard many fine things about this film, so I decided I had to watch it. It’s charming, but a bit empty, and a bit too fond of wordplay with respect to pointlessness and things having a point and whatnot. The art is pleasant in a sketchy 70s sort of way, and the music is actually quite good (better than I’d expect of Harry Nilsson, actually), so, from my point of view, given its dearth of actual plot, The Point is perhaps best appreciated as a series of more-or-less unrelated music videos. Actually, it’s kind of like Yellow Submarine, in that respect. If you liked one, you’d probably like the other. And even if you wouldn’t like the film, “Me and My Arrow” is worth a listen.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

V for Vendetta

[Screenshot]Man, am I ever way behind. I watched this in late September, to give you an inkling. Nonetheless, many things stood out in this film that I still remember vividly, especially in contradistinction to the comic books. In the producer’s defense, I’ll concede that this is the most faithful Alan Moore adaptation out there. Bear in mind that’s not saying much. On technical details and characterization, I think it was very successful; however, the things they did choose to change were, in some ways, revealing. That the whole thing seemed a bit less British and a lot more American was to be expected; likewise the move from nuclear war to bioweapons, but I must admit I have a certain unhappiness with the face of fascism as presented in the film.

First off, it’s not so much fascist as generically thuggish authoritarianism. Moore’s great rhetoric about service to the nation in the mouths of his British leaders is pretty much excised. Also, there’s no sense of ongoing crisis of the sort which has fueled authoritarianism wherever and whenever it has flourished in the past. It’s the middle-class lens of Hollywood which does it, I think. The “average family” we sometimes see watching TV in V seems to have a fairly large, well furnished standalone home — contrast that with the impoverished, rationed circumstances of Moore’s Britain. I think the film did itself a disservice by making fascist Britain so gentle. I’m assuming the intended message was that it can come for any of us, not just completely dysfunctional states. The problem, though, is that it doesn’t. It’s not coincidental that personal wealth and personal liberty are linked. It’s a lot easier to hassle people who don’t have the resources and connections to oppose you. It’s a lot easier to make people disappear without question when their neighbors view them as potential criminals occupying flats which should belong to others. It’s a lot easier to oppress others when they’re not unified against you, and unification is, to a large extent, a luxury of those who aren’t fighting for subsistence with the hundreds of other people in equally desperate straights on a single city block. Fascism is an ideology of the middle-class, but its success depends on the complete desperation of those on the bottom.

But, as I said, the Britain of this film isn’t fascist. Mr. Susan was a pure ideologue who honestly believed in nationalistic purity leading to unity of purpose as the only effective response to disaster; Chancellor Sutler, by contrast, is a thug who engineered his own crisis to take over. It’s sad, because on technical details this film does a really good job; The incidental characters are pretty good approximations of the characters in the comic (especially Evey and Finch), but the comic’s all about the message, and the producers decided to “update” it, or maybe just ignore it, with the result that the rebellion which forms the central plot element loses a lot of its significance.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.