Monday, March 20, 2006

Requiem For M.M.2

I know it's the same subject twice, now, but I can't help it, people, not posting this pic would have been daggers in my heart.

Listen, V For Vendetta, the film, erases the ONLY complaint I had about V For Vendetta, the (thank-you, AK) trade paperback. Which was the garbage drawing in most of the panels. Which I am entirely willing to blame on the printers. Judging from some of the art-work detailed in the back of the trade paperback, David Lloyd is an amazing artist with a great eye for perspective. But where were the clean lines, the first foundation of a story told through pictures? The print-job, at the least, was poor. V For Vendetta, however, the film, was full of the harsh clean neo-noir the Wachowski Brothers brought to The Matrix. I loved that mask on Hugo Weaving, btw. Talk about creepy, like when the mannequins came alive in that random show on Canadian television—God help me, I CANNOT remember what it was called. Nevermind, then. Anyways, Vendetta is basically Equilibrium without the guns, and a backstory stitched together from a rough copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Phantom Of The Opera instead of Fahrenheit 451. Which means it's like a Talking Heads' song, really, catchy and comfortably numb, pulp fiction for people who like The Shadow better than Quentin Tarantino.

Zugzwang! Muzak, that gentlier on the spirit lies, than tired eyelids on tired eyes, will be posted this evening. And, then, I Am Legend, some notes not so musical.


The usual difference between my words and actions, right? I didn't get home until eleven-thirty last night, and I didn't feel like writing. Apologies. But imagine a raw cold night, and your hands on the rear bumper of a Volkswagon. Imagine straining the weight of a car up a very slight—and for that reason, very frustrating—incline; knees plowing the snow, hands caked with snow, legs soaked with snow, your whole world the dark night and the shining snow and the stubborn shifting weight of a half-ton automobile. I don't have imagine this, because I've already experienced it. Hm. Carry on.

I Am Legend + Richard Matheson There is the vague horror, the unseen, the Gothic imagination popularized by Ann Radcliffe. And then there is the precisely detailed banalities of life which lend a story that air of reality and legitimacy which make the horrific subject all too plausible; Dickens, to my mind, was a sometime master of this mode; Stevenson, certainly. Bram Stoker tried his hand, successfully, at lending legitimacy to eastern European folklore by presenting his novel as if it was a series of reported facts. Richard Matheson has got realism nailed down. I did not know, when I read this book, that it was first published in 1954. Neville, Matheson's protagonist, is a timeless character: what would you or I or anyone do if we were constantly under the threat of death? Everyday routines consume us, and since death would be part of every day, it, too, would become routine. Death would become banal. Neville is a man of routine, tortured not by the vampiric horde which surrounds him every night, but by his memories of the people he has lost to the deadly disease which created the vampires. The protagonist's fear is not of becoming a vampire; it is of becoming an animal, a mindless creature of the night. Matheson's vampires have more in common with Stoker's child-minded Dracula than any of the more modern incarnations of the undead. In order to avoid such a benighted end, Neville constantly draws a line between the vampires and himself, every day driving around the suburbs and putting stakes through the bodies of the sleeping undead. What he does not know, however, and what the reader does not know, is that many of the vampires are not truly vampiric: the bacteria which has created the undead has mutated enough to allow certain virus-afflicted humans the ability to think and act and reason, even to walk in the daylight. And their appetites have turned from blood to vengeance. Neville has been killing both the undead AND the reasoning not-really-vampire. Neville is a murderer. He has become as bad as the mindless killers he killed and carted away from his front yard. He will die and he will become a legend.

The prose in this book is ragged, certain actions are repetitive, I cannot say that such flaws are not actually intentional authorial practice. Certainly, Neville, getting drunk yet again, throwing himself around in anger yet again, becomes very predictable: all the more shocking, then, when the climax breaks the seeming stalemate between man and vampires. The book is a classic, it seems, and I never heard of it until about two weeks ago. Wonderful vision, strongly depicted scenes. Looks like they're going to do another movie from it: the man who scripted The Cell, Mark Protosevich, has written a script for I Am Legend and it looks to be a lot more faithful to the driving ideas behind the book than the first two previous adaptations. Did I mention that I watched Omega Man years ago, and not once while reading I Am Legend did I connect the film to the book?

No comments: