Shockingly Good

The story is classic. It has parallels to Hitler, the USSR, Thatcher/Reagan and now Bush/Blair. I know the graphic novel was written in response to Thatcher(& Reagan), but given our current geopolitical climate it seems a perfect time to resurrect this story.

As a fan of the novel, I was prepared for changes and tried not to mind the addition/deletion of subplots and minor changes. I liked how they adapted and updated it to todays issues. As an example- having had to be fingerprinted recently for a promotion (and having the DOJ REFUSE to tell me what happens to my “criminal history” record in IAFIS when I leave the job) – I can appreciate what it will be like when we have to use our fingerprints as an ID for everything!

Overall I thought the film stuck to the imagery and the ideas in the book pretty well. A few moments rang false for me (the roaring burning guy image they kept showing only made us laugh at how bad it was). I felt as if we were in “England as Americans see it” (even I know more British cuss words than ‘Bollocks’! I tried to just see it as a hybrid English/American amalgamation rather than England as it is today.

I wish they had included a few things that I thought were important to the story. I felt they downplayed the xenophobia and racist genocide a bit more than they should have. Also, I thought they made a huge mistake in not portraying the economic depression that also played (and plays in today’s world) a part in people’s submissiveness to the regime and one of their sources (apart from fear) of power. Especially given our failing economy (at least in America) – I thought this was an important parallel that should have stayed in. Finally, while the undercurrent of love was fine, that last kiss/declaration of love was too cheesy and spoiled the last few minutes and (IMO) threw off the point of the film.

The cast was superb. Even Natalie Portman who I have been ambivalent about as an actor, pulled off her role fairly well. (I appreciated the irony of John Hurt, the hero in the movie version 1984 is now one of the bad guys in a similar reminder of the dangers of fascism). The mise-en-scene was well done. This film actually makes you root for the (symbolic) destruction of a beloved global landmark.

The single biggest failing though was the ADVERTISING/ product placement! There is an extremely overt brand placement of a TV brand and a shorter, less obvious computer brand placement. This insidious advertising especially does not belong in a film in which one of the themes is media control of what people think/do/(buy)and references corporations involvement in politics! These are not struggling producers who couldn’t get a film financed without whoring themselves out to consumer interests. (Not to mention-it was anachronistic-how are they getting American computers if the US is in civil war and it’s products are blockaded from Britain??) For shame. I deducted stars for that! I know product placement is being used in more and more films, but I do not appreciate it.