Disinformation Company // 2003 // 78 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // September 8th, 2008
A psychedelic journey into one of the world's most powerful minds.
The Mindscape of Alan Moore's director spells his name DeZ Vylenz. That's as a clear a warning sign as you could ever get that this film will be riddled with adolescent pretensions. It should have been a thoughtful look at the brilliant and influential writer of such comic books as From Hell, Batman: The Killing Joke, V for Vendetta, and, of course, Watchmen. At times, it does give some insight into his work. Mostly, though, this two-disc set should enter the lexicon as the epitome of the phrase "wasted opportunity."
The film consists of 78 minutes of Moore talking directly into the camera. There are no other perspectives or interviews, no narration, and no archival footage or reenactments of his past. Moore talks about himself, a little about his work, and a lot about his philosophies and his opinions of religion, art, history, and science. Because there's no other perspective provided, it's hard to judge just how much of what Moore says about his past or his philosophy is accurate. It's not that he has a reputation for lying, but like all artists he does sometimes show a tendency for self-mythology and hyperbole. In the disc's liner notes, Vylenz claims that he's not interested in making a straight biography, but that's no excuse for not doing even a little research into what Moore says. What artists choose to omit or deny can be just as illuminating as what they choose to reveal.
Vylenz, unfortunately, isn't interested in what would make for a genuinely good documentary about Moore. Moore discusses his philosophies in detail; if Vylenz were a talented director, he could shape Moore's remarks into a coherent narrative that shows how Moore's work emerges from his ideology and how it has evolved over the years. Instead, the film is sloppy and scattershot. Moore jumps from topic to topic, only some of which have any relation to one another. He only sometimes explains how he got ideas for his comics and rarely goes into much depth. If there is a constant thread running through his work, you won't hear about it here. He actually goes into more detail on some of his minor works, like his comic on the Iran-Contra scandal called Brought to Light, than on his major books. Fans of The Killing Joke, World's Finest, or Miracleman will be disappointed, as he doesn't mention them once.
The film gets so hard to follow that by the end, even the staunchest Moore fan will be hard-pressed to understand exactly what he is saying. This is less an indictment of Moore and more of Vylenz, who clearly isn't much of a documentarian. It's not enough to simply turn on a camera and let the subject speak; a real nonfiction director is meticulous enough to ask smart questions that guide the conversation coherently and then edit it into something that actually makes sense.
So what does Vylenz expend all his effort on? Smothering the audience with loud music and silly visuals that range from incoherent to pretentious. Rather than supplying additional context to Moore's words or even showing some of his work, Vylenz slaps together some cheap and tacky "psychedelic" computer effects (like the kind of fractals that make up your average Windows screensaver) as well as some embarrassing recreations of panels from some of Moore's books. This is not a high-budget film, so the sight of actors in cheap makeup and costumes miming along to lines from Watchmen and V for Vendetta is downright painful. The nadir is reached towards the end, when Vylenz attempts to visualize one of Moore's theories about the relationship between humanity and technology by depicting, for no good reason, a bunch of people and buildings simultaneously bursting into flames. All of this is set to a soundtrack of droning, monotonous techno music that is more irritating than evocative. Instead of making a documentary that would help illuminate Moore's work for fans, Vylenz is clearly more interested in using this film as a vehicle to show off his supposed filmmaking prowess, even though his visuals would embarrass an MTV director circa 1991.
Many of the extras show off just how deluded Vylenz is. Rather than provide more information about Moore, the ones on Disc One go into detail on the production of the film instead. There's commentary on selected scenes by Vylenz, whose self-congratulatory blather is mind-boggling. He's actually proud of his tacky images, going on and on about how they were shot and how he came up with them. "Making of a Mindscape" (11:47) explains how these visuals were shot, and it's hard to imagine who could possibly care. "Director Interview" (15:45) shows Vylenz discussing a little about why he likes Moore's books, and a lot about how much he wants to be a filmmaker. There are also interviews with the film's special effects coordinator (11:24) and composer (18:40), as if the film's shoddy effects and generic techno music are worthy of so much analysis. The film's two trailers (both 1:02) are included, and they're identical, so it's hard to understand why there are two of them. Presumably, most people who will be interested in this film are fans of Moore, not Vylenz, so they'll find these extras completely useless.
Disc Two does have Moore-related content, but it's handled just as poorly as the film is. It contains interviews with some of the artists who collaborated with Moore on various titles: Melinda Gebbie (Lost Girls) (31:06), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) (27:29), David Lloyd (V for Vendetta) (13:18), Kevin O'Neill (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) (19:59), and Jose Villarubia (Promethea) (18:42). Just as he does with Moore in the film, Vylenz doesn't bother shaping and editing these interviews into something coherent, but instead lets the interviewees talk endlessly about themselves and their theories and philosophies on life. Most barely mention Moore, even Gebbie, who's now his wife. Only Gibbons and Villarubia give some particulars about how exactly they collaborated with Moore on a daily basis. There's also an interview with British comics historian Paul Gravett (28:20) that's billed on the liner notes as an "introduction" to Moore's work. It's nothing of the sort. Gravett yaks away about his theories on comics and movies and describes his biography in detail, but only mentions Moore a few times. Were Vylenz a better interviewer and director, he could have extracted some interesting nuggets from these people, but even hardcore Moore fans will find much of this tedious and irrelevant.
The film's anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is decent. There's an option to choose between a Stereo and 5.1 Surround Mix, but the 5.1 mix is pointless, as all it does is enhance the music, which isn't worth it. In fact, for such an extensive two-disc package and such a potentially fascinating subject, very little here is really worth it. The Mindscape of Alan Moore could have been a welcome look at an underappreciated talent, and had it been done well would have served to earn comics writers some long overdue respect. Instead, even devout Moore fans will want to preview this set before buying it, especially given its rather steep $29.95 list price. Newcomers to Moore's work would do better to spend their money on copies of Watchmen or From Hell instead. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Disinformation Company
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 78 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary on Select Scenes
* Director Interview
* Composer Interview
* VFX Coordinator Interview
* The Making of a Mindscape
* Additional Interviews