– A Comparison of Red the motion picture and Red the comic book
The first big difference is the name itself. I don’t know how RED became Retired and Extremely Dangerous, but I do know this was one of the important changes. This small change set the theme for things to come in the movie.
Now to set the stage.
I assure you that the movie delivers on all aspects. The movie is about an ex CIA operative who is flagged Retired and Extremely Dangerous or RED for short. For reasons unknown to the viewer a hit squad breaks Willis’s tranquil retirement. Forcing him to once again don his violent persona and go apeshit on them. Which he does, with typical Willis panache. Bones are broken, eyes gouged and a lot of gunfire. End result, Willis is out looking for blood and trying to protect the only human contact he still has.
His pension officer.
Cue to the pension lady, Sarah. Who is played by Mary Louise Parker. Stuck in a desk job most of her life, dealing with one crazy beau after another has left her wanting more out of life and craving for excitement in her boring day to day routine. A craving she satisfies by reading bad pulp spy novels. She regularly talks with Willis on the phone and it is clear from the get go than these two love birds just need to meet to get things started between them. And meet they do, as Willis charges into her life and whisks (kidnaps) her away, with assassins hot on their heels. Sarah reluctant at first, goes around with Willis giddyly once she realizes that being with him as helped her realize her own deep desires for adventure. The whole set up shifts gradually from the action setting to a comedic setting, with more and more outrageous stunts adding to the humor.
Its a glorious shoot ’em after that with the grand cast showing up at periodic intervals to add to the spice. With the likes of Morgan Freeman, Helen Miller, John Malkovich and Brian Cox to look forward to, the ride offered by RED is in no way a shallow one. I personally got my money’s worth out of the movie.
However that left me with a singular realization. It had absolutely nothing in common with the comic book it was based off.
RED the comic book starts off with a new Director to the CIA being shown the ropes by his Deputy. The new Director, a political apointee is shown CIA’s deepest darkets secrets in Room ‘R’. The new Director, appalled apparently at the scale of CIA’s crimes nearly snaps, he immidiately gives out his first orders as the new Director.
Hunt down Paul Moses, the agent responsible for the crimes in Room ‘R’. Not willing to listen to reason, not willing to listen to his own Deputy who insists Paul is now inactive (Status = Green) and harmless, he just wants the guy dead. Period.
And then the hunt begins.
The comic book is not a whodunnit, it is not a mystery, it is not a comedy. The comic book is a brilliant narrative of a great hunt. It begins with Moses on the run and hunted and turns around so fast that you blink and you will miss it (Or at least will be forced to reread it). Soon enough it becomes apparent that the man they have now targetted is the best killer in the world. And even the CIA wont be enough to stop him. Halfway into the comic series we see Moses call in to CIA headquarters and give out his status as Red. In short, he has declared himself active and declared war on the CIA. Things just dont get more badass than this.
Paul Moses our hero/antihero is a tormented, yet unforgiving monster. A man’s man. While regretting his actions from the past he is not bogged down by them. He did what he had to do, he did it for his country and he will be damned if you tell him otherwise. Sarah is not the buoyant accessory to crime after crime she is in the movie, she is a minor character at best. Her importance lies in the fact that she is probably one of the only people in the comic book who Paul Moses interacts with and doesnt kill. While the villain is not some hidden shadowy figure who is a part of a great conspiracy, instead the villian is the CIA itself. They who created a monster now call him a monster and wish him dead. What monster worth his salt would take it lying down.
RED the comic book outstrips, outpaces and outentertains the reader far more than the movie ever could. Where the movie is tight and funny, the comic book is dark, moody and running at breakneck pace. A comparison is not even fair. For they seem to be two completely different stories with hardly a few similar shades between them.
The comic book drives you on a downward spiral at whirlwind pace, where you see the eventual and inevitable collapse of even this one man killing machine. The dark mood set from page one lasts till the final page. And there is very little humor. There is no need for humor, there is no place for humor. That, is how tight this comic is.
To give an example I leave you with this quote from the comic.
“I am not a monster because I kill, killing is easy. I am a monster because I accept the hard choices. I am a monster because I see that my actions in the service of my people will cause nothing but terror and pain. And I do them anyway.”
Watch the movie if you are looking for some simple comedic fun on the big screen.
Read the comic book after. You will be in for one helluva surprise.