This is going to live on as the most rare entry into this blog. I am gonna guarantee that now, although it's possible it could be matched in all realistic notions. The reasoning is this: as of Tuesday last week or so, I finished the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and then on Sunday (yesterday) I watched the movie. So this is one where the book was fresh in my mind and then I immediately watched the movie.
Now, technically, I also did this with Apocalypse Now, however I read the book after watching it, and I of course didn't review that movie for this blog.
The book version of the movie should get a one paragraph detailing here first. Written as both a celebration of and look back on the death of the dream of the 60's, Hunter S. Thompson spins a story of two out of place druggies binge-ing it up and stumbling through Las Vegas. It's sentimental, hilarious, thought-provoking, and altogether too rare in it's form as both a criticism and an adoring love-letter to the simpler times, to politics, and the entire American system. Thompson doesn't come off as someone who loves or hates, simply someone who observes, who sees the trends. Although he'd be classified as part of the revolution, he more sounds like someone riding the wave, instead of someone who helped to make the wave. It's surprisingly beautiful, and at times makes one wish they'd gone through his life experiences.
The movie is a tad "harsher" for lack of a better word. It's interesting, and there's only a few examples of exactly how this is the case. First of all, the Samoan attorney who has no name in the book, and in the movie is called Dr. Gonzo, seems a lot less dangerous in the book. Okay, maybe not a "lot less" dangerous, but more of a lovable character. The person in the movie would not only be a legit jailed criminal, but someone that no one would ever want to be around. Could be the real guy the character was based on was more like the movie, I have no idea. But I just really liked his character in the book and not so much in the movie.
Raoul Duke, the main character of both the book and the movie, is an almost mimic of how he was written to how he is performed. That's one thing that stands out. Johnny Depp pulled that role off, and I'd be hard pressed to wonder if this is his best performance. Sometimes both him and Dr. Gonzo come off like too much, and I wonder if they are overacting, but one thing is that this is a Terry Gilliam film, and it's supposed to be overdone.
While I'm on that topic. I think the whole book versus movie argument is pretty stupid. One can admire the wording, the flow of sentences and the brilliance of a mind while reading a book. In a movie, even one like this with a narration, there is just no opportunity to do so. Instead, one has in trade the ability to admire production value, cinematography, score, and acting. It's not anywhere near an "even trade" and sometimes the movie / the book will of course be "better". I'm not starting this paragraph to tell you which I think is better, I'm trying to explain why I don't think in those terms.
The movie is astonishingly well shot, and the sets and production value is sky high. When watching Gilliam films, the details are a movie buffs dessert. His films look fucking fantastic. Highly detailed set pieces, obvious attention to detail, Gilliam and Baz Luhrmann are two directors who are known for fantastic production value. The cinematography is also top notch. Acting is good, as already stated, with a lot of well known people in minor roles.
I think the only thing that makes the book "better" in my opinion is it's stark contrast of setting Duke and the Attorney apart from everyone else. In the movie, there is a perpetual oddness to a lot of the side characters as well. They say things, do things, they look weird, etc. You could say it's part of the drug visions the characters experience, but it makes them seem a little "less weird" than they do in the book. So yeah. I dunno about that.
Another good thing bout the movie. I'd say it's aged extremely well. It is supposed to take place in 1971, and it looks the part. Thus there aren't a lot of aging factors to it, especially since star Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro aren't looking "their best". Depp went full male pattern baldness for his character, while Del Toro gained 40 pounds. Thus, it does not look 1998. It looks great still, not almost 20 years old.