I have to say that Johnny Depp makes a more interesting Hunter S. Thompson than the real man. Depp narrates the words of Thompson in a way that brings a whole other element to the feel of the novel. Depp makes a drugged out “character” of Thompson while creating new life to the “Gonzo” journalist. Benicio del Toro, an actor I have always hated, is successful in his comical role as Thompson’s attorney suffering from a horrible “racial handicap.”
Director Terry Gilliam is notorious for being obsessed with creating a powerful and overwhelming mise en scène in his films. As can be expected, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is no exception. Gilliam created a world in Las Vegas that brings new power to the words of Hunter S. Thompson. I especially enjoyed the scene in which Thompson sees a group of blood thirsty humanoid Lizards at the bar with him. Only Terry Gilliam could have imagined such an image in his mind to be put on celluloid.
Of course, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, like many of Terry Gilliam’s other films has it’s flaws. Gilliam spends so much time obsessing with the image that the film is almost weighed down by aesthetics. Throughout the film, I would noticed myself nodding off or forgetting that I was watching the film. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas does get better with each viewing. Terry Gilliam did a much better job balancing the image and story with his master Brazil.
Although many drug users and addicts love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I didn’t find the film to make illegal substances appealing. Hunter S. Thompson is in a constant state of paranoia and confusion. I will say that the book and film do a good job portraying the “effects” of drug experimentation. I was really hoping that Hunter S. Thompson dropped the radio in the bathtub of his Samoan attorney as “white rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane peaked. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas no doubt had an appropriate soundtrack. After all, you would have to be on drugs to enjoy much of the music featured in the film.