V for…

by Alan Rapp on March 17, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: V for Vendetta
  • IMDB: link

“People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people.”

Here’s what I learned from V for Vendetta: 1). I never, ever, want anyone to try and make Watchmen into a film.  2). Even when you gut a great graphic novel of some of its best material it can still come out well on screen.  3). I have an even deeper appreciation for Sin City.  The Wachowksi adaptation (Moore pulled his own name off the project) isn’t the graphic novel, but it does have something worth watching.  I would have preferred a more faithful adaption to this remodeled version, but what we do get is still quite good; sadly though the source material demands it to be great.  My immediate reaction to the film is mostly positive yet conflicted and wistful of what could have been.

Our hero is a terrorist that blows up half the town (and that’s not even half as bad as what he does to those he “likes”).  Alan Moore gave us a dim future about a totalitarian regime in London and one lone man who wants to bring it all crashing down, and achieve vengeance for what was done to him by the system in the name of progress.

The main story involves a terrorist named V (Hugo Weaving) who is trying to bring down the totalitarian state and return choice and freedom to the people.  At the same time V is hunting down a group of government agents exacting vegeance for the experiments that led to his current state.  Along the way he helps out/kidnaps young Evey (Natalie Portman) who he realizes will play an important role in his new order.

There are plenty of changes from the comic.  Some make sense for the time limit (many of the periphery stories have been cut down or completely deleted) and some are just odd changes.  For example events from the comic have been diced up in a blender and re-ordered throughout the film trying to capitalize on them at more cinematically climatic times.  In some cases this works; however in others it causes loss of story elements that help explain V’s actions and his ultimate goals.  Gone are the “voice of fate” computer and Evey’s triumphal moment, as well as Finch’s (Stephen Rea) LSD inspired journey, and the new ending sadly doesn’t measure up to Moore’s original.

Much of the book remains including V’s Guy Hawkes look (perfectly captured) and his bloody murder spree.  Evey’s main scene (fans of the comic will know to which I speak) and the story of Valerie (Natasha Wightman) are some of the best adapted in the film and work better on screen than I would have thought possible, even if they are tweaked slightly.  The film also gets the feel of the time and the situation right, even if it never digs deep and explores the issues as it should.

Weaving is perfect as V and never once did I think of Mr. Smith (which has ruined many of his post-Matrix performances for me).  Portman works well in the role of Evey and most of my complaints about her deal to the change in the character rather than her portrayal.  As for the villains the film makes Sutler (John Hurt) and his gang into more villainous monsters rather than simply brutal leaders in, what I can only assume was, an attempt to make V look better and more likable by comparison.

My major complaints with the film (I have two) deal with V himself.  The character is bringing about anarchy and believes totally in the cause, yet the film only mentions the word once (blink and you’ll miss it).  Nor does the film have critical scenes where V and Evey discuss the two part process of anarchy and what V wishes her to do for him after his revolution.  The film losses a little of the comic’s heart and message when this thread is buried.  My other complaint are the small changes made to V to make him more likable and more human.  The least acceptable of these are the romantic leanings the film creates in the V/Evey relationship.  Aside from being a horrible idea, as it doesn’t mesh with who and what these characters are, the scenes themselves come off clunky and forced.  Thankfully such moments are few and far between.

In the end despite many issues I have with the film I still enjoyed it and would heartily recommend it.  The only thing is…the film is going to bring in a core audience of Alan Moore’s who aren’t going to like it as much as those who walk in without reading the novel.  So in the end most of the people seeing the film will come out disappointed.  If you are at all interested in the material I would recommend you read the graphic novel, but go see the movie first and then you might be able to fully enjoy both.

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