A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

V for Vendetta

February 16, 2011

V for Vendetta

As adaptations of the “unfilmable” works of Alan Moore go this is one of the better ones. Oh, it’s far from perfect – it panders a bit much and it substitutes action and adventure for suspense and tension. At its core though it has something, some seed of an idea, which feels… right. This movie is not the book, but it says some of the same things about a desire for a hero to deliver us from fear – and the kind of monster that hero must necessarily be.

Before V Moore had worked mostly with already established characters and continuing stories. His re-invention of Swamp Thing and Marvel Man for example. V was his first attempt at a self contained world and a finite story arc. Call it a dry run for The Watchmen. Indeed I seem to remember reading an interview with Moore where he said that he had learned a lot from writing V about planning ahead and carefully plotting the story because as he wrote V the story kept evolving between issues.

The titular “V” is a vigilante. He is a mysterious and suave swashbuckler in a Guy Fawkes mask with a brace of knives and a literary bent. In a not too far fetched fascist England of the future everything is in control of a right-wing religious party which utilizes a fearsome secret police, constant surveillance and an iron grip on the media to maintain order. V shows up and proceeds to slowly kill his way through many members of the ruling party. It starts out being about his vengeance for the heinous crimes that created him in the first place (and there’s a whole lengthy reveal about where he comes from although it is never really resolved just who he actually is.) Eventually, however it turns out that his vendetta goes deeper than just eliminating those directly responsible for his origin. He wants to topple the entire repressive regime that holds England in its grip.

For me, though, all that is window dressing. V himself says that he is more an idea than a man. The human center of both the book and the movie is Evie – a young woman that V saves early on and ultimately takes in as a reluctant protege. Her evolution as a character is really what the movie is about for me, and it is Natalie Portman’s fantastic powerhouse performance that brings this movie up from just another comic book adaptation to something more soulful and powerful. She has great material to work with of course. Evie’s story has a lot of power to it, from the loss of her revolutionary parents in her youth to the transformation she undergoes throughout the film. Portman proves herself a masterful actor and in many ways is the best thing in the entire movie. Not to downplay how very difficult it must have been for Hugo Weaving to emote as V when you never get to see his face and all of his dialog is dubbed in during post-production. I love his perfect diction, even if once in a while I expected him to end a sentence with “Mr. Anderson” or “Mr. Baggins.”

I remember when this movie came out that it was criticized for being such an obvious allegory for the use of fear of terrorism by the Bush administration (and to a lesser extent the Blair and Brown administrations) to cling to power. Yes, the parallels are clearly there, and perhaps the adaptation that the Wachowskis created highlights them somewhat, but much of the core story of a single indomitable man standing up to a totalitarian regime comes directly from the book – which was written during the era of Regan and Thatcher. I’ll admit that my memories of the book are vague (it having been one of the many books lost to me during a move from LA to Boston back in ‘92) but even so I think I can say that the themes of the movie are, mostly, faithful to the book. You might as well say that the peaceful revolution in the movie is a clear analogue for events taking place in Egypt and throughout the Middle East right now. Certainly whenever the anger of the internet is roused you can expect to see at least one or two Guy Fawkes masks in amongst the flash crowds of Anonymous.

I so very much wish I had the book now. Maybe I can find it for cheap at one of the many Borders stores going out of business in the coming days.

February 16, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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