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· 132 minutes
Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Alan Moore, David Lloyd
· Natalie Portman
· Hugo Weaving
· Stephen Rea
· Stephen Fry
· John Hurt
As it is with every comic book adaptation, one of the things long term fans look for is recognition. They want to be able to relate this new medium to the old. I won't lie; I'm in the same boat. I want my favorite characters to look, act, and feel the same as they did the first time my eyes graced the pages of my favorite stories. What most of us need to learn is that we need to distance ourselves from our preconceived image. We need to understand that what we're about to watch isn't a comic book being plastered onto a big screen. We aren't going to need to read pages and panels one at a time. Many things will be thrown at us faster than we want. Comic book fans LOVE to be able to stop for a moment and digest what's just happened. Film doesn't always allow their audience to do that. In fact, while I don't find it to be a prime example here, the key to a lot of action films is to keep the pace running so fast that you don't have time to consider how ridiculous the story is. And when a comic book adaptation fails in the theater, it's even worse than when a completely original movie fails. In the world of comics, or even books, there isn't a lot of room for dull and bland stories. The art is usually a secondary thing. If a story is bad, nobody is going to take the time to read it. So when an adaptation fails, it's worse because the source material was usually good, and you leave the theater thinking to yourself, "I can't believe they screwed this up."
On a rare occasion, as with V for Vendetta, you leave thinking to yourself, "I can't believe they made this better."
V for Vendetta takes place in a world very different from ours, in which the UK is a police state with all the trimmings. A man, only known by the name "V", is our only chance for freedom from a prison that we can't even see.
Governments don't last forever, mainly because at some point they stop being for the people and start being for themselves. Corruption will ALWAYS happen with governments because it never remains the same people holding the reigns. Every leader has a different view of what their role is. Things will always end with terrorism and revolt because nothing lasts forever, and anything so powerful can only be brought down with a sudden jolt. Our governments, in a desperate act to hold on to their power, will claim these people are villains... but a century from the final nail in the coffin, the man that pulled the trigger will be deemed a hero. The term "terrorist" is usually reserved these days for tan-skinned, broken-english-speaking foreigners, and our heroes are usually part of the government trying to save us from a reign of terror. So some will be troubled to understand that this story's hero is, in every sense of the word, a terrorist. When I say that, I don't mean that most will hate the movie for using the term or that they'll be confused that a terrorist is the good guy. What I mean is that our minds, with our current leadership, will never associate the word "hero" with the word "terrorist". But, most of us won't even acknowledge the sentiment, and our hero is a good guy even though he's the bad guy.
Ok, enough philosophy and history. Let's get to the technical aspects. The Wachowski brothers had me worried when I heard they were writing this project. It really didn't matter that it was V for Vendetta, hearing that they were going to make another film had me worried. Mainly, I didn't want a repeat of the last two Matrix films, and not in the sense that they were terrible. In fact, I still like Reloaded and Revolutions. The problem I was going to have was the fact that these guys had the budget for a large amount of CG. One of the things that really hurt the Matrix trilogy was the overuse of CG in the sequels. Fortunately, this isn't a problem in V for Vendetta (and that's mainly because they didn't direct). Here, we're treated to a beauty in simplicity, and it really plays to the characteristics of this film. The voice of "V" is masterfully performed by Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), and Natalie Portman (Closer, Garden State) is incredible as the soon-to-be-freed Evey. It feels like a British film, not only in the sense that it is performed by mainly British actors, but in the regard the film has for not only America, but touchy subjects as well. It treats those subjects very casually, which in America is completely unheard of. Concentration camps and terrorism and failing governments and all KINDS of PC no-no's are everywhere. I found it interesting that these things just seemed commonplace to me, but I realize that most are going in for an action movie and are going to get a bit of an editorial. Speaking of which, something that must be understood is that this isn't a political movie with a few action sequences. This is an action movie with a political stance. At least that's how they're advertising it.
The set design is very interesting. Futuristic, yet minimalistic. The world seems cold, but only in the right places. When Evey is shown the Shadow Gallery, it's a warm and almost familiar feeling. When Deitrich shows Evey his hidden treasures, though locked away in a cold environment, the amenities feel cozy. Like I said, the film isn't a CG fest, so thankfully we don't have cartoon looking backgrounds, a la Lucas. The acting seems to faulter a little at times, though not among Portman or Weaving, and the script is so well written that it barely goes noticed most of the time. The costme design really is fantastic. Set between the colorful clothing of the innocent citizens and the dark coats of the Government villains.
As with almost all comic adaptations, the action is to be had. From explosions to knife fights to guns'a'plenty, any action movie fan is certainly going to enjoy this film. There's almost a technical aspect to the action as well. Think the Matrix, only more realistic. The Wachowski Brothers have always had a certain sophistication to their action sequences, and that isn't missing here. Some of the things that happen are a little cheesy when they aren't meant to be, though. A prime example is when we find out that "V" was kept away in a sort of concentration camp and he's walking amongst burning rubble. When he throws his arms in the air and cries out, I just thought it was a bit hokey. There isn't a dreadful amount of humor in this movie, which makes it kind of interesting that there is any at all in the book. To be honest, I thought it was sort of key whenever there was humor. It helped to make the viewer more comfortable amidst confusion.
V for Vendetta is big movie for personal change. Each of the characters goes through a vast transformation, be it through fear or finally being told the truth. No ones transformation is more apparent than Evey's. And this is where the only thing I find very unfortunate happened. I didn't end up feeling as connected to Evey as I had before. Natalie Portman did an excellent job portraying her, but there weren't enough scenes written to be able to identify with Evey. With someone who was being thrown into a world that she not only didn't understand, but a world that was rapidly destroying her previous one. With Evey, we're supposed to feel afraid, and then we're to feel defiant, and then hopeful, and then hopeless, and then confused and angry, and then finally free. Yet, by the time we're supposed to go on this spiritual journey with Evey, nothing comes of it. We don't feel as shocked or amazed... we're just sort of left unfulfilled.
Despite the one big flaw, the rest of the movie is incredible. It's really an enjoyable experience, and one I'm sure that popcorn lovers will enjoy.
Some of you may be wondering about the "made this better" comment I made earlier. Some of you may be thinking, "But Gnome, my love for this comic book could never be bettered by some movie." I agree with you. I don't love the movie more than the comic. What was meant by that comment was that my love for this comic is even greater after having viewed this film. To me, this movie was a way of answering the question, would this work as a film? Now that I have the answer, I can safely cozy up in a chair and enjoy my book without fear of someone screwing it up on the screen.
One thing that is ever apparent in this film is the use of symbolism, in both the literal and the underlying sense. The symbols we see in this film are everywhere, in practically every scene. Certain characters represent different points of ignorance or disillusionment. Certain symbols represent freedom and others represent imprisonment. The one thing that this movie illustrates beatifully, much like the comic, is that sometimes, what's under the symbol isn't entirely important. It could have been a terrible person underneath that mask, yet what the public saw was a freedom fighter. Our heroes have their flaws and their downfalls... but what they represent is far greater than anything they could live up to. This film may not live up to the original concept of the comic book, but it represents something more than it means to. A good adaptation doesn't seek to replace it's original medium, but rather to express it in another and do the original justice. V for Vendetta does just that and more. Remember, remember the 5th of November.