I was wary about raising my expectations about the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta, but I will gladly say that I loved the movie.
While Alan Moore is right to be wary of Hollywood screwing him I think that he should be pleasantly surprised with The Brothers Wachowski faithful re-telling of his tale. I understand he’s got a bone to pick with DC (and don’t blame him), but as far as I could tell the message of V came through loud, clear, and relatively unmuddied from what I read in the graphic novel.
There are differences, but not so many that the core story is altered. V is an idea, not a man. Evey is our ingenue with whom we are transformed and altered. We are asked to decide how much of ourselves we would betray for comfort, how much of ourselves would we entrust to the government, and, if the call came, would be willing to dump tea in the harbor / take up arms against hostile imperialists / detonate the monuments of a perverted ethos.
What to make of the performances? Hugo Weaving as V has the difficult task of acting, from behind a mask. He doesn’t even have a mouth wherewith to emote as the Lon Chaney monsters or the various Phantoms of the Opera have had. Instead, V’s page-boy haircut is the only way of expressing doubt, a change in attitude, or tenderness.
Natalie Portman shines. Evey begins complacent, accepting of the fearful world of her circumstance. Her beauty and daily regimen are those that can be bought conveniently at Rite Aid. She then moves to become amazed, independent, and then triumphant. Richard Roeper complained of her on and off British accident, but this is nit-picking and doesn’t diminsh the quality of the performance.
V’s penchant for explosions also creates big boom entertainment and the special effects are great. While people familiar with the Brothers’ W’s work may be expecting Matrix-like action they will not be underwhelmed by V’s mastery of close-quarters combat with an array of knives that are fastened to his belly like so many lethal teeth.
The film is also unrepentantly visual, moments where masked masses doff their covering provide a true glimpse of the power of an angry public turned against their government. Did I mention the stuff on screen blows up very prettily?
V is philosophical, above all about himself, about Evey, and about their world. The wit of a being that has ingested the known works of Shakespeare and the Oxford English Dictionary provides a charming rhyming brigand quality to V’s dialog that leaves him as impenetrable as his Guy Fawkes mask.
Invariably there will be people asking if this is a cine a clef: is the indictment of Conservativism and its tendency to theocracy, intolerance, and suspicion of the unpatriotic meant to be mapped to the US, today?
That’s for the viewer to decide. It’s not directly commenting on the state of things, but it does note that fundamentalism and power make for dangerous companions.
Other, largely conservative, commentators have asked if Vendetta, celebrates terrorism.
This is simple idiocy. One man’s terrorist is another man’s hero. I will be accused of moral relativism here and I will point out that I am not a moral relativist, I’m a virtue ethicist. There is a difference.
In the end, don’t believe the hype, see V. Besides between this, The Shaggy Dog and She’s the Man what are you going to take?