V for Vendetta Reviews
A curious blend of fascism set against anarchy with an all American style matinťe serial/pulp magazine hero in the middle. What I have always found weird about this graphic novel creation is the obsession with Guy Fawkes. I understand the notion of using the terrorist act of blowing up Parliament as brilliant symbol/sign of rebellion against the dictatorship that governs this universes UK, but why the need to dress up like Guy Fawkes complete with silly period wig and quaint facial mask?. Why would someone in the 2030's idolise and copy a 16th Century criminal, despite his treasonous act which isn't actually much to celebrate really.
Anyway I can't deny that Weaving's smooth charismatic tones were prefect for the voice of 'V'. He played the character in full as we know but his polite charming well spoken mannerisms really sold the whole anti hero character and gave him this endearing Errol Flynn like persona. Its quite strange to actually think that he was rather dashing even though his face is hidden behind that mask, you tend to forget he's wearing a mask really, its a good looking mask.
The less said about Portman the better frankly, she is becoming more and more annoying as she grows older. She spends the whole time in this film looking distraught with her mouth hanging open and gasping for air! its quite infuriating.
Who better to use for the fascist regime leader than the main lead for the film adaptation of the Orwell novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', John Hurt. Hurt's performance is pretty much limited to simply being on a large TV screen/monitor, but the way he barks out orders in a menacing torrent to his subordinates is really a joy to watch. In fact the whole design and look of the fascist party is really well done with clear references/influences from history in certain scenes of addressing the nation. Black and red are the strong piercing colours of the 'Norsefire party', cliched but effective, much like their whole exterior appearance really but lets not forget this is a graphic novel adaptation where visuals are everything.
Its visuals that do bring this film to life like many other similar films. The dark grey tones, dark alleyways, dark rooftops, the darkly cloaked anti hero, shadows galore and the much required dark anti hero logo that will eventually Adorn most badly lit vicinities. In short this is very much your 'Batman' type affair accept it has a more simple minimalistic feel or approach, remember its set in merry old England and not a forest of gothic skyscrapers. The visuals can be striking at times but oddly basic at others, almost verging on TV movie standards.
A clever film where the main (anti) hero is more a symbol of the people, the movement and less of an individual person with fancy fighting moves. The fact they managed to resist showing the face beneath the mask is amazing frankly, seeing as they couldn't resist the old slow motion martial arts stuff (you can see The Wachowski Brothers were here)...but that might be in the graphic novel, I haven't seen it. Its all here with this film, totalitarian fears, media cover ups, secret police, total anarchy, genocide, dictators, torture and the destruction of our beloved Big Ben and Palace of Westminster, oh the sacrilege!.
I also liked the lesbian/gay sub plot in the film set within the fascist regime. Now I'm guessing this is in the graphic novel as its a brave move to be so bold with this kind of content (but this is a UK film, and the UK is brutally PC). The whole idea works perfectly against the extremist policies of the 'Norsefire party' and really brings fresh emotions to the surface, clearly using the realities of Nazi acts during WWII.
I enjoyed the fighting sequences and I liked the masked avenger known as 'V'. The film is heavily cliched but has many undertones which can be looked at in different ways. Unsure how accurate it is to the original source material seeing as Moore didn't like it but none the less its a thoroughly fun action film that boarders on operatic at times!. Still don't really see the need for the the Guy Fawkes motive though, other than it simply looks kinda cool and original.
Final note, why can't henchmen ever understand that maybe shooting the hero in the face might be more effective.
Natalie Portman and especially Hugo Weaving are the film's greatest source of mastery. Through his performance, Weaving creates a character that may live long in pop culture as well as cult culture. An intriguing film that never loses your interest through its 2 and a half hour runtime.
Set in a not too distant Dystopian future, in Britain a dictator rules over. But one man, disformed by the government, V, sets out to revolt against them with the help of the people.
Whilst the director and writers do not shy from using a British cast for a British set piece, they cannot help but choose an American to lead the cast. Natalie Portman however plays her part excellently, even if it is overdone by Hugo Weaving in his role as central character V. Weaving's delicate performance is well acted, but being behind a mask for the whole of the film does limit his acting in this particular film.
The action sequences are well directed, and are so close to the copied style of the Wachowski brothers, that I was surprised to find they didn't actually direct the piece when the end credits started rolling. The swordplay is impressive, and exciting, but it also damages the film's political and social message and in turn hampers the action.
Deciding between whether this is a political film or an action film is a decision the production team never really seem to take, making the film clash, often violently, and causing it to jump from a stylised fight scene one moment to a heartfelt story of sacrifice against the establishment next.
Unfortunately this has the effect of damaging both the action and the thematic and social messages behind the fabric of the film.
But despite this, 'V for Vendetta' still manages to provide an impressive two hours of action and a detailed and interesting look at a dystopian British future. Its ending is rushed, the themes ruined, but it is still an entertaining and indulging piece of cinema.
Occasionally, there comes a film which manages to overcome such difficulties and emerge, whether by skill or sheer luck, as a genuinely enjoyable and well-formed piece of work. V for Vendetta fits this bill perfectly, overcoming casting issues and delays in the release to be by far and away the best Alan Moore adaptation. In the hands of James McTeigue, Moore's graphic novel is brought to life in a vibrant and gripping if slightly silly adaptation, which will satisfy the action crowd while providing food for thought.
Like Watchmen, which eventually found its way to the screen in 2009, V for Vendetta was a long time coming. The Wachowski Brothers began adapting the graphic novel in the mid-1990s, before they had found success with The Matrix and its sequels. Their initial drafts were faithful to the novel at the cost of being long and impenetrable, with even their most ruthless rewrites being dismissed by long-time friend and producer Joel Silver.
The later drafts which emerged after The Matrix updated Moore's story, moving it from a thinly-veiled allegory of Thatcherite Britain (as seen through American eyes) to a near-future totalitarian state parodying the governments of Bush and Blair. Having been impressed with his work as an assistant director on The Matrix, the Wachowskis gave the finished script to McTeigue as a birthday present. With the backing of both his peers and their producer, production could finally begin.
The fact that Alan Moore has disowned V for Vendetta, along with all adaptations of his work, should not put you off seeing it. There are times when having no familiarity with the source material can enhance our viewing experience, and all great adaptations should be able to stand alone as works of cinema, regardless of how faithful or affectionate they are. V for Vendetta reflects this principle, succeeding first and foremost as a film and leaving all other debates up to the fans.
The film has an exuberant visual style which not only reflects the graphic novel but the Wachowskis' love of martial arts. The use of bullet time in the fight scenes owes a clear debt to The Matrix, while the abundance of martial arts-style blood nods towards the exploitation movies on which Silver cut his teeth. While Sin City took the comic book aesthetic and tried to make it fit the big screen, V for Vendetta successfully translates the story into the visual language of cinema.
Comparisons are naturally going to be drawn between this film and Watchmen, Zack Snyder's heavily flawed and overly long adaptation of Moore's greatest work. The debate over which work is more reflective of their respective sources is a matter for Moore's fans, particularly those who grew up with them the first time round. For the casual viewer, we have to assess which is better as a piece of cinema, and on these grounds V for Vendetta triumphs, for three reasons.
Firstly, it has a more rounded attitude towards the fans. Watchmen floundered because it was trying too hard to please the fans, with Snyder sparing no expense and pulling no punches to make what he saw as the definitive adaptation. Like many video game adaptations, the film was so worried about replicating every last detail that it forgot to cater for the newcomers. V for Vendetta, meanwhile, has much in it that fans will recognise, but is also much more entrist and emotionally involving. The Wachowskis deliberately changed the character of Evey to make her more prominent and intelligent, recognising that without her the audience wouldn't have a way in.
Secondly, there is the small matter of tone. One of the biggest problems with Watchmen was its lurching tone: Snyder was so concerned with visual flippancy that when the tougher scenes came along (involving rape and child abduction) they felt adolescent and desperately misjudged. V for Vendetta may take a while to get going - the whole first hour is very pantomime, with ripe delivery of lines and stand-offish characterisation. But in the second hour it really gets into its stride, upping its game as the stakes are raised and matching the tone of the story very well.
Thirdly, V for Vendetta is the more intelligent offering, knowing how to handle its subject matter in a nuanced and creative way. Watchmen, whether through its script or Snyder's tricksy visuals, kept losing sight of its main theme of policing vigilantes and the morality surrounding them. While Snyder is all style and no substance, the Wachowskis are masters of the thinking-person's action film, and at least some of their craft has rubbed off on McTeigue. The film raises a lot of interesting ideas and questions, and even in its silliest moments it keeps its eye on the ball.
The film explores the grey area between terrorism and freedom fighting, pulling us into a series of dark places and forcing us to question if the ends ever justify the means. V charms us with his enigmatic blend of anarchy and morality, and we find ourselves subversively supporting an enemy of the state. Halfway in, we are truly shaken when we discover the methods V used on Evey to make her fearless. We find ourselves caught between submission to the state and submission to another force; we are in the centre of Evey's dilemma, and are none the wiser for it.
V for Vendetta also looks at the relationship between the state and civil society. It raises intelligent questions about where the balance of power lies, and how the one manipulates the other - particularly in the murky practice of governments attacking its own civilians to create legitimacy, creating enemies when none can be found. The V mask may have become a system of popular protest, but the film is far from unequivocal in this respect. The rise of the Chancellor's regime is traced through public demand and paranoia as much as arbitrary coercion, and the film's ambiguous ending leaves us on a note of hope but not certainty.
Of the two main performers, one meets our expectations while the other exceeds it. Hugo Weaving's previous work with The Wachowskis leads us to expect the best, and he doesn't disappoint, voicing and physicalizing V so well that we never really need to see his face. Natalie Portman, who can be annoying, does a pretty good English accent, and in her more hysterical moments she comes close to the form she would show in Black Swan five years later. There is good support from Stephen Fry (more or less playing himself) and John Hurt, knowingly cast as the Chancellor having played Winston Smith in 1984.
There are problems with V for Vendetta. The opening section is verbose, the editing is a little clumsy and the torture scenes could be seen as being manipulative. But despite these problems, it remains a very fine film which knocks Watchmen and its predecessors into a cocked hat. It is at very least the most cinematic of the Moore adaptations, with a unique visual style which is all too rare in big-budget films. It won't be to everyone's tastes, but you will struggle to find a comic book film which combines politics and pyrotechnics so effectively.
I love that we never get to see V's face.
The screenplay and dialogue were fantastic, the acting was perfect to the T in every character's case. The world created was gritty and powerful with the feeling of oppression subtly woven into every facet without becoming a slightly-less depressing 1984. The movie and pretext was thought-provoking and left an impact whilst getting across a very clear message about government.
Enjoy it, I certainly did.
Anyways, moving on now...the source material is far better and darker, but, despite some trimming and toning down, this is a pretty thrilling and fairly faithful (mostly to the spirit of things) adaptation. The message and characters are more along the lines of freedom fighters than anarchists, but the intentions behind the film are good, and this is a very well made picture.
The dialogue is a tad shaky (or at least how it sounds coming through the mask), but the performances are really good, and I like that Portman was willing to shave her head like a true method performer instead of using prosthetics or something.
I think the film could have been a bit ballsier, and maybe toned down some of the slow-mo stuff, but the majority of my gripes are just nit-picking. Also, along with that, mayeb they shouldn't have used lipstick lesbians, and really gone for a tad more realism.
Okay, that's about it for this one. It's a strong film with great style, atmosphere, and a rousing message. Give it a shot.