A (Rather late) Review of V for Vendetta

Yes, this probably should have been posted on November 5th, but I was out of town.  Besides, I would rather distance myself from that holiday as much as possible.  Why? To be frank,  the November 5th demonstrations discriminate against my ancestors.  While you were torturing Guy Fawkes to death (along with several others whose only crime was recognizing a rosary) my ancestors were huddled in barns, worshiping with the fear that they would be next.  All I am saying is, what would happen if Germany celebrated the anniversary of Kristallnacht every year? We would think that they had gone mad.  But Great Britain gets away with essentially celebrating the same thing?  Look, I do not dwell on it.  I blame no one in the British government or the British royal family today. They were not alive then and it would be unfair to judge them on actions they did not directly commit.  But whenever I see that celebration…it just leaves me with a very cold feeling.

Now with that out of the way, onto the film.

So yes then, V for Vendetta.  It takes place in an alternate universe where a virus has killed much of the world’s population.  A fascist government is elected in Great Britain.  Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) lives in this society and works for the official TV station in this world.  She is taken in to a resistance that run by one man-who is only known as V (Hugo Weaving). He kills high officials in the party to exact a Edmund Dantes style revenge against those who wronged them.  These actions lead to Evey’s rebirth and a brighter hope for the future.
Now, I usually do not compare the book with the film.  They are two different mediums.  What works in a book (or a graphic novel) will not work in a film.  But the film had me constantly thinking of the novel.  The original novel told the story far more succinctly and in a way that did not feel heavy handed.  The work (which follows the same plot, I will give it that) was a parable of anarchism vs fascism.  It was exciting, well drawn, well written, funny when the material called for it, and hypnotizing with its messages.

But the differences between the two…well, I think that the novel told the story more succinctly and allowed for more interpretation.  The film changes the work into a Bush era fable of good vs evil.  It is still a good film.  It is hypnotizing, Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman both give excellent performances (there are times when I prefer Weaving’s speech patterns to the original work.  The one in the novel was not nearly as playful and at times did not see the irony of naming himself a letter.  Also, there are times he simply seems more intelligent. ) that shine.  But overall….I cannot give it a good rating.  For, if a film is based on a novel, then it should keep the same themes.  I do not care about the little changes made (such as which building V blows up when, and even when characters are eliminated) but when the original meaning becomes diluted, well, it means that the filmmakers have not done as well of a job as they could have.

Well, the film opens with the emphasis on why we SHOULD remember the idea of the man and not the idea, in complete contrast with the point of the original work.  Alright, I guess this means that the film would be as distant as possible from the book.  Alright, so long as they address the same themes.  But that is far from the only change.  Time and time again, they deviate, making the current government the epitome of evil that should only exist in a World War II propaganda film and making V a sort of Errol Flynnesque character who questions his own motives…something the original would never have been caught doing.

Yes, this film deviates wildly from the themes presented.  Of course Alan Moore also wished to target specific governments. But he never resorted to being direct.  He wanted us to think about what he was talking about.  Several times, the film is far too obvious.  This normally would not be enough to kill it.  But considering the source material…well, I cannot idly sit by and let the film slide.

But what of the actual film?  It is visually arresting that requires more than one viewing to assimilate all the data presented.  As I mentioned, the film’s performances are quite good.  And what the film updates (including references to homosexuality, religion, and television) all were required are are seamlessly integrated.  And for what it does (again, Bush parable) it does so remarkably well.  More thought has been put behind it than most blockbusters.  This would be something that more films should follow.

So, I do approve of the film.  It delivers the goods.  But I want to emphasize that I recommend the book even more.

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