Sunday, March 19, 2006

V FOR VENDETTA

I read the comic book (“graphic novel” is a term for people who don’t want to admit they read comic books) on which this film was based a few months back so that I could better know the story, judge it as an adaptation, et cetera. It completely blew me away. It has a scope and range that few stories have, and I knew instantly, if only for its length, that it’d be nearly impossible to adapt to the big screen.

But as an adaptation, it’s fantastic work. The Wachowski Brothers somehow managed to not necessarily work in all the intricacies (some of which I miss dearly, including a much longer flashback and V playing the piano and singing "The Vicious Cabaret"), but put enough in to make you believe they’re there. One of the things Alan Moore did in the comic so well (as he always does) is show how V’s actions affect EVERYBODY, from himself to Evey to the government to the police, and that was all maintained. And it was sold in the murder scenes, because even the first one, which happens early on in the film, you can tell this guy has concerns, worries, cares of his own. And the scene with the doctor, who’s in the film for probably no more than ten minutes, was just as beautiful as it was on the page.

Scott Foundas, film critic at LA Weekly, says, “As an action movie V For Vendetta is a dud,” and surely he’s right. There’s one impressive fight scene towards the end, which has MATRIX written all over it, but by and large this is not an action story, and I’m glad they kept it that way. There’s enough action an intrigue to keep the general population in place, but the Wachowskis, as screenwriters, have moved far beyond their days of settling matters in bloodless battles.

This is, in fact, their best writing. Not only are the ideas and narrative of V kept intact, but the heart is as well. Evey’s time in jail, though I knew the outcome, moved me deeply, and they kept one important detail of her time there that completely sells that section of the film. This, of course, was equally helped by Natalie Portman’s fantastic work here, probably the best of her career, and actually a really daring choice having just come off an Oscar nomination for CLOSER.

And Hugo Weaving’s work as V is just fantastic. There’s been some talk, rightfully so, as to how much he’s actually under the mask, but at any rate the character works extraordinarily well onscreen.

I’m really interested to see how this gets received in the next few weeks. Critics are by and large digging it (a solid 74 at Rotten Tomatoes), and I ended up having to go to the 11:20 as the 9:40 was completely sold out. I think, by and large, people will be open to the message it has, that violent overthrows are at times necessary, and there’s some really jarring imagery, especially for a major studio release (the ending says it all for that).

As for me, I do not see it as a criticism of the Bush administration. There’s a slight allusion that the current Iraq War led to the downfall of the United States, but I think the similarities between the British government in V and the current American one are few and far between. The two strongest are the anti-homosexual tendencies, which played just as large a role in the original comic (published in the early 80s), and the mention of phone tapping (which is pretty standard sci-fi governmental stuff). No, the only form of government the story is commenting on is the kind that happens when people stop thinking for themselves and lay it all at the government’s feet. That, and fascism. In fact, one guy who sent a review into Ain’t it Cool News pointed out that the government of V has more in common with the Saddam Hussein regime than anything else, the two strongest links there being the murder of thousands of his own people and the censorship of media, controlling not only creative television but also what is released as news.

But I’m very interested the see how audiences take this. I was in a fairly crowded theater, and I had everything from the guy in front of me who made sure prior to the movie that I wouldn’t be disrupting his experience by eating my potato chips to the guy in the back row who laughed at lethal injection, never mind the growing number of people who cheered with each person V killed. It’s really tough, dense material, and it was successfully adapted as such. I think the film does a great job in getting you to take V’s side, but at the same time making you ask yourself why that is.

So feel free to talk back about it; I know a lot of you were planning on seeing it/saw it (if you haven’t, I of course highly recommend it, though honestly I’d give the edge to Thank You For Smoking), and it’s definitely a discussion-oriented film.

5 comments:

Nancy said...

The movie had me questioning V's motives up until the very end. I think it was mostly because of the detective's "hunch"...but I'm still wondering what V expected to happen after he achieved his goal, since it would be so easy for another facist group to take over the country again. Amazing movie though, I've just started reading the comic.

Magda said...

I loved the Tchaikovsky. And that last scene was brilliant.

Ken said...

I hate facists. But it's mostly because I'm of an inferior face.

The ads looked weird, I should really go see it? (At Cornell that's a very big commitment. Although I guess I could go see it at home now.)

Scott said...

Nancy, I think the point was less that once his plan was carried out, everything would be fine, and more about instilling a free spirit (in the non-hippie way) in the people so that they would demand better of a new government.

And I can't wait to hear what you think of the comic.

And Ken, if the ads didn't do anything for you, I can't promise the movie'll work as there's a LOT less action than the trailers make it seem. But if the action was what was turning you off, then it's a benefit.

Ken said...

My dad didn't like it. I thought it was pretty cool. But dammit, I wanted to see his face!!