Thoughts on V for Vendetta
(via The Grand Comic Book Database)
I've linked to this before, but once again, here's Warren Ellis on Deadman. It's funny, and it's only about a minute long. Go listen.
We saw V for Vendetta this weekend, and it was okay. I normally need to see adaptations twice if I've read the original work, as the first viewing is taken up with noting similarities and discrepancies between the movie and the source text. I was bored by The Shawshank Redemption the first time I saw it, but made a complete turnaround the second time through.
That said, I did like the performances in V. Hugo Weaving does a good job as the title character, appropriately menacing in places and human in others. That the audience feels any empathy at all for him is an accomplishment, given that he is behind a mask the whole time. Natalie Portman is good from about the middle on. Unlike the comic, she's reasonably together in the beginning of the movie, so her character's transformation isn't as dramatic as in the original story. I liked the use of non-Hollywood faces for the rest of the actors, which gave the movie an air of being made in Britain.
I wish the rest of the movie's aesthetic had followed suit as well. I was hoping for that particular sort of dystopic hopelessness that British cinema does so well. I did like some of the film's aesthetic choices, like the way the streets are clean, but empty; which I imagine is a commentary on fascism, in that it brings order at the cost of humanity. However, I never got a sense of why the public wouldn't like the state of things. If you're white, straight, and don't like to stay out late, the movie's Britain doesn't seem like that bad a place to live.
The Wachowskis are clearly on a mission to relate the story to events in the present day U.S., and as a result the effects of a government given power by fear aren't pushed far enough. The problem with the whole movie is that it seems a somewhat shallow retelling of the original. While the original text often questions the morality of V's actions, he is a less ambiguous character here, and is less interesting for it. All discussion of and references to anarchy are gone, as are the subtle plot threads that connect the whole. Further, the ham handedness of the movie, as in the controversial (among us) final scenes with the masks, is distracting.
My main criticism of V for Vendetta is that V's TV address is changed and made much more literal than metaphorical. The essence is there, but the whole thing seems dumbed down. I don't know if the original address would work if acted out, but I was bothered by its alteration.
Overall, the movie is acceptable but reads like a Coles Notes version of the original. I may feel differently, though, after the next time I see it.