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00648 – V FOR VENDETTA

MovieHype00648 – V FOR VENDETTA

The Nutshell: An ambitious movie that’s trying to say a lot of important things, while presenting top-notch action. Unfortunately, the film might be trying to do too much, and thus doesn’t really succeed at any of it.

The Nuts ‘N’ Bolts: I’ve decided that from now on, my plot descriptions need to be 30 words or less, so here goes: Post-apocalyptic London, the people ruled by a Big Brother government ruthlessly stamping out individual freedoms and nonconformist behavior, except for V, violent vigilante, vying for the people’s hearts and minds. (That was much harder than I thought!)

One Nut’s Opinion: V FOR VENDETTA comes to us with a pretty heady pedigree. Based on Alan Moore’s ‘80s graphic novel; and he of such comic-turned-movies as FROM HELL and LXG. Even more importantly, the Adapters/Producers were the Wachowski Brothers, responsible for reinventing cool as we know it, and seamlessly blending mind-bending ideas with unbelievable action in THE MATRIX series.

But somehow this all-star team didn’t work. One hates to read too much into things, but Moore has already disavowed the film (which he usually does, so that might not mean much). I haven’t read the work, but I understand it was a reaction to Margaret Thatcher’s government. Even though the film is still set in London, the new target seems like it might more fit George Bush, though that may or may not have had anything to do with Moore’s disapproval.

Since I brought up Bush, let’s talk about that. If you’ve heard anything about the movie, you’ve probably heard that the political message can be seen as a repudiation of the Bush Administration, perhaps even a call to arms.

I think people are reaching when they say that. Or maybe they just want to see it. For sure there are some parallels, but the High Chancellor of England (played with appropriate vitriol by John Hurt) is much closer to Hitler than to Bush. I know, I know; critics of Bush might think there’s not much difference. But if you really think that modern America approaches Nazi Germany, you’re stupider than I give you credit for.

Sigh. Maybe you’re not that stupid. Just horribly ill-informed. I think there’s a practice of seeing what’s going on these days as god-awful partly because we don’t have an epic struggle right in front of us. I mean, there is Iraq, but just the fact that people are so dismayed about the casualty figures shows how little they know about true suffering. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we don’t have a generation-defining event like WWII, so the tendency is to make things much worse than they are. (This goes for both persuasions. As much as people crucify Bush now, the other side did with Clinton before.)

I’m not saying the Wachowski brothers mean for us to do that. In fact, I’m rather certain they don’t. I’ll give you an example. V’s first act of rebellion is to blow up a building. After that event several times characters voice how unimportant the building is compared to the idea it represents, and how it’s better to blow up a building than lose freedom.

You see where I’m going with this. If V FOR VENDETTA is supposed to be a modern allegory, it would seem the filmmakers are saying the 9/11 highjackers were justified. Even if they thought it, I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t say it.

Here’s another example. The government in V FOR VENDETTA is responsible for some pretty horrific things perpetrated on the people in order to gain power and control over them. If this really were a roman a clef, by extension that would mean the government planned 9/11.

I know most people aren’t that idiotic, and it saddens me I actually have to explain this, but just in case: 1) If the government was going to commit an act to rally support and take away freedoms, it wouldn’t choose the biggest center of money in human history (the World Trade Center). And it wouldn’t botch the PR battle so badly. (In other words, they’d have planted WMDs.) 2) your government has been steadily taking your freedoms since 1933. Very few of you have noticed. There’s no need for a fake war to do more.

Okay, back to the movie. I think we should just agree that reading too much into a movie can be dangerous, not to mention muddled. Although there are those who will strive to find what they’re looking for, the rest of us know better and can just enjoy the story as a cautionary tale against giving up freedom for security, an age-old fear. (After all, wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.”)

Rating Guide

Suspension of Disbelief: 8 (out of 10) Not as Sci-Fi as the Matrix, but you really got to stretch to believe some of this stuff. The human movements are I think supposed to be sort of real, but they ruin it by at times giving V superman powers.

Genre Grade: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi. This isn’t quite the Matrix, but fits in the general area. C+.

Sex/Violence? Lots of violence. Could have used some sex.

Kickassability: V had some cool moves, and the knives were very sweet, but most of it felt pretty derivative and tacked on to a movie that had a goal of making us think. I guess a 24 (out of 100) would be in order. By comparison, it made me wish for the relative expressiveness of Neo.

Pantheon Percentile: I might watch it once more just to see if I was too harsh, I bought THE MATRIX, and have seen it 10 times. I can’t imagine doing that here. 58.

Even then, V FOR VENDETTA isn’t a success. They try hard, and I guess you could charitably say it’s a spectacular failure, but a failure nonetheless. In my view, that’s because the film tries too hard. The plot is needlessly dense at times. I didn’t mind V’s back-story, but the main character is a girl named Evey, and her integration from victim to heroine gets confusing. Natalie Portman plays the girl, and she does well enough, but at times the accent gets in the way and I found her uninspiring. (And I say that reluctantly, as I am a big fan.) The same type of arc is given to Police Inspector Finch, played by Stephen Ray. He does a good job, but it just gets in the way, you know?

To me, V is the most interesting character, because he’s three characters in one. He’s the man, filled with pain, out for revenge against a government for what was done to him. Then there’s V the idea; that people need to hold on to the individuality, and those who are protecting us might be who we actually need protecting from.

The final character is V the mask. Did I mention V wears a mask the entire film? This isn’t one of those movable masks that shows emotions and feelings. It’s a rigid mask, patterned after Guy Fawkes. (You’ll find out if you watch the movie. Or if you’re British. Actually, being British probably won’t help, as more Brits think King Arthur was real than Hitler.)

A mask is by definition a symbol, all the more so when portrayed in a work of art. A mask is both at one secretive and yet full of revelation. That a man chooses this for his face tells us much about him, perhaps more than his eyes ever could.

V’s reason for the mask is explained, and understandable, and yet you get the feeling the movie reaches for more. I’m sure some college grad will write an entire thesis on the deepness of it all, but the connection is there only if you really want to see it.

Another interesting aspect of V is his violence. V kills a lot of people, and while all of them work for “the machine” of statehood, they couldn’t all be evil. Some were just cops doing their job. What about the courthouse he takes out? You gonna tell me there was no night watchmen or janitorial staff?

V is called a terrorist, although we’re meant to understand that label is given by the very government he’s trying to take down. And yet there’s all the collateral damage, not to mention the fact that V’s motivations don’t seem as altruistic as they are bent on revenge. After all, if he just wanted to educate people, why not just tell them what he knows?

The most interesting part of V FOR VENDETTA to me were the ideas. I like thinking about ideas. Though not resolved or even directly tackled, one of the themes of the film is whether violence—let’s even call it terrorism for the sake of argument—is ever justified. Another idea is how much we really know about our government and what they’re doing to us, for us, and in spite of us. That’s always worth thinking about.

At one point V says “People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” This is one of those statements that sounds profound until you think about it for awhile. Then you realize it’s just silly and pretentious. But that’s okay. Silly or not, I’m glad V FOR VENDETTA at least tries to get these ideas into focus and get us talking about it.

I just wish the movie were better-made, so the ideas could come to life.


1 comment:

Dominique said...

A movie I've seen before reading a review from you - is the apocolypse here? I fully agree & whish I'd have waited for your review. Oh well, at least I didn't have to pay for my ticket - at free, it was worth the price. The one good thing I can say about it - popcorn!

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