V for Vexing
While 2006’s V for Vendetta may sound promising- A politically critical thriller with a talented cast set in the not too distant future- it ends up having set the bar a bit too high for itself. Instead of being a provocative, exciting think movie, it ends up being a jumble of themes and ideas the filmmakers just couldn’t sort out.
Based on the graphic novel by English writer Alan Moore, the film takes place in 2038 London, where a George Orwell-esque society is under the rule of Dictator Adam Sutler (John Hurt, Hellboy.) Suddenly, out of the shadows comes a masked Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings), saving the character of Evey (Natalie Portman, Closer) but ultimately not being able to salvage the film.
We soon learn that Weaving’s ‘V’, who wears a mask meant to symbolize 1600s revolutionary Guy Fawkes, is bent on revenge on the movie’s government and a new future for London. Evey soon finds herself embroiled in his plan. While the politically-interested might be intrigued by the similarities in the film to today’s government ( the film’s version of London bears a color-coded curfew system that seems to mirror the United States’ own color-coded threat level system) they will be forced to squirm through the seemingly inappropriate pseudo-romance between the Portman and Weaving characters.
While the political aspect of the film may be interesting, an intelligent piece is morphed in to a loud propaganda-like mess. Speeches are made and images are shown targeting terrorists, real and accused, as well as the United States, who is made out to be a villain in the movie, as the viewer finds out America’s war spreading overseas was the reason for the state of England in the film’s universe. The solemn, harsh environment that is meant to be depicted is made gratuitous by scenes of a young girl being shot, unholy priests and hate crimes. The viewer is no longer sympathetic for the people of the movie’s version of London, but uncomfortable.
Also making the audience uncomfortable is the thriller movie’s uneven punctuation by saccharine ‘love’ scenes, which, regardless of their significance in the graphic novel, seem to have been emphasized by Hollywood to appeal to the female chick-flick viewing dynamic. V and Evey share cheesy dances and embraces, and this only adds to the mystery of what kind of character Evey is meant to be portrayed as in the first place. Is she a strong female, brave as she helps set V’s plan in motion, or a weak and naïve one, as she is shown tortured, and apparently falling for a masked man. The hardened female with her head shaved that we see develop throughout the film becomes softened as she returns to vulnerable girl we are introduced to back in the start. This confusing characterization pendulum continues to swing back and forth for the remainder of the time.
Another story is the one following the detectives being played by Stephen Rea (Breakfast on Pluto) and Rupert Graves (the Forsyte Saga.) While their attempt to unravel the mystery behind V is intriguing at times, it is also another parable to keep up with. Instead of having a gracefully intricate plot, V for Vendetta is tiresome to follow. The stories jump around and by the time the viewer has rejoined one of the many characters again, they may have forgotten exactly who they were watching and why. The payoff for the confusion and mystery after a puzzling array of crimes, coincidences and courtships comes frustratingly late in to the film.
Music is another weak point. As the Old Bailey, London’s housing for Criminal Court is blown up by V early on in to the film, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is blared over the city’s intercom system. But the musical choice seems hollow, as the fantastical elements of the film are outweighed by the ‘reality’ of it. In another head-scratch-inducing move, the soundtrack was made overly eclectic by its featuring of bass-y techno beats, the Rolling Stones, and indie (hipster) favorite songstress, Cat Power.
What may be considered the strong points are the acceptable acting performances by the able cast. Weaving delivers some of V’s monologues with a curiously entrancing quality, while Stephen Fry (Wilde) plays a friend of Evey’s, likable enough to endear the viewer to the people living under Sutler’s harsh rule.
Also redeeming is the climactic fight scene, stylized to their liking by the Wachowski brothers- the minds behind the Matrix trilogy. While many of today’s movies feature shoot-outs, this scene contains actual fighting on the part of V. And while some of the casualties here are almost humorously grotesque, it is one of the most entertaining and visually stimulating episodes.
Early on, V prompts us to “remember the idea, not the man.” But since the idea of revolution, which V preaches, is no new idea, perhaps the filmmakers should have passed, and let award-winning author Moore (who was ultimately disgusted with the film to the extent that his name appears nowhere in the credits) have his book left alone.