The Anarchist's Comic Book.
This movie makes me want to blow up buildings. Well, more accurately, it makes me want to blow up more buildings. Generally, I prefer to stick to abortion clinics and churches in Alabama, using one to mask the motives of the other, but Alan Moore’s comic book and the subsequent film have aroused a more militant streak in me. Now, because I'm an impressionable idiot, I’m going to use my internet-learned bomb-making skills to blow up government buildings that oppress me, like the Post Office and the Sex Offender Registry, then blame it on this movie.
V For Vendetta is an adaptation of a comic book, or ‘graphic novel’ if you’re looking to get beat up and stuffed into a locker. As usual with comic adaptations, there’s plenty in this film to make purists retract their testicles deep into the abdominal cavity as they clench and shriek about Wolverine’ height and Peter Parker’s organic web-shooters. But ultimately, V For Vendetta succeeds because it preserves the original spirit of the comic book. In fact, many of the myriad changes and alterations made from the source material serve to enhance the militant, revolutionary social message of the comic, while dumbing everything down to the level that even if you sneak into the theatre after a Deuce Bigalow: European Gigelow screening, you’ll still get fired up enough to knock over a mailbox on your way to the Irish pub.
V For Vendetta is directed by James McTeigue, the second unit director from The Matrix trilogy, so already it’s in for an uphill battle. McTiegue approaches the material in a workman-like fashion, displaying flair only in the action scenes and giving the rest of the movie the same attention one would lavish on an industrial film about meat carving. The screenplay was written by the Wachowski Brothers, who stripped much of the poetry and beauty from Alan Moore’s original story in favor of a lean slice of pulp fiction. This is not necessary a bad thing, since many of Moore’s fascinating ideas were half-baked or, if you’re re-assigning the idiom to a drug reference, quite fully baked. While these changes do little to elevate the movie to the status of high art, it does make it tighter, and the message more direct. Ultimately, the film and the comic examine the relationship between fear and control, and the fine line between terrorist and freedom fighter. But while the comic was written in the 1980s as a critique of the British conservative party, the film has been updated to function essentially as a direct attack on the Bush administration, using the smokescreen of science fiction to advance concerns about the abuse of power, comment on the seductive power of fascism, and dribble saliva over frothy 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, the film tells the story of the titular V, a masked terrorist in a futuristic England who attacks the government in an attempt to both gain revenge and awake a sleeping populace grown complacent with the comfort and security of fascism. V struggles with sanity and his conscience, Portman struggles with her accent, and everyone in the film struggles to be as good as Stephen Rea, an Irish actor so used to putting in excellent performances in Neil Jordan movies he forgets how to ham it up in superhero fare, consequently making everyone else look bad. The film, also, is making critics look bad, forcing many of them ask embarrassingly stupid questions about whether the film advocates or condemns terrorism, whether it’s a parable or fantasy, and how many times one can use the word ‘dystopian’ in one review. The answers, if you’ve paid attention to the film, are 1) it’s trying to show both sides of the issue, 2) it’s both, idiot, and 3) I don’t know, but if I read than in one more review that tries to break the record, I’m sending a letter bomb. Once I’m done with the abortion clinic.