Viking Night: V for Vendetta
By Bruce Hall
October 29, 2013
V for Vendetta wastes little time setting up England as a near future, ultra conservative police state. After a global war brought civilization to the brink, the people of Great Britain, in their fear, elected a shrill wisp of a man named Sutler (John Hurt) to lead them. Being a one dimensional right wing nutjob, Sutler gradually transforms the country into a surveillance zone. Dangerous people, such as political dissidents, minorities and homosexuals, are rounded up and… “dealt” with. Most people are uneasy with this, but what can you do? State television argues that all of this is for the protection of what little everyone has left. Enemies are everywhere. “Strength through unity, unity through faith” is their mantra.
The irony and the satire- if you’re an American citizen circa 2005 - is all very obvious.
The movie is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, who famously disavowed this and all films based on his work, as well as everyone ever born who had anything to do with any of them. I don’t like getting hung up on comparisons between movies and books, and I can definitely identify with being possessive of their work. But this is the rare case where I think it’s possible to elevate someone else’s creative vision. Whether or not V for Vendetta was improved by the changes depends on who you ask. But if you ask me, it’s worth pointing out that in this situation Moore’s vision was elevated to the tune of $123 million worldwide. Not bad for a dark, R rated, politically charged thriller based on a comic book and written by the guys who brought us The Matrix.
Speaking of The Matrix, the Wachowskis put the band back together on this one, including co-producer Joel Silver and their handpicked director, James McTeigue. The result is somewhat narrower in scope than the original, and reads more like it was written by a frustrated Bush era American liberal than a frustrated Thatcher era British anarchist. But if the goal was to convey the idea that we all should remain vigilant, think for ourselves and openly question our leaders then yup - it works. I'm not saying that this movie is going to replace To Kill a Mockingbird or Fahrenheit 451 as a cultural touchstone of freedom or equality. I AM saying that for the first project of their post-Matrix glory, the Wachowskis did a solid job of bringing Moore's story to life in a way that appeals to a far more diverse audience.
So – one evening, it is against the previously described backdrop that a middle class girl named Evey (Natalie Portman) is out violating curfew when she's attacked by a pair of horny "Fingermen", which is a disturbingly apt name for a totalitarian police force. But before the goons can do their dirty deed, a mysterious figure attacks from the shadows and beats the crap out of them - while delivering a vibrantly verbose and valiantly veracious speech for his frightened spectator. He introduces himself as "V", and invites her to a “concert”. She agrees, because I guess she is turned on by people who walk around in the middle of the night wearing masks, making speeches and cutting up fascists.