Alan Moore. I honestly doubt whether there is a single writer for whom the gap is wider between the strength of their work and the quality of the adaptations based on that work. If I read you off Moore’s bibliography it forms a perfectly acceptable list of greatest comics of all time:
Watchmen, From Hell, The Killing Joke, League of Extraordinary Gentleman.
I read you the list of the corresponding adaptations (for movies at least):
Watchmen, From Hell, The Killing Joke, LXG
and you start looking for the fire extinguisher to put out this garbage fire. There is a reason why Alan Moore refuses to even be credited on works based on his comics and it’s not because he is now just a beard suspended in mid-air by a floating energy field of old man cussedness. He has been done dirty by Hollywood like few writers before him. But, amid all the terrible adaptations there is of course one exception. Or is there?
Or maybe not. Sorry, I’m vascillating. Here’s what I find fascinating about V for Vendetta. It is, was, and probably will remain an incredibly divisive film and that is so much rarer than it used to be. In the pre-internet days, film criticism was the domain of a relative handful of newspaper and TV film critics. The masses would vote with their wallets, but their actual opinion on any given movie was largely silent. No one was taking big polls of thousands or millions of ordinary movie-goers to gauge their opinions on a given film. That was left to the critics who would often disagree wildly with each other on the merits of any one work.
Nowadays, of course, everyone is a film critic. Everyone writes about film, whether it’s on Twitter or Rotten Tomatoes or Facebook or or any of the million and one new social media platforms that are just sprouting up everywhere like little markers on my path to the grave.
You would think that this would mean an even greater diversity of opinions on every single film but on the contrary, the opposite tends to happen. Consensus usually builds around a film very rapidly. Either it’s universally acclaimed, universally pilloried or (if it’s anything remotely political) it gets stripped for parts in the never-ending culture war with two camps forming who will defend it to the death regardless of its merits or flaws as long as it triggers the libs/smashes the whitecispatriarchy.
This, you will probably not be surprised to learn, is not a conducive enviroment for insightful, nuanced film critique. So what I really appreciate about V for Vendetta is that it’s a rare film in that it does actually provoke a very diverse range of responses from people. Opinions on it run the full gamut from Travesty to “Capital G” Great Film.
I’m pretty sure most people would agree that it is the best Alan Moore cinematic adaptation, but after that consensus ends. I’m going to keep my opinion on the film to myself until the end (largely because at the time of writing I’m still trying to figure out that very thing). But regardless of its quality it is an absolutely fascinating film to discuss and I’m looking forward to it tremendously.
So, little background.
V for Vendetta began life in the British comics anthology series Warrior in 1982. Written by Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, it’s one of Moore’s earlier works and was begun when he was only 29. My edition of V for Vendetta has a forward by Moore where he humbly begs the reader’s forbearance for the immaturity of the early chapters which I rolled my eyes at. It is, right out the gate, an extremely mature, gripping, literate and intelligently written comic and what’s more Alan Moore fucking knows it.
Set in 1992…
It depicts a Britain where society collapsed after a nuclear war in the 1980s that devastated most of the world. The Nordic Supremacist Norsefire party seized control in the chaos and enacted their own version of the Final Solution on anyone who wasn’t on the Daily Mail’s subscription list. The story follows a large cast of characters over many years (some party members, some not, some victims, some villains) as a masked figure known only as “V” spreads anarchy and slowly brings the whole rotting edifice of Norsefire Britain crashing down. It’s a thumping good read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it even if I’m not quite on board with its political argument. Moore presents anarchy as fascism’s antithesis and antidote whereas I tend to view it as its preamble. But when I say I disagree with the book, I mean I can envision having a long and deeply fascinating debate with someone in a pub over it, not that I want to scream in all caps over a message board.
It is also, it must be said, a rather dated book in many ways. It’s clearly and explicitly a critique of Thatcher’s Britain and its POV character, Evey, is far more passive and damsel-esque (at least in the early chapters) than you would expect these days. And Moore himself noted in his introduction to the collected volume that his premise that
a) A global nuclear war would be in anyway survivable and
b) That it would take something that dramatic to bring fascism to a modern Western nation
was adorably naive. This actually happens a lot with old science fiction. See also Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep where Philip K. Dick suggested that it would take a nuclear holocaust to cause the mass extinction of most animal life on Earth instead of humanity just….y’know…truckin’ along.
Anyway, the rights to the book were acquired by Joel Silver all the way back in 1988 but it only began production in the early 2000s. The movie shares a lot of lineage with the Matrix Trilogy, with Silver producing, the Wachowskis’ scripting and Hugo Weaving starring in the title role.
If V is so head and shoulders above the rest of the adaptations of Moore’s work it’s because the creators had a definite artistic motive greater than ringing a few million dollars out of a viable property. Just as Moore originally wrote the comic as a reaction to Thatcherism, the Wachowski’s wrote their screenplay as a response to the second Bush administration, a time when corrupt, ruthless, authoritarian right-wingers still had a little class and dignity.
So the movie is set in the 2020s…
…but opens in the 17th century with Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) relating the story of Guy “Last Man to enter Parliament with Honest Intentions” Fawkes in voiceover. This opening scene neatly displays two of the movie’s biggest problems from the get go. Firstly, the Wachowski’s have a weird “early George Lucas” quality to their dialogue. What I mean is, they’re capable of lines that are genuinely iconic but often they write dialogue that’s perfectly comprehensible but just…slightly…off.
Take this, for example:
“I know his name was Guy Fawkes and I know, in 1605, he attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. But who was he really? What was he like?”
I mean, I know “what was he like?” means, “what was this historical icon actually like as a human being?” but it just doesn’t quite have the right associations. I hear “what was he like?” I picture a teenaged girl lying on her bed, talking to her BFF about last night’s date with that bad boy who just started in school.
Second problem, and this is one we can’t blame on George Lucas this time: Natalie Portman is kinda terrible in this. In fact, I’m pretty sure early 2000s Natalie Portman was just not a very good actor period. I mean, nobody noticed in the Star Wars prequels because outside of Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee and a few of the muppets nobody came out of those trashfires with their acting credentials burnished. But here….yeah, she’s just really bad and I’m pretty sure it’s the accent. She’s trying so hard, you can literally see her forcing the muscles of her mouth to form the words like the voice coach taught her and it’s just not happening and she obviously knows it. It’s a stiff, uncomfortable performance from an actor with enough savvy to know that what she’s doing isn’t working but it’s too late now to fix it.
Anyway, Evey Hammond is not, like her book counterpart, a teenaged prostitute, but a low level employee in BTN, the state broadcaster of Norsefire Britain and your thinly veiled Fox News allegory for the evening. Which is ridiculous, of course, to even suggest that English people would ever tolerate something as crass as Fox News on their screens.
When we first see her she’s getting made up to go out while on the TV in the background, Lewis Prothero (“The Voice of London”) is closing out his show with a light fascist rant. And God bless Roger Allam, an always game performer who’s carved out a fine career as a professional English Bastard but even he can’t save one of the clunkiest bits of expository dialogue I can remember hearing in a long time. He doesn’t quite say “Just a reminder, we hate America because as you all know they unleashed a biological weapon that devastated most of the world and that’s why we had to kill all the Jews, Muslims, Gays and Socialists and create this awesome fascist dystopia that you, the viewer, have been living in for the last twenty years or so and now here’s Linda with the fascist weather” but it’s borderline, guys. Anyway, Evey turns this off in disgust so we know that she’s one of the good ones but that just raises the question as to why she was listening to it in the first place (maybe he had a really good musical guest?). She heads out into the night despite the fact that there’s a curfew.
Now, while I did just drop some pretty heavy shade on this movie’s world-building, I’m actually going to do an about face and admit that there are some ways in which the movie’s depiction of Norsefire Britain is arguably stronger than the novel’s. The novel’s depiction of England under NF is like Orwell’s Oceania crossed with Thatcher’s Britain. Brutal, impoverished, bleak and unmistakably a fascist, totalitarian state. Where I think the movie is perhaps a little bit savvier is that it shows a Norsefire Britain that is in many ways…normal. There are lots of scenes of families sitting down around the TV, office workers going about their day, ordinary people having a pint in the pub. Just normal, day to day life. Which, honestly, I find a lot scarier. It feels normal because, for these people, it is normal. The fascists won. And this is normal now. And for the majority of people, the lucky ones, the ones who look like the ones in charge. It’s fine. It’s all fine.
Anyway, Evey gets accosted by two “Fingermen”, basically the Gestapo. For explanation, the comic had this conceit where the different departments of Norsefire’s Government were named after different body parts (the state police are “The Finger”, the regular cops as “The Nose”, Broadcasting as “The Mouth” etc). The movie mostly dispenses with that, except for this one stray reference to Fingermen. Anyway, Evey almost gets raped by the Fingermen but is saved by the valorous visitation of a vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate, his visage, no mere veneer of vanity, a vestige of the vacant, vanquished vox populi, a by-gone vivified vexation who has vowed to vanquish the venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
So, I’ll say this if you’re doing an adaptation of V for Vendetta: get V right, and that’s half the shooting match. And fair’s fair, they fucking got V right, at least in terms of visual presentation and performance.
Hugo Weaving plays the part like Hamlet; vascillating violently (I’ll stop now) between whimsical lunacy and steely menace. And, fuck but if this isn’t the most perfect visual translation of a comic book character to film we’d seen up until that point I don’t know what is. Pretty much perfect.
V invites Evey up the roof and, because it’s usually considered ill-mannered to refuse a request from a man still wiping your attempted rapist’s giblets from his cummerbund, she agrees. From a high vantage point, Evey watches in horror as V blows up the Old Bailey to the strains of the Tchaikovsk’s 1812 Overture (guess she’s more of a Beethoven gal).
We cut to Norsefire Party headquarters where the leaders of the regime are being berated by John Hurt’s massive head looming over them like frickin’ Zordon.
The Chancellor, Suttler, instructs the various department heads as to how they’re going to spin the Old Bailey’s bombing as a scheduled demolition. He then asks Inspector Finch (Stephen Rhea) how close they are to catching the culprit. This is something that didn’t make much sense in the comic, and makes even less sense here.
In the comic, Finch is the head of the Nose, so essentially the Commissioner of the Met. However, in the comic he’s shown doing a lot of hands on investigating that seems way below his pay grade. But the movie has the opposite problem. Here, Finch is just an inspector. So him being down at the coalface tracking down V personally makes perfect sense, but scenes like these where he’s essentially in a COBRA meeting being chewed out by the Prime Minister which seems way ABOVE his pay grade. Anyway, Finch is our one good cop trying to hold on to his soul in a future totalitarian dystopia and I don’t know about you but that’s a premise I can’t get enough of!
The next day at work, Evey Hammon visits the office of the talk show host Gordon Dietrich (Stephen Fry), whose home she was trying to reach when she was attacked by the Fingermen. Dietrich tells her that, what with the curfew getting even more stringent, they’ll have to postpone their assignation for the time being.
Finch and his partner Stone (Rupert Graves), identify Evey from some CCTV footage and race over to BTN to arrest her. By a rather spectacular bit of timing, that’s exactly the time when V attacks the station and broadcasts a message to all of Britain inviting them to meet him outside of the Houses of Parliament next November 5th to watch him finish what Guy Fawkes started.
This speech of V’s is incredibly important in both versions of the story and they are substantially different in each. So, if you’ll indulge me, take a minute to read the original.
And this is the same scene in the movie:
See the difference? One is a warm, spirited “JOIN ME, COMPADRES!” call to revolution, and the other is a supervillain monologue. One is exculpatory, even forgiving, and the other accuses the audience of complicity and threatens them with retribution. Movie V presents himself as one of the people, here to lead them to liberation. But Comic V presents himself as this society’s nemesis; all their sins coming home to roost. And I think this is the movie’s greatest deficiency compared to the comic: the Wachowskis think V is a superhero. An avenging Batman. When in reality, the comic book character he most resembles is…
I don’t make that comparison lightly, by the way. There’s a scene in the comic where Prothero wakes up in the abandoned ruins of the concentration camp he used to run and is greeted with this:
Feel familiar? Let me give you a hint.
Of course, Moore is not entirely innocent of glorifiying V. He understands that V is sexy and cool and badass and funny and that it is profoundly satisfying to watch him cut up fascists like pizza toppings. But I don’t think he ever forgets that “V” stands for “villain”. And I think the Wachowskis do.
After the broadcast, V is almost shot by Stone and rescued at the last minute by Evey, who is in turn knocked unconscious by Stone. Unwilling to leave Evey for the police, V takes her with him to his secret lair beneath London.
When she regains consciousness she awakens to find herself in V’s home which is a combination Batcave and museum to everything that Norsefire has banned. Ms. Mouse actually pointed out something that I’d never noticed before but couldn’t stop once she did: the editing is a big pile of pooh.
There’s a scene of Evey just quietly walking down a hallway but it’s edited as frenetically as the lobby shootout in the Matrix. It’s like they’re afraid we’ll fall asleep if they don’t trigger an epileptic seizure every five minutes. V tells her that he can’t let her go as she knows the colour of the stone walls which would be enough for a clever man to deduce the location of his hideout and that she’ll have to stay for a year until he’s pulled off his attack on parliament. At first she’s furious but calms down after some breakfast.
V quotes Macbeth and Evey says that her mother used to read Shakespeare’s plays to her when she was a little girl and that’s why she always wanted to be an actor an aaaaargh God I hate this trope. Like, really? She read Shakespeare to you? How exactly? Did she read out the identifiers? And the stage directions? Do different voices for all of the characters? Because that is not a fun way to experience Shakespeare. You either read it or you see it staged but one person reading the script does not fucking work.
Anyway, Evey asks if V meant what he said in the broadcast and points out that anyone who actually shows up on November Fifth will be killed by Creedy, the head of the secret police. V gives the famous line that “people should not be afraid of their governments, governments, should be afraid of their people”.
Evey asks if he thinks blowing up a building will really make a difference and V replies that blowing up a building can change the world…and sorry, this was four years after 9/11 and I don’t care what the Wachowskis thought they were saying about the Bush administration. 3,000 people were murdered. If this was unintentional it was tone-deaf as all hell. If it was intentional, if we’re really supposed to see V as Osama bin Laden and cheer him on then that’s fucking despicable.
V shows Evey an old movie, the Count of Monte Cristo. This is a change from the book, where it was V reading Evey Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree which was rather creepily infantilizing so I’m glad they nixed it. After the movie, they watch the news and Evey is horrified to learn that Prothero is dead. V calmly reveals that he murdered him using Evey’s work ID to gain access.
Meanwhile, Finch and Stone investigate Prothero’s murder and discover that he was formerly the commandant of a “resettlement” camp called Larkhill. Finch tries to find records on Larkhill but is quickly warned off by Creedy. Finch starts tracking down old staff from Larkhill. He learns that the camp chaplain, Anthony Lilliman, is now the Bishop of London.
Evey approaches V and tells him that she wants to help him in his mission. V dresses her as an underage prostitute and uses her to entrap Lilliman who…ahem, lives on the moon as they say.
The movie makes two changes to Evey’s character here, one to the good and one to the bad. Evey in the book freaks out and turns against V only when she sees him kill Lilliman because apparently she thought he was going to give him a stern lecture and send him on his way. Evey in the movie, on the other hand, pretends to go along with V’s plan but is actually lying so that she can escape. That gives her more agency while also making her seem like a more rational, pragmatic character. The problem is, she tries to escape by approaching, of all people, Lilliman and asking for his help to escape V.
When he proves less than non-rapey, V arrives and kills him and Evey flees, finally ending up at the home of Dietrich who agrees to hide her.
Finch visits the pathologist, Delia Surridge (played by Sinead Cusack), for the results of Lilliman’s autopsy and gives her a rose that V left at the scene of the crime. When he returns to the office he discovers that Surridge was the doctor at Larkhill and races to her home before V can get to her.
One of the reasons why I find V for Vendetta so maddeningly difficult to form an opinion on is that for a lot if it’s run time it’s quite bad except for scenes like this which are pretty much perfect. It’s also quite telling that the very strongest scenes are the ones lifted almost word for word from the original comic. That might sound like a back-handed compliment but it’s not. It’s actually damn hard to just take a comic and make it work as film. Watchmen is scrupulously faithful to the original comic in its dialogue and plot but is (for me at least) fucking unwatchable because anyone can recite Shakespeare but not everyone cam actually understand what they’re saying when they do.
So hat’s off to the Wachowskis and director James McTeigue, this scene where V kills Deliah Surridge while also granting her absolution is done about as well as it could be done. Of course, it helps that this scene has two of the strongest performers in the whole cast (Weaving and Cusack) and none of its weak links. Cusack in particular is wonderful here. I absolutely love this exchange between her and V:
“Is it meaningless to apologise?”
Alone among V’s victims, she is granted a painless death.
At Dietrich’s home he takes her into his confidence and reveals that he’s actually gay and has a secret trove of forbidden contraband like a Quran, gay erotica and several copies of 1001 reasons why the Norsefire Party are a Shower of Wankers. Dietrich tells her sadly than when you wear a mask long enough it becomes who you are which has led some fans to speculate that Dietrich actually is V which is a real neat theory except that:
- We see Dietrich in BTN during V’s rampage.
- Dietrich has no visible burns.
- The only way Dietrich could be V is if Creedy was working with him and staged his arrest later on.
- Look, I don’t want to body shame Stephen Fry but…maybe he should try being Stephen Salad if he wants to be a superhero?
Anyway, Dietrich has been feeling his oats because he broadcasts an episode of his show ripping the piss out of Chancellor Suttler and valorising V. Dietrich assumes that he’s famous enough to escape any consequences but it turns out that his caché just isn’t the same since Sandi Toksvig took over his old show.
Evey watches in horror as Dietrich is beaten and dragged out of his house by Creedy’s men. She tries to escape but is snatched off the street.
This sequence, again, is lifted almost verbatim from the comic and, again, the leap in quality from the material surrounding it is quite jarring. Firstly, Portman has almost no dialogue and the difference this makes to her performance is stunning. Freed from trying to lip-wrestle with that ungodly pseudo-London twang she now does all her acting with her face and body and she is simply excellent. Evey is shaved, tortured, starved and interrogated for V’s whereabouts over and over again.
She is confined to a tiny bare cell with only a rat for company. In a rare bit of black comedy, when her food arrives in a tin bowl pushed through the door, the rat sniffs it and refuses to eat it. In her cell, Evey finds a message written on toilet paper. It’s from a woman named Valerie who relates her story to Evey. It begins with Valerie watching the rain in class, noting that her grandmother used to say that “God was in the rain” (I’ll get back to that). In school, she realised that she was gay and as an adult she met and fell in love with an actress named Ruth. They had three blissful years together until the rise of Norsefire. Valerie ends her letter saying:
“It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologised to no-one. I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch but one. An inch – it is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that, whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you. Valerie.”
Evey is taken to be interrogated one final time and is told that if she does not comply, she will be taken behind the chemical sheds and shot. She chooses the sheds.
She is then told that she is now completely free and the door is left open for her.
Stunned, bruised and emaciated, Evey staggers out into the corridor and finds:
Yup. It was all V. V took Evey and subjected her to the same regime of torture and abuse he experienced in Larkhill, in order to make her see the world the way he does.
And this is the big problem with treating V like a hero. You get a scene where, essentially, the Joker has just created Harley Quinn…and we’re supposed to cheer. Evey is, at first, horrified and furious, and calls V a monster, but then he takes her up to the roof so she can stand in the rain and it’s intercut with scenes of V emerging from the flames of Larkhill after he destroyed the camp, a baptism of water contrasted with his baptism of fire. And Evey says “God is in the rain.”
So…about that line.
I’ve recently finished Ian Kershaw’s phenomenal biography of Hitler which I can’t praise enough. Two of the things I learned from that book were:
- The depth of Hitler’s antipathy to the German churches and his ultimate plan for their dissolution.
- The degree of Christian resistance to Nazi rule in Germany whether non-violent (the White Rose) or militant (the Stauffenberg Plot).
I bring this up because V for Vendetta (the comic) presents a, shall we say, less than flattering depiction of Christianity and shows it as being deeply complicit in Norsefire’s regime. And if the Wachowskis had wanted to at least give a little nuance to that depiction, and give some signs that there was some Norsefire equivalent of the White Rose acting in opposition to the state-sanctioned church, I would absolutely have welcomed that. But the “God is in the rain” line, which is not in the original comic, just feels like limp, zero-effort ass-covering. It reeks of “studio note for the rubes in flyover country” and honestly I’d rather it wasn’t there at all.
Evey decides that she can’t stay with V after all that and she leaves him. V is heartbroken.
Finch meets “William Rookwood” a mysterious figure who offers to just fill him in on the backstory because we’re getting on to the final act and Finch hasn’t really made much progress. It’s a pity, this scene is actually a rather effective bit of montage and I dig it except the backstory it lays out is completely at odds with what we’ve already learned about this world’s lore. Rookwood’s story is this:
- Larkhill was a medical research centre set up by “Suttler’s party”. Which party that is is not stated. We see Suttler speaking at a Norsefire rally but Rookwood also calls him a “Conservative” politician so maybe he was a Tory at the time? Or maybe it’s just “small c” conservative. Anyway.
- Before Larkhill is destroyed by V, they are able to extract a viral agent from V that they turn into a biological weapon.
- Creedy suggests unleashing this biological weapon on the British public under the guise of an Islamic terrorist attack. In the ensuing panic, Norsefire sweeps to power and turns Britain into a fascist state.
What’s the problem? Well, as an origin story for how Britain succumbed to fascism it requires that even before Norsefire seized power they were already operating concentration camps with the support of the military and rounding up gays, socialists, non-whites and Muslims (as we saw in Valerie’s testament). Got that? Britain became fascist when the fascist party that was already apparently running the country...took control of the country. In which case why bother with a strategy as insanely risky as virus-bombing your own population?
Oh, by the way, here’s a real sobering gutcheck: The terrifying death toll that triggers the total collapse of British democracy and terrified the people to the point that they voted in an obvious dictator?
Man. The past really is a foreign country, isn’t it?
As November 5th comes closer, Suttler becomes more and more unhinged, ordering ever tighter crackdowns on the citizenry. V posts thousands upon thousands of Guy Fawkes masks and cloaks across the country…
V approaches Creedy and offers him a deal: V in exchange for Suttler. Creedy, who is smart enough to realise that he’s being fitted for a noose if he fails to stop V, agrees.
They meet in an abandoned subway station and make the trade. Creedy executes Suttler and orders his men to shoot V. V kills them all and Creedy and, fatally wounded, lips back to his lair.
He finds Evey there and, before he dies, shows her a subway train loaded down with explosives that will go all the way down to Westminster (after changing at Hammersmith, obviously) and asks her to finish what he started. V dies and Evey prepares his Viking funeral.
On the surface, crowds of people dressed as V have converged on Westminster but the soldiers guarding it, getting no orders from either Suttler or Creedy, decide to let them pass.
Finch arrives at the subway station and tries to stop Evey but she stares him down and Finch realises that…fuck it, what is he even trying to save at this point? He lowers his weapon, and Evey pulls the lever, setting the train on its way.
Evey and Finch head up to the surface to see what kind of damage a few tons of explosives and an Oyster card can do.
Finch asks Evey who V really was and Evey replies:
“He was all of us.”
V for Vendetta, the movie, is like pretty much anyone on Twitter under the age of 25. You can’t help but admire their passion and their honest to God burning desire for the world to be a better, fairer place. At the same time, at least half the stuff they’re coming out with is stupid as all hell. This movie is…it’s something. It veers wildly in tone, in quality, in everything. In that sense it’s much like it’s main character; both victim and villain, impossible to unmask, impossible to pin down. I can’t say it’s a great film, honestly I’m not even sure it’s a good one. But it’s got heart. And it’s got some real lovely moments. And I’m real glad it exists.
Our Verified, Vivified Version: 16/25
Scoring the quality of the adaptation is tricky. Some of the changes, particularly to Evey, were very much for the better. But I can’t deny the comic is a much better comic than the movie is a movie. But! The Wachowskis actually took this text and tried to tell their own story with it, animated by their own concerns and with their own message. If nothing else, that’s more laudable than the robotic, lifeless accuracy of something like Watchmen. It’s a “B” for effort, but a B is still a B.
Our Valourous Valiant Virtuouso: 18/25
Visually, vocally, very verisimilitudinous. But the Wachowskis and James McTeigue fall into the trap of treating V like a conventional superhero and not…y’know, a brutal terrorist who murders ruthlessy and uses people as pawns in his quest for (admittedly well deserved) vengeance.
Our Venomous, Venal Villains: 17/25
Fun as it is to see John Hurt graduate from Winston Smith to Big Brother, his Suttler is honestly a little lacking in menace and comes across as an impotent, panicked cypher. Much better is Tim Piggott-Smith’s odious, reptilian Creedy.
Our Vacant, Vacous Vox Populi: 15/25
Real mixed bag with the supporting characters. Portman is terrible except when she’s excellent (said it was a mixed bag). Rhea is honestly kinda phoning it in. Stephen Fry is always too arch for me to take him seriously in a dramatic role but he does get some nice moments here and there. And Sinead Cusack just eats everyone’s pie.
NEXT UPDATE: St Mary’s, I mean Covid, isn’t letting up so…yeah. 11 March 2021. Sorry guys.
NEXT TIME: You know, I’m not normally a Kaijiu movie kinda mouse but I’ve been watching the “Kong versus Godzilla” trailer on repeat for days so, screw it, let’s watch some Japanese skyscrapers get theirs.
My novel, When then Sparrow Falls is now available to pre-order!
It’s worth noting that, as V points out in the comic, anarchy and chaos are two different things. Chaos is often the prelude to fascism (and authoritarianism in general). Anarchy is a method of organizing your society (like ‘Anarchism’), and outside of a few revolutionary movements (Spain and the Ukraine), it’s never really been tested, so calling it the prelude to fascism is kinda premature. The term ‘anarchy’ is used for both concepts and rioters are often called ‘anarchists’ even when their politics are nowhere near it, so, I understand your confusion.
Great review Mouse, this movie came to me at an odd time. I’m attending a distinctly conservative, Christian school, the post 9/11, Bush-era “U! S! A! U! S! A!” is at an all time high and of course students are going to see it because we’re in the Mountain Dew era of movie so any flashy action is going to draw in the teen crowd. But at the same time this movie is made to deconstruct everything our teachers are instructing us. The kind of internal confusion so many of us were feeling afterward is really fascinating.
Some Fun Facts: the original Watchmen script as submitted by Metal Gear Solid’s David Hayter actually got Alan Moore’s approval, they obviously didn’t go with that in the end though. And he allowed the Justice League cartoon to use his name for when they adapted “For the Man Who Has Everything” which in my opinion is one of the Top 5 Superman stories out there.
Oh it’s a gem. JLU did a fantastic job too.
I have not read all of his works, but that is definitely my favorite of Moore’s comics.
I think a major reason for the internet increasing consensuses on movies is that any commenters just parrot their favored reviewers’ opinions without experiencing it in the first place.
Thanks for the review! I haven’t watched V for Vendetta in ages, so I don’t have much to say beyond “I enjoyed it when I saw it for the first time.”
These days…yeah. Seems a bit tone deaf, doesn’t it?
As for the graphic novel…I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of Alan Moore, his stuff just bugs me. The art’s good, though. 😐
It’s bizarre, I can’t really stand his nihilism and yet he was an amazing writer for Superman.
We talking about the same dude? I never would have called Moore a nihilist
I think that might have something to do with the Cold War flavor of Watchmen, there’s a pervading case of “Once the bombs drop it’s not like any of this will matter.” feel to it.
Moore’s extremely – extremely – mean-spirited toward things he doesn’t like, and became exponentially moreso as he got older, but “nihilist” isn’t really how I’d describe his work. In fact, I almost wonder if he’s the opposite – that he’s so confident in the Innate Goodness of the Common Man or whatever that he thinks everything would work out swell if only the Establishment (government and/or superheroes) would just leave everyone alone.
Anyway – you ever read his Swamp Thing run? It’s hands-down the best of his DC work, as far as I’m concerned. All of Watchmen‘s talent with none of its coldness or pretension, indeed starring one of the warmest love-stories in DC history.
Oh when he decides to do heartwarming he can certainly pull it off. That’s why his Superman stuff is so notable. But some of his stuff in Watchmen really feels nihilistic to me, especially the parts involving Rorschach and the psychologist.
As somebody who basically only reads superhero comics I think it is that he takes them too seriously. His “realistic” works ignore the basic realism that in a world of people who put on themed costumes to battle crime they would often think “this is actually fun.”
I’ll credit this movie with getting me to read the comic, if nothing else.
But yeah, it’s got its moments. Any time I read the story, V has Weaving’s voice in my head, dude nailed it.
Trying to remember when either Portman became a great actor, or I suddenly noticed she was one. Black Swan, maybe? At the very least that’s the one where I remember thinking “Holy shit, that ain’t Padmé!”
Fir me it was the rap she did for SNL
Sorry that this comment is unrelated to the movie, but did you hear about Disney shutting Blue Sky Studios down, and do you have any particular thoughts on the matter?
Huh…that is a surprise. I actually expected them to sell Blue Sky. I mean, they already have the Disney animation Studios, Pixar, and Disney toons, they really don’t need another animation studio, especially not one whose output is more on the mediocre side and could therefore tarnish their brand. Thus said, I actually expected a sale. It is after all a separate entity to everything else.
Like I’ve just seen a lion eat an antelope. Sorry for the antelope, but I can’t fault the lion’s logic.
I am disappointed. Sure they made some duds like Ice Age 4 and Rio 2, but they had some great movies like Ice Age, Ice Age 3, and Peanuts. I was hoping they would sell it to somebody like Paramount or Lionsgate.
I don’t like V for Vendetta. Like, never did. I don’t deny that some love went into the film, but to me it is he movie equivalent of an edgelord. And I hate edgelords. And from a purely feminist perspective that movie is just another one which acts as if women should be glad if they get abused because it somehow makes them “better” and “stronger”. It’s a mind set which somehow mostly comes from male writers for SOME reason.
I really enjoy V for Vendetta as a movie because it is kind of fun to watch, the dialogue might be cheesy at times but it kind of adds to the feeling that this is more of a comic creation than a reality which allows you to really just think about the characters and their actions and the morality underpinning what they are doing and how eerily similar some of the events are to various real world situations. And really, Hugo Weaving definitely nailed the lead role.
Another great review. I like V for Vendetta (movie) but it’s not something I ever really think about rewatching. Obviously, I think the comic is better. However, it didn’t have Stephen Fry so it’s not a sweep. I think you’re too hard on 2000’s Natalie Portman. I think she was good, but had a run of bad directing.
Very excited for Shin Godzilla. It’s number three in my definitive Godzilla rankings. Yes, I do have a list ranking all the Godzilla movies Ive seen.
I adore Sinead Cusack. I was lucky enough to see her as Portia, Celia, and Evadne (Maid’s Tragedy) during an RSC season in the early 1980s and thought she was brilliant. I went to New York to see her in a one-woman show about 12 years ago, too. The woman is phenomenal and too few people know it because she doesn’t do many movies. I don’t know about TV, but I know she hasn’t done much that gets exported to the US. I’m very happy you mentioned how beautiful her scenes were.
I think protests are generally good. Destroying things is generally bad. Count me in the non-violence is best camp. V is definitely not part of it.
All that being said, I have a sneaking love for the film. Having lived in Thatcher’s Britain, the comic ain’t bad either.
Also, the 1984 movie of 1984 wasn’t terribly well known in the states when V for Vendetta came out, so I ended up having to explain the joke/reference to the group I saw it with. *sigh
Always thought that movie deserved to be better known
Watchmen is a great movie, it’s haters are idiots who know nothing about film making.
I’ve enjoyed a few works by Mr Alan Moore (TOM STRONG, SUPREME) and admired a few others (WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA) but cannot claim to have made an exhaustive study of his works – I will happily agree that Mr Moore can be a great writer and very possibly one of the Greatest, yet I’ve never been especially enthusiastic about many of the works most proclaim to be his greatest and leading contenders for Greatest Comic Ever.
THE KILLING JOKE diminishes with every year – I do not admire THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN universe (partly because I absolutely HATE seeing characters with no particular thematic connection mashed together regardless, partly because Mr Moore cheerfully ignores original characterisations at a whim and partly because I’m a Mina/Jonathan Harker ‘shipper’ so devout I’m willing to nail my colours to the mast) – and while WATCHMEN & FROM HELL achieve Greatness, I’m not sure they deserve to be called THE Greatest.
This probably explains why I actually LIKE most Alan Moore cinematic adaptations, since they’re designed to be enjoyed rather than appreciated.
Anyway, please let me back off a little from the dangerous precipice I find myself hanging over, turn to the angry mob gathering at my back and send my Best Wishes to all the House of Mouse (Emerald Isle outpost): I hope that you’ve been keeping well and that your dear ones are also hale & well in defiance of this rough year or two we seem to be enduring.
Has it snowed on your side of the Irish Sea? We’ve had something of a little ice age on Perfidious Albion (Alba is most definitely snow white and I’ve seen at least one friend post a picture of themselves enjoying a spot of cross-country skiing, no snow-blower required): if it has snowed then one can only hope & trust that your burrow is a most cosy nest indeed!
Keep Well and please do keep up the Good Work, my good Mouse.
“In fact, I’m pretty sure early 2000s Natalie Portman was just not a very good actor period”
Counterpoint- Mike Nichols’ “Closer”. Excellent movie and she’s absolutely incredible in it. And that was a whole year before this movie!
You know I somehow didn’t know what this movie was about. It’s look is famous and I knew V some kind of antihero in some kind of dystopia but that’s all. I didn’t know do the comic books origins or the plot.
Unfortunately in Hollywood expecially Christianity is synonymous with establishment and establishment gets critiqued more often than not. It’s an issue with nearly every time characters Christianity is mentioned it eventually is revealed the character is using religion to control others. is a hypocrite or resorts them questioning their fate after terrible events happen to them. Or I guess is a very minor character or it’s a grandmother type character.
I feel Portman does have talent but her voice is one of her main issues when she doesn’t do accents as well. She can be strong portraying some emotions like when she is confused and distraught and depressed in Jackie (a movie that also handles faith similarly to how Hollywood always does). Or pretty much the same emotions but much heightened in Black Swan with the added white/black swan conflict. So she can be good but in certain types of roles. I wonder how she will play Jane in next Thor film when I would think the role is very different. But I assume the role will be written to be strengths.
I could probably just answer questions regarding how not to handle COVID by pointing towards what both the US and UK are doing and go “just don’t do that”. I feel your pain, Mouse. Anyway, this uh, this is certainly not the worst thing to come from Alan Moore adaptations. Just gotta skip to late 2016 for that. Also, I really gotta watch Annihilation since that’s supposed to be a big career highlight for Natalie Portman and I think helped people get excited for her being in Thor 4.
Dear Mouse, I was watching THE PATRIOT (2000) yesterday and it struck me that an honest Irish-mouse’s take on that particular picture might well be an interesting one: If nothing else getting the benefit of your cognitive dissonance between an inborn love of seeing some redcoats get massacred and a painful awareness that this film is compounded of (at Best) poetic truths & flat-out lies might be deeply rewarding.
Also, I look forward to seeing your reaction to Mr Jason Isaacs.
I’m not sure that enough time has elapsed since my last request for a review, but it strikes me that if you’re looking for something to post circa July 2021 you could do worse and I’m feeling optimistic (also, can I apologise once again for any lingering nausea stemming from that dose of VAN HELSING? I actually LIKE the film, I didn’t expect you to despise it so!).
Sorry Ed, just saw this. I can’t really take on any more reviews just now, the load I’ve got will literally take years to get through. I haven’t seen the Patriot. I’m in the camp of “yes Mel Gibson is awful but he’s still a fucking phenomenal film-maker” but honestly everything I’ve seen of the Patriot makes me think it’s hot garbage. Again though, haven’t actually sat through the whole film, so take that with a grain of salt.
Mouse, this is an acutely belated response, but please be assured that I quite understand your commitments leave you all the free time of a convict on the prison treadmill – I’ll also agree that Mr Gibson makes a d*** good film, even if his judgement in other matters is rather less credible.
On a more cheerful note, THE PATRIOT has its faults, but it also has Mr Jason Isaacs at Peak Villain and is far from a complete loss (I actually like it a good deal more than BRAVEHEART, even though the latter is an objectively better film).