It feels wrong comparing a film to Pamela Anderson, but there is really no better example: “V for Vendetta” has both the brains and the beauty of the former tog-donner, and unquestionably stays afloat just as long.
One of the more different comic book movies to date (or, graphic novel inspired films, as is the case here), “Vendetta” snatches its template from the Alan Moore-penned yarn of the same name. Released in 1982, it told of a revolutionary hero who takes on a totalitarian government that’s partly responsible for the torturous life ‘V’ has had to bear.
“This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”
Get all that? OK, fair enough, here comes the synopsis:
The film begins with a rhyme that commemorates Guy Fawkes night, and proceeds to remind us what happened on that night in 1605 when said legend tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James. For several years to follow, people would remember the gallant attack – celebrating it on November 5th – but rather quickly after, everyone forgot.
The film then fast-forwards into the future – 2015, to be exact – where we learn that London is now a a totalitarian state ruled over by a manical Chancellor (John Hurt), who has created a world near without a hint of freedom.
A masked-man named ‘V’ (Hugo Weaving, stepping in for James Purefoy at the 11th Hour) may be the saving grace of society. Our caped swordsman is here to blow up a few landmarks, kill a few wrong-doers….and make a friend in the lost Evey (Natalie Portman), someone whose a torture away from unleashing hell on the bastard government herself. But first, of course, ‘V’ has to awaken that shrouded bravery inside of her.
The delay in getting this to the screen may have been an unintended one – for instance, a studio wondering whether such a film would have appeal? – Or it may have been a calculatingly programmed one. It is, after all, a film seemingly more relevant to what’s going on today. Whereas “Batman” or “Spider-Man” dazzle with you their razzle-dazzle effects – and the extraordinary powers of their titular characters – this film amazes you with it’s ability to unashamedly point the finger at the government, ultimately leaving audiences wondering whether the heads of our countries aren’t far worse villains than any Joker, Scarecrow, Doc Ock or Braniac.
“Vendetta” has been correctly marketed as anything but a comic-book film. Those that do see the DC/Vertigo Comics flash upon the screen during the trailer or pre-credit sequence, and then prepare themselves for a full-on superhero adventure, will indubitably be disappointed. There’s nothing in this to suggest “V” even exists in the same world as Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark or Wally West. In fact, the lead characters powers lie solely in his very humanistic traits of bravery, courage and the willingness to stand up against the big man. The mask our lead wears is possibly the only thing he shares with other heroes of the genre.
In fact, “Vendetta” has a storyline that’ll surprise even the biggest lovers of the art form. It’s smarter than one will unquestionably expect, and has messages that will tingle around your noggin for days to follow.
As Evey, Natalie Portman is as commanding as she is cute. It’s hard to imagine anyone else having the same impact. It’s a dream part for the former Queen of Naboo. In addition, and despite never seeing his face, Hugo Weaving seems to be right at home as ‘V’. At first the ‘he’s obviously recorded his lines, well after the fact, and Portman is merely having a conversation with a mute in a mask’ element to their scenes was a little irksome, but credit to the actors, because you’ve forgotten about the early beef within minutes of the thought entering you head. In addition to Portman and Weaving, the always-dependable Stephen Fry shines in his small role as an amiable, but misunderstood, co-worker of Evey’s.
You don’t have to be an editor to see that the film did need trimming in a few spots – if only to make the ride just that little bit more exciting – but it’s always good to have a little bit more, than a little bit less – isn’t it? Still, a quick cut here and there would’ve made it made just that tad more exciting.
Having said that, you can’t argue that “V for Vendetta” – like “Sin City” before it – is a very loyal transfer of literature to film, and considering that doesn’t happen a lot (case in point, the recent film adaptation of another Moore series, “the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), that’s a fine deed.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewer: Clint Morris