Worth A Look: 25.79%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 11.11%
16 reviews, 156 user ratings
|V for Vendetta
by Marc Kandel
“V for Vendetta” is fun, but won’t stay in your memory long. It doesn’t outrage or stir you like it should. It doesn’t make you grit your teeth or chill you enough- and mind you I’m speaking of a film with a disturbingly detailed concentration camp processing scene and plenty of righteous, entertaining ass-kicking- so where does it go wrong?“V” is a tale of violent vengeance and victory by a man in a mask wronged long ago, a tale of people rising against a government no longer serving, but slaying and suppressing, ripe for the takedown, with perhaps a little allusion to modern day troubles thrown in to spice up the brew. Throw in a beautiful damsel in distress, not just rescued but forged into an iron soul with purpose, and hey, what’s not to like?
"III out of V"
But alas, it’s not the revolutionary epic I had hoped for, as its pretensions to righteousness and truth, messages so staunchly voiced throughout the story, are ground into airy dust by a conclusion that is insincere to say the least, against the brutish world the film tries so hard to establish from the get-go. Despite the McTeigue/Wachowski collaboration struggling to impart this environment and its characters with dread gravity- all they have left is a very heavy, burdensome film sloughed off pretty easily once the viewer emerges into the sunlight.
What the hell am I talking about? A fair enough question, so here are a few examples that those who have not yet attended this new release might not want to linger on, set in italics so you can skip back to the non-spoilers after:
- In a world where the inhabitants are very used to men in jackboots routinely sweeping people out of existence, curfew is the norm, non-conformity an instant death sentence, and entertainment substituted with obvious, heavy-handed pro-establishment propaganda , a public television figure runs a satirical skit that, while extremely witty and amusing (A high point in the film), goes far past what even the most beloved late night hosts of our repressive era would chance, ending with the mock-execution of this society’s leader.
Said individual has incendiary skeletons in the closet all his own and has lived his life with careful and calculated precision, but performs this action with relish and carefree abandon, which could be sold as a genuine revolutionary act of martyrdom, but the character’s sincere belief that a slap on the wrist is the worst to be expected galls me, when every last one of his actions and ideology prior to this act belie this curiously dissonant blasé attitude.
- This film’s coda is actually the overture of the book. Book to film revisions aside, this choice illustrates a sloppy attitude that says the film must end with a bang: And so it does. But the point of the story is to kill the diseased governing body, amputate its leprous limbs that have reached into every aspect of life, silence it’s creaking, corrupt voice and leave a world in unfettered silence and doubt, asking for its people to stand up and make a new, better place. We get a big explosion and a voiceover instead reminiscing about one character’s fondness for another. I don’t doubt the adaptation was tricky- but to miss the point so much…
- A revolutionary story is distracted by a Phantom of the Operaesque love story, and the inclusion carries with it the stench of a formulaic crutch. Evey and V do have a very real fondness and awkward love for each other, but when only one aspect of the relationship is played up it undercuts V’s very character, making him an ape of his heroes, rather than an original in his own right. Homage is fine. V is an Edmond Dantes, a Zorro, but he is also very specifically crafted to be a monster who has no place in the world to come- to make him a Cyrano hoping to be worthy of Evey in the middle of the film is another layer this overburdened story did not need to make its far too many points- it also destroys the pragmatic intent to make Evey into V for the new world- something the movie leaves behind that the novel was very clear on- the movie chooses a different, Spartacus-like way, one that I can respect, but again undercuts this choice by making it a far too easy, gentle passing of the torch, which brings my next point of contention:
- We are witness to the most polite riot against a police state in the history of man- I won’t elaborate further, suffice to say human history teaches us much, much different, and this moment fails to sell itself because frankly, that’s not how things of this nature go down- an observation made not just by myself, but by a character in the film analyzing the outcome of the very same scenario.
You will note I make no case about V’s alleged terrorist training, building demolition as political statement, etc., because frankly this isn’t the World Trade Center attacks or terrorist action against civilians. This is an attack on a government that has shed all illusion of fairness, equality and humanity- it is an attack on worms that have infested the core of a country and spewed forth genocide and totalitarianism. Fuck em’.
My problems with the film lie in finding myself more horrified at the taut, quiet, desperate struggles of “Good Night and Good Luck” or the typical newspaper headline today remarking on the FCC cracking down on any television show it wants to under vague definitions of indecency, answerable to no one, or our stumblebum President stammering and looking on with his dead eyes as he systematically lets the world go to hell.
This film tries to terrify us with the stern cabal of shadowed men planning death and disappearance, various scenes of repression and brutality, marching Blackshirts goose-stepping amid a large swastika-like banner whilst a man with a case of morning Hitler-hair raves, V’s brutalized origin and Evey’s tortuous conversion from victim to victor. But while the latter two are fascinating and gripping, the former are so over the top and overused, not just by this film but any film looking for an “easy” enemy, they no longer pack the punch of alarming images but rather a grocery list of things we need to see and check off so we can be sure to hate the bad guys.
The performances, visuals, and great fight scenes keep the film’s head above the waters of boredom, but otherwise it’s an underwhelming effort. It is telling that the director, James McTeigue, an eight year veteran under the tutelage of the film’s producers, the Wachowski brothers, makes their same mistakes that took a good idea and execution in “The Matrix” and changed it from an exciting, fast paced visual and conceptual feast, into a shambling morass of incoherency and pompous, bloated rhetoric.
V doesn’t go quite that far, but it’s an awkward meeting of vision and compromise, focus and wandering, striking the right notes either too lightly or not enough (every wonder how that explosion happened at V’s prison and why that would even be relevant to the plot at hand? McTeigue didn't so you don't get to know.), and the wrong ones with explosive percussion. Full of sound and fury, and though it doesn’t exactly signify nothing, it accomplishes far less than the story’s potential, preventing arresting visuals and adept, riveting performances from cohering into a truly satisfying experience. It’s a good watch, but won’t win a place in the heart as much as the novel that spawned it, which I cannot cannot cannot recommend to the HBS audience enough.
PS: Folks who think Natalie can’t do a Brit accent can suckle my taint.I leave this review with a statement made by V in the book that didn’t make it into the film, but is appropriate: "First you must discover whose face lies behind this mask, but you must never know my face." Think about it.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13855&reviewer=358
originally posted: 03/21/06 05:17:07
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