Worth A Look: 25.79%
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|V for Vendetta
As an admirer of writer Alan Moore’s comic books, it’s a bit difficult to judge the movies made from them. Moore’s compulsively readable books have intricate narratives that often force readers to reach their own conclusions about the text they’ve just read. In short, he treats his audience as if they were adults. The films, like this week’s "V for Vendetta" occasionally capture the tone and the motifs of his writing but bludgeon the viewers with their points. As a result, they erase the charm of the source material.Sibling filmmakers Andy and Larry Wachowski who gave us the underrated “Bond,” “The Matrix” and the awful Matrix sequels have put themselves in an unenviable position. Because Moore and illustrator David Lloyd’s tale was written during the 1980s as a critique of Margaret Thatcher’s reign over the UK, some updating and retooling was necessary. Now that the then faraway year of 1997 has come and passed, it takes some re-imagining to make “V for Vendetta” relevant.
"D for Disappointing"
The basic story and characters do still bear some resemblance to Moore’s, even if they are a critique of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair instead. The tale centers around the unusual alliance between a low-level government drone named Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) who forms an unexpected alliance with a mysterious vigilante named V (Hugo Weaving).
V is always hidden behind a mask that resembles would-be revolutionary Guy Fawkes, who on November 5, 1605 unsuccessfully tried to blow up Parliament in London. After successfully bombing the Old Bailey to the ground, V announces that in one year’s time, he will do what Fawkes himself was never able to.
V’s plans might seem downright psychotic, but the England in which he lives is ruled by a brutal dictatorship led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt, who played the put-upon Winston Smith in “1984). The lone television channel broadcasts nothing but shrill propaganda, and culture and beauty are long forgotten.
Nonetheless, his attacks on the government may simply be personal scores. It seems many in the current dictatorship hurt him (could that explain the disguise?) and made a mistake by not killing him then. An intrepid detective named Finch (nicely played by Stephen Rea of “The Crying Game”) winds up encountering embarrassing facts about the current British regime while he learns about V’s history.
As Finch and Evey get closer to discovering who V is and why he’s so set on toppling the government, the Wachowskis raise some intriguing questions about terrorism and totalitarianism and then let them drop.
Is democracy so fragile or is terrorism ever justified? Neither of these questions ever get adequately addressed because the Wachowskis and freshman director James McTeigue quickly decide that sloppy, repetitive action scenes (quick cutting only works when the images make sense when reassembled) are more compelling than examining the ideas they raise.
Yes, “The Bridge over the River Kwai” ends with an amazing explosion, but before that David Lean managed to create a thrilling adventure that also raised some unsettling questions about warfare and responsibility. It leaves haunting concerns that linger in the brain just like the demolition of the bridge.
The Wachowskis don’t adequately develop V or Evey so their relationship doesn’t seem believable enough to be compelling.
Despite a first-rate performance by Portman, Evey winds up being as much of a cipher as V even though we get to watch her get her head shaved and suffer other indignities. We don’t adequately learn why she’s willing to follow him.
To McTeigue’s credit, he nicely captures the look of dread that Lloyd’s artwork had and unlike his former mentor George Lucas, he does seem to coax decent performances from his actors.
Weaving is particularly interesting because he manages to dominate the screen even though his face is never shown. It’s about like acting with one-hand tied behind his back. With only his melodious voice and his flamboyant posture, Weaving dominates the screen and is a charismatic presence. This is a remarkable change from his turn as Agent Smith in the Matrix movies where he was so eerily bland.Still, Moore can be understood for disowning the film (his name appears nowhere in the credits). Moore’s massive books are tricky to adapt because their length is prohibitive for commercial films, and their period settings often require massive productions.
As a result, filmmakers end up only using his motifs and shying away for the ideas that made his stories worthwhile in the first place.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13855&reviewer=382
originally posted: 03/19/06 06:45:29
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