hello.column #2 — V For Vendetta

hello.column

Recently, the film V For Vendetta opened to mixed reviews. Based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and helmed by screenwriters\producers the Wachowski Brothers and director James McTeigue, the story is of a dsytopic Britain in the not so distant future rocked out of complacency by a terrorist\freedom fighter named V. Did it live up to the hype? Was it made well? What topics were discussed? Read on…

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Mike: Here are some various reviews: NPR’s Bob Mondello, All Things Considered, Village Voice, NY TIMES and the source of all qualitative reviews condensed into a quantitative figure METACRITIC.

For information about how the comics community and Alan Moore (writer and disillusioned disowner of the original graphic novel) is reacting… check Comic Book Resources. One last (and overly negative) review…juxtaposing the graphic novel w\ the film ComixFan.

Let this be the place to discuss the goings on, the plot points, the references, the cinematic elements, the craft, the writing, the source material etc. Any opinions?

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Mike: So I saw V for Vendetta and frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Reviews across the board are mixed, and even the people I saw it with did not enjoy it that much. Aryn and Sue hinted on the phone that they thought it was weak. So, the question then is, is this all subjective or are their critical parts of the film either in construction or delivery that I am missing. Are the dissenters being overly critical of the film by expecting too much, or are they not looking deep enough? All I can say is that I have read the graphic novel and seen the film so I can say like I always do w\ adaptations to film, that certain things must be adjusted\shortened\tightened\added for a wider audience, for the film-story arc, the flow of the film etc.

LOTR\ Harry Potter\ Spiderman\ Batman\ Sin City and practically EVERY book or television series etc all have all had upset fans of the original work. However, this should not detract people from it. In fact I think seeing the films of these things only brings more interest to seek out the original work to learn a FULLER and more in depth story.

Aryn: My overall reaction about the movie was that it was a bit heavy handed. Normally I like the over the top depiction of social and political ideas when done well but I felt that this one was slightly off the mark. First items that I liked:

1) The blurred lines between terrorist and freedom fighter… I think that all too many times we (America or people in general) lack the perspective of the “other guy,” not to rationalize the senseless killing of innocent people in the name of a cause, its just that sometimes drastic measures have to be taken to institute the proper change that you feel in necessary.

2) The mostly lack of violence in the film. Although there was violence it wasn’t just a slasher comic book type movie.

3) The controversy and debate that has stemmed from this movie’s ideas and thoughts.

There are probably other things that I can’t think of right now. But the first three will suffice. Second items that I didn’t like so much:

1) The lamo “Matrix wannabe” fight scene between V and the cops at the end. I feel like they put this in just because they thought they had to. I think it was unnecessary.

2) The inconsistencies with some of the “rules” of the society. Supposedly it was a very controlled and censured, and if people were raised in this environment there is NO WAY that the tv people/ actors/ producers would go along with making that television show spoofing the president (although it was a pretty hilarious bit). I would see some underground group doing it but not a mainstream station.

3) The explanation for V putting Evey through the torture. I thought it was an interesting way to help her, but he could have come up with a better reason for doing it.

4) Why the heavy push to show the hatred of gays and Muslims. A little obvious I felt.

This movie I could see really enjoying back in high school, but I think the allusions to real current events were a bit heavy handed and long winded, and I began to groan as the movie progressed. So in summation, movie = mediocre. Although I do like Natalie Portman with and without a shaved head in this movie. She kind of looks like shanead o’conner (spelling?)

Mike: Many of your crits are valid…but here is why I think they can be explained in context of the film and the story.

While the fight scene at the end was in the graphic novel, it played differently. This might have to do with the fact that while adapting a story where a single point in time is depicted (in the comic); it lets the reader fill in the blanks. You have to as a comic story teller imply the action and let the reader do the rest. I thought the action was pretty good in the film. It implied the violence without being over the top… and honestly the film at this point NEEDED a confrontation to go over the top there…it was the climax of the film and V’s last stand. He had to go out like a hero in some ways to convince himself he was doing the right thing. In that way, his brutality was necessary to show 1) how far he was willing to go 2) he was a badass fighter.

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The reveal that Evey was tortured by V was one people have stated was cliché. But once again, I think 2 things.

1) This graphic novel was written in 1981 and in turn has been read for 25 years. It has been regarded as one of the most influential graphic novels EVER. So I’m guessing that this type of plot twist rang as redundant and silly because this device is used ALL the time in mainstream film and television. We are always told expect the unexpected as a viewer from the audience.

2) I think story wise, V’s explanation of why he tortured Evey in trying to help her was SUPPOSED to be confusing, blurry and questionable. Remember, V was a terrorist and a freedom fighter. He took the method of violence and unhesitating brutality to shock people out of their complacency. But we are always supposed to question his methods. We are supposed to have the same reaction that Evey did to the surprise because Evey is us, the audience. She guides us through this story.

Of course there are other options V could have used to have the same effect. But that would have been out of character for him. We are never really supposed to trust V or understand everything about him, or know him deeper than what he gives. In that we wonder, was V really trying to help Evey or simply convert her to his side? He is a romantic character and with that he brings out our raw emotions in reaction…anger, hatred, revenge, love, compassion etc.

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The reaction to the television host’s rebellion I think was just supposed to depict that the tide was turning in build up against the British government by the media and the public. This is much like after 9\11 where we and the media were quite nationalistic and outspoken in SUPPORT of our government. Anyone who questioned was seen as against America (remember ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’?) and it took much time before we could be critical of our leaders’ decisions. Now we can lambaste and make fun etc and the president’s approval rating has plummeted.

Now think in V for Vendetta… they had countless wars and then the massive viral outbreak (albeit one sinisterly concocted by the government to bring the nation together under fear and the miraculous ‘cure’). Afterwards the government cleaned house to rid itself of dissenters (think Guantanamo Bay and all the Arab people held)…no one wanted to rebel out of fear and all these people went underground.

As the tides began to turn under the hope that V’s rebellion would happen, people, like the television host and the media, were finally willing to take part to rebel without fear. They saw cracks in the government by the ineptitude of the bureaucracy. The killing of the host, to me read as the last stand by the government…a desperation Hail Mary to revert control back to their side. But you cannot stop momentum of the ball already in motion that easily.

With Evey’s capture (now known to be a hoax by V) we believe that the government is winning as Evey (the audience) loses hope that the government can be overthrown. We later realize that much time passes with Evey underground as she slowly begins to change her outlook and become stronger. So too are the British people growing stronger to rebel. It all comes to a head on the night of the rebellion.

Aryn: Don’t get me wrong here, I always support films that bring up societal and human happenings into their subject matter, and considering our current political/foriegn people relational state, the parallels between this movie and real life are quite apparent. I just thought that it was flatly pulled off.

There wasnt much happening in the way of editing that jumped out at me, except for during the final fight scene where the camera shot is through the empty chambers of the gun very David Fincher). This film is lumped into the world of 1984 style plot lines– government gets too much control, people are robots, art is the way to show off your “rebelness” and the people in power eventually destroy themselves from their own attempt to control the masses.

It may be that this territory feels so well tread because it was one of the influencers, but the fact that I just saw the movie last Saturday and today (Thursday) not even a week after am struggling to remember scenes, shows (to me at least) why I didnt find the movie that earth shattering/memorable. But I think there is definitly a place for it in the realm of movieland; it’s good that it was made, it’s good that it talks about what it does, it’s good that it got Natalie Portman to show off her perfect head, it had a few good moments, but sadly its just not a good movie. end scene.

Mike: You are going to find this strange, but last night I saw the film again w\ my cousin and her friends b\c 1) I had nothing better to do and 2) I was curious what I thought on repeat viewing considering your feelings that it is unmemorable. Kinda sad, I know.

Though I knew the ins and outs of the plot twists and turns, I felt the film still held up. The pacing seemed to me like it flowed more naturally than I originally thought as it forshadows things early on in both quote, quick cut imagry and mirrored camera shot, that makes the film feel mildly cyclical…that is, all things come full circle. While on first viewing I thought the torture scenes of Evey were vague and overbearing and emotionally hard to watch, this time I saw them in a new light; as being part of the process of developing her character. This is prob because I knew she would end up okay at the end and therefore did not throw me for an emotional wringer.

The film seemed much more hopeful and energetic and while still has a very clear message of what its protagonists feel is right, still leaves you with the impression that its up to the people to decide what to do. Much like the audience is supposed to decide whether they fully agree, disagree or find grey areas. Some people took the film at face value, others did the same but with the acknowledgement that it mirrored our real lives and this was one possible outcome of the path we are on.

Others worried that it might call to arms all the crazies that disagree with government of any kind. The government in the film seemed much more facist than I originally remember so you cannot help but side with V, where before I felt they were a bit closer to being a step or two away from our own American Empire. Anyway, just thought I’d give my last bit of impression before I let this thing die. I thought it was a solid effort.

Plus the Rolling Stones’ song ‘Street Fighting Man‘ from the album Beggar’s Banquet was a great choice for the credits. That song is really great in that mid 60s brit rock (and in hindsight early punk) way. I am going to find that album for the ‘ol rock and roll collection.

Aryn: I will rewatch it and reevaluate some day.. I promise.

Mike: Yeah yeah, we’ll see…

What did you think? Email us at hellocolumn@hellocomein.com

Coming up NEXT WEEK: Mike & Greg chat about the growing behemouth that is Google.

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