“V for Vendetta” gets a “B plus” for effort
Justified terrorism. That seems to be the bottom line raison d’etre for V, the main character in “V for Vendetta.” And he’s determined to put the totalitarian British government of the future in its place. The film is set in 2020, and is adapted from Alan Moore’s graphic novel (adult comic book), which promotes multiple philosophies as V (Hugo Weaving) traipses around England wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. (Fawkes was the Catholic extremist who was arrested for his failed attempt to blow up the English Parliament in 1605.) While doing so, he spouts revolutionary ideals, kills those who stand in his way, and blows up some buildings of his own while holed up in a reclusive penthouse decorated with government-banned treasures. Paintings, music, the Koran, even butter are contraband. Think Timothy McVie starring as “The Phantom of the Opera” channeling “The Omega Man” in a play written by George Orwell.
Oh, there’s plenty of conspiracy theory and anarchy-fueled undertones in a story that seems to want to say something about our dangerous political climate. With plenty of events and current topics from which to borrow– from 9/11 to the Patriot Act to religious fanaticism– “VFV” feels relevant and occasionally thought provoking.
But wait a minute. This is a comic book adaptation, so lets not get carried away. Its detractors have noted, accurately, the film’s muddled messages, careless treatment of violence and penchant for demagoguery (including anti-religious and pro homosexuality themes, no surprise there).
But the film’s fantastical nature is perfectly legitimate in the fantasy world of superheroes and dystopian dictators (in this case played to the frenzied hilt by John Hurt). Besides, nothing related to the Wachowski brothers (who wrote the screenplay and were responsible for the “Matrix” series) should be taken seriously.
All of the performances are highly watchable, including Natalie Portman as “V’s” orphaned prot?g? who despite an inconsistent British accent (that you might not have noticed, until now), and some questionable character development, fits the part and manages to retain a close-cropped cuteness.
As the film quickens toward V’s big bang surprise, deterred only by a bloody battle that earned the film’s “R” rating, you’ll notice more obviously the impossibility of the masked marauder’s solo exploits. But if you are spending a lot of time wondering how thousands of masks were distributed to nearly all of England in time for the decisive rebellion then you don’t understand what makes superheroes super.
With an uncommon visual flair, V’s vexing, voluminous soliloquies, and its noteworthy (if flawed) political allegories wrapped around a pretty decent crime drama, “V for Vendetta” puts some daring in its comic book derring-do.
Rated “R” for violence.