Mike wood reviews v for vendetta
This could’ve been great. It is after all based on an angry story about the overthrow of a British fascist regime, originally written as an attack on Thatcherism and British nationalism in the 1980s. Its central character, V — remaining anonymous throughout — is an idea, the personification of the Vendetta the government has earned from its people. He is the homicidal product of medical experiments conducted on concentration camp inmates. What a great concept! Unfortunately this isn’t a really great film.
Instead it’s a garbled mess with just enough of the original inspiration shining through to make it worthwhile. The vast story of the Alan Moore and David Lloyd comic is necessarily cut down, with much of the “vicious cabaret” of supporting cast taken out. But whilst extraneous subplots have been removed, new, utterly pointless, ones have been added.
The film is two and a half hours long, yet it feels shallow. Action sequences are added that seem tacked-on. They’re all well made, but none of them can quite shake the feeling that none of the characters involved have any need to be there in the first place.
I object to these changes because they often seem to be made for no good reason, and they detract significantly from the politics of the story. Attempts are made to update from the Cold War era of the comic into modern politics. But this isn’t well executed. As a result the story of the regime’s rise is attributed to a complicated conspiracy theory with numerous plot holes and continuity errors strewn through it. This is both unrealistic and unnecessary. As Moore wrote in 1988; it would take nothing as “melodramatic” as this to push England to such extremes.
The upshot of all this is that the fascism depicted seems to be not quite out and out fascism. It seems more like heavy authoritarianism. If the conspiracy theory is to be believed, the concentration camps pictured are the exception, not the publicly acknowledged rule.
The genius of Moore and Lloyd’s work lay in exposing the possibility of a fascism that was a very English affair. They utilised World-War-Two style imagery to portray a world where middle-aged men in bowler hats and grey suits condemned thousands to die for being gay, or black. They turned nostalgia on its head to create something both shocking yet also familiar.
Wachowski’s film seems incapable of accomplishing any of this. It tries to short-cut its way to realism with a healthy sprinkling of current political references. It’s a nice idea, but it falls way short of the mark.
Most annoyingly V no longer appears to be an anarchist in the film version. Part of the joy of V for Vendetta was finding something so mainstream that was also so explicitly radical, with lengthy monologues from V on the need for an anarchist society. V, in this portrayal, is not explicitly political – more just anti-authoritarian. What was once cutting, controversial, and extremely persuasive, has become slightly banal.
This is still a cut above your usual action film, but it’s ultimately very dissapointing.