In 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament in a failed attempt to assassinate King James I. The would-be assassin has his own holiday in Great Britain, celebrated as Guy Fawkes Day every fifth of November. Since this isn’t part of American history, it wasn’t generally known by pop culture until this movie came out.
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore (Watchmen) and produced by the Wachowski Brothers, V for Vendetta has the title character V (Hugo Weavings) donning a Guy Fawkes costume and carrying on Fawkes’ work against an oppressive British government headed by Adam Sutler (John Hurt). Along the way, he saves Evey (Natalie Portman), a production assistant, from the oppressive Norsefirm regime’s secret police. V takes Evey under his wing while perpetuating a destructive, yet well-orchestrated, assault on the fascist regime. However, the authorities are closing in, with V’s enemies ranging from a hard-nosed, competent inspector (Stephen Rea) to the sleazy head of secret police (Tim Pigott-Smith).
If you’re looking for action, V For Vendetta will certainly not disappoint. As stated before, the movie is the product of the Wachowskis, who are famous for The Matrix trilogy, and who bring their own famous brand of action to the movie. Beyond this, the movie is also directed by James McTiegue, the assistant director on The Matrix who also directed Ninja Assassin (which will probably end up on B-Log sooner or later). The fight scenes are fast-paced, frantic yet smooth, and easily one of the best parts of the movies. But if you need more, there are plenty of explosions (usually on British landmarks) and wide-ranging cast further including Stephen Fry, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam and more.
I really only have on problem with this movie: the changes made in the movie version fundamentally alter the work’s message. While some changes are necessary (in the book, Evey is a teenage prostitute), some water down the work as a whole. For example, in the book, the oppressive fascist government were elected legally, while in the film, they took control of the government covertly. In the book, the oppressive Norsefire regime is depicted as a non-descript organization complete with vague names like “the Mouth” and “the Fingers” (not to mention a “Head” who has a very disturbing relationship with the computer he uses to monitor society Big Brother-style). In the film, however, the Norsefire is seen simply as a more fantastic Nazi regime. As a result, while Moore’s anarchic streak holds that all governments are capable of oppression, the film only points the finger at certain right-wing elements.
This movie should have at least tried to reflect the themes of the book, whether you agree with Moore’s politics or not (I, for one, do not). But while the movie claims to be making Moore’s work more “politically relevant” for a “modern American audience,” the movie only succeeds in watering down V for Vendetta by making only “safe” choices.
All and all, V for Vendetta is a good action movie with some serviceable political intrigue. But anyone looking for anything resembling Moore’s grandiose political commentary might be better served looking elsewhere, notably Zach Snyder’s superior adaptation of Watchmen.