Set in an Orwellian Britain, V For Vendetta tells the story of a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued one night from government thugs by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as “V.”
Her mysterious rescuer is a complex man, dedicated to freeing his fellow citizens from those who have terrorized them into compliance. Bitter and revenge-seeking, lonely and violent, he is driven by a personal vendetta.
In his quest to free the people of England, V condemns the tyrannical nature of their appointed leaders and invites his fellow citizens to join him in the shadows of Parliament on November the 5th – Guy Fawkes Day. On that day in 1605, Fawkes was discovered in a tunnel beneath Parliament with 36 barrels of gunpowder, part of the treasonous “Gunpowder Plot” which was in response to government tyranny. Fawkes and his fellow saboteurs were hanged, drawn and quartered, and their plan never came to pass.
In the spirit of that rebellion, in remembrance of that day, V vows to carry out Fawkes plot: he will blow up Parliament. As Evey uncovers the truth about V’s past, she emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to ignite a revolution, bringing freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.
The graphic novels of Alan Moore must present themselves as both a blessing and a curse to filmmakers. A blessing in that they offer worlds of imagination, a curse in that they are often far too densely-plotted and long to properly fit into a two-hour or so feature film. 2001s From Hell and 2003s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the two works by Moore to previously hit cinemas, both had promise that quickly went down the drain as the frames flicked by.
V For Vendetta, the latest adaptation of Moores work to hit the screen, is more of a success than the aforementioned duo, but not by much. Vendettas screenplay adaptation was written by Matrix creators Larry and Andy Wachowski – they wrote the first draft before working on the original Matrix . It is a cross between Orwells 1984 and a revenge fantasy, but while the political and action aspects are intriguing, theydont come together to form a satisfying conclusion or memorable film experience.
An overabundance of characters and apparent attempt to be as loyal to Moores source material as possible are the main issues. We have the story of Evey, what happened to her parents, the climate of England under the rule of fascist Chancellor Adam Sutor (John Hurt), Vs origins and motives for revenge, two detectives (Stephen Rea and Rupert Graves) uncovering a government conspiracy while tracking down our heroes and more, all crammed into a little over two hours of film.four-hour miniseries. The Wachowskis throw so much at the viewer at once that the gaps in storytelling logic dont surface until after you watch the film, a sleight-of-hand storytelling practice that the boys used on the Matrix sequels.
Director James McTeigue, a protg of the Wachowskis, shows promise in his directorial debut, but winds up being hindered by the script. Together with the late cinematographer Adrian Biddle (the film is dedicated to him) and production designer Owen Paterson, McTeigue creates an arresting atmosphere of political and social foreboding. Alas, he fails to find a decent story balance between the politics and action, come up with a overall consistent tone or focus on one story thread long enough to make it stick (thanks, Larry and Andy).
The director finds more luck with his talented ensemble cast. Portman, finally free of Star Wars, is good as the young heroine, not quite on the same level as her great work in Closer or Garden State but good enough. Hugo Weaving, or at least his voice (he is masked for the entire film), makes for a charismatic and intriguing anti-hero. Stephen Fry is terrific in his all-too-brief appearance as a variety show host, Rea and Graves make for a credible pair of investigators, while Hurt chews as much scenery as possible in a fun turn as the futuristic leader who bears more than a passing resemblance to Hitler.
V For Vendetta is a project that has been gestating in Hollywood for quite some time, but its arrival in the era of the “War On Terror” couldnt be more timely. Unfortunately, it squanders the opportunity to say something relevant about the subject by failing to properly develop the myriad of ideas it presents. V is for Vendetta. M is for Meh.