V for Vendetta

By now, a fair number of Bureau-crats will have watched this adaptation of Alan Moore‘s graphic novel. How does it hold up?

Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Andy Wachawski and Larry Wachawski from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Natalie Portman as Evey
Hugo Weaving as V
Stephen Rea as Finch

John Hurt as Adam Suttler
Tim Pigott-Smith. as Creedy
Roger Allam as Lewis Prothero
Stephen Fry as Deitrich

Sinéad Cusack as Delia Surridge
Natasha Wightman as Valerie
Billie Cook as the Little Glasses Girl
Clive Ashborn as Guy Fawkes


A woman becomes involved with a mysterious man waging war against an oppressive government.

High Points:

1. The hopeful manner in which V’s revolution catches on—- even while we start to question his motives and actions. The complex questions have been simplified in this film, but that seems inevitable in a Hollywood adaptation of a comic. I understand the original source handles them in a much more ambiguous and satisfying manner.

2. Visually, the film often works very well, and I liked the imagery of the masked crowds, even as I wondered about…. Uh, see “Low Points.”

Low Points

1. I know that V represents “an idea,” and I recognize that we make certain allowances when watching a film of this nature. However, I found the logistics of V’s plot seriously strained credibility.

2. The speeches are not all necessary, and at times adversely affect the pace.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 This has been adapted from an existing source, and one which covers familiar ground.

Effects: 6/6. The effects have been well-handled.

Story: 4/6. Moore has been critical of the script, but I think it maintains the audience’s interest. Some points beg for further explanation. How does V arrange the mass shipment of masks? Why are high-ranking officials of a totalitarian regime so involved in those hands-dirtying activities that high-ranking officials in all kinds of regimes always manage to avoid?

Acting: 4/6. The cast do well, generally. Portman stands out, giving a strong performance as Evey. Weaving as V is hammy, though it would be challenging to effectively deliver quotation-heavy dialogue while wearing a mask that obscures all facial features.

Production: 6/6 The film features solid production and some memorable imagery.

Emotional Response: 4/6.

Overall: 5/6. I still have not read the original V for Vendetta. Even watching an adaptation, one recognizes Moore’s influences1: Thatcher, the National Front, the rise of the New Right, AIDS, anarchism, the media and the politics of fear. The film version itself has in mind the War on Terror, the media and the politics of fear. Both raise interesting questions about the lines that separate Terrorist and Freedom Fighter, vengeance and justice, mad courage and madness. To some degree, this is a popcorn movie, but it also has ideas.

In total, V for Vendetta receives 30/42

1. Apart, I mean, from Orwell’s 1984 and the history of Nazism.

9 replies on “V for Vendetta”

  1. Liked it doubleplusgood
    I have read the original graphic novel, and I quite liked this adaptation. There are many changes from the original, some omissions, and some new material. (I liked Stephen Frys bit for example)

    In the beginning of the movie I was at first a bit upset that they had apperantly sanitized Eveys character, in the original she is out after curfew, trying to prostitute herself. Not so in the movie, but there is an explanation.

    There is also the omission of Fate, the supercomputer that controls the country.
    In the novel V controls Fate which explains how he manages to control everything…

    England prevails!


    • Re: Liked it doubleplusgood

      In the original… there is an explanation.

      Well that clears up a couple of questions I had about V’s miraculous ability to get some things done; clearly he is well resourced, but that doesn’t explain things like the bulk shipment of the masks for instance. Now if only Amazon would hurry up and deliver my copy of the book!

      • Re: Liked it doubleplusgood
        In the graphic novel, that doesn’t happen. In the novel, the cameras and microphones are everywhere, including all parts of the home. V frees the people by taking out the two buildings involved in monitoring those, rather than giving everyone masks.

  2. Comic Book
    The comic book took a couple of issues to hit its stride. I think the movie had a tighter and more straightforward narrative, which I appreciated, but it lacked a lot of the depth–character and story–from the comic. The movie lost some of the comic’s edge; for example, in the movie, Evey didn’t try to whore herself out to the Fingerman, Finch didn’t take LSD before visiting Larkhill, and the Chancellor didn’t fall in love with his computer… I don’t really care about that stuff though, and I didn’t miss it.

    I think a lot of the changes between the comic book and the movie have to do with the change in audience. These days, terrorism is a major theme, and fascism takes a back seat. The fact that the government is a generic authoritarian regime with Winston Smith staring down at us from a big screen and yelling is sufficient to convey the idea, and a more direct approach to fascism would not be relevant. The nuclear threat doesn’t resonate with us so much any more, so in the movie world, half the planet hasn’t been destroyed in a limited nuclear war. I think a lot of complaints stem from people expecting the comic book themes to be rehashed, but political commentary has a short half-life, and reproducing the comic’s story would not be appropriate. I think this was a solid adaptation.

  3. Absurdity in London Telegraph review
    This is kind of an aside, but the Telegraph’s John Hiscock ran an article about the movie here:

    < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2006/03/10/bfvendetta10.xml&menuId=564&sSheet=/arts/2006/03/10/ixfilmmain.html&gt;

    Here’s something that jumped out at me:

    "The film, set in a ravaged, crumbling London in 2020, when most of the rest of the world has been destroyed by biological warfare and viruses, has been updated to reflect current fears about what a future totalitarian state might repress — free speech, homosexuality and Islam, among other things."

    Uh, come again? Do I really need to point out how contorted this is? I mean, if you want to get technical about it, sure, a "future totalitarian state" "might" repress Islam; then again, it "might" repress *anything*. But in the real world, Islamic states are repressing those other things right now. To put it another way, it is at least just as reasonable to fear Islam as a source of repression as it is to fear that Islam itself will be oppressed.

    Just struck me as weird.

    • Huh?
      What is the issue? The imaginary totalitarian society depicted in the film specifically restricts/outlaws all of the things listed. One character finds himself in specific trouble because he has a copy of the Koran. Yes, some Islamic countries have laws which suppress any number of what in the west we consider rights. But V for Vendetta is set specifically in an imaginary totalitarian Britain, and the Telegraph writes for a British audience. Totalitarian governments frequently mistreat minority groups, and Muslims are a minority in Britain. Furthermore, the film’s government appears to have gained its early power in part as a reaction to the War on Terror, a war which would make British Muslims easy scapegoats. Taken in context, the Telegraph‘s statement isn’t odd at all.

    • Re: Absurdity in London Telegraph review

      London in 2020, when most of the rest of the world has been destroyed by biological warfare and viruses

      With the media in V for Vandetta being so corrupt, I wonder how much of what we saw happening in other parts of the world is true? The media could simply be spinning things to make the Britain leardership look better, just like they do at other points in the movie.

  4. Dirty Hands
    Why are high-ranking officials of a totalitarian regime so involved in those hands-dirtying activities that high-ranking officials in all kinds of regimes always manage to avoid?

    If you’re referring to their involvement with Larkhill, they weren’t all that high-ranking at the time, and they were on the inside track to gain wealth (and thus power) through investing in the company that would "discover" the cure for the disease they created.

    • Re: Dirty Hands
      Why are high-ranking officials of a totalitarian regime so involved in those hands-dirtying activities that high-ranking officials in all kinds of regimes always manage to avoid?

      I was thinking of the black-bagging of Dietrich, assuming I’ve remembered the movie correctly at this point.

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