REVIEW: “V for Vendetta”

V POSTER BABY

“Remember, remember the 5th of November”. These are the first words mentioned in the 2005 thriller “V for Vendetta”. It’s a phrase referencing the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. This failed attempt to blow up The House of Lords has oddly become a celebrated event and it serves as the inspiration for this movie’s masked vigilante known as V. This is a film based on a comic book written by Alan Moore which was distributed by Vertigo, a brand of DC comics. The screenplay was written by the then Wachowski brothers which instantly caused concern for me. I’ve had a hard time latching on to their other work but I entered this with an open mind hoping they would avoid the traps they normally fall into.

The movie starts off on a good note introducing us to its fascist dystopian near-future world. It also introduces us to V, an underground resistance fighter sporting a cool Guy Fawkes mask and a belt full of blades. He’s played eloquently by the fluid-tongued Hugo Weaving. He rescues a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) from three alley thugs and then goes on to reveal to her his plans to spark a revolution. His methods (which could understandably be called terrorism) disturbs Evey but she also finds herself mesmerized by the words and reason of the mysterious V.

V poster

Hugo Weaving as V

At first the oppressive and tyrannical world we are thrown into is fascinating. The government has gained supreme power and High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt) is pulling all the strings. The government controls the flow of information and Sutler ultimately decides what’s acceptable in every facet of the people’s lives. The citizenry sit in front of their TVs in an almost hypnotic state while the government filters and alters the “news” and “entertainment”. The totalitarian rule is realized in a variety of alarming ways which makes V’s passion and cause more sympathetic.

But as with most of the Wachowski’s other work they don’t know when to stop. After drawing us into this disturbing yet entrancing world they created, they don’t focus on unwrapping the story within it. Instead they bombard us with contrived and heavy-handed political sermonettes and pop shots. They throw out a crazy amount of soapbox issues and irrational comparisons which they have every right to do. The problem is they become so obviously forced and they do nothing to help the greater story. The social issues, the Bush bashing, the ‘blame America’ nonsense, the selective religious critique, rendition, blah, blah, blah. The second half of the film is filled with these injections that make it feel like a left-wing political propaganda piece, something the movie is supposedly speaking against.

These things mixed with the sometimes bloated dialogue ultimately made “V for Venetta” an almost laborious experience. That’s a shame because there are things the movie does well particularly in the first half. I mentioned the fantastic early impressions of the world and Weaving’s brilliant performance even during some of the Wachowski’s more blabber-heavy scenes. But the excess crap eventually weighs the thing down and at over 130 minutes it was a tad tough to endure. Director James McTeigue does the movie no favors either. There are all kinds of pacing issues and his dull camera tempered the film which seemed to be screaming for a bit of style. And he never develops enough tension and intrigue past the first act – a problem we also get in his most recent film “The Raven”. Visually the movie underwhelms and, aside from a couple of impressive explosions, it resembles a TV production. All these things left me wanting more.

V movie

Natalie Portman

The most frustrating thing about “V for Vendetta” was that it had me during the first half. Despite its technical shortcomings I was wrapped up in the story and I found myself anxious for Hugo Weaving’s next scene. But when things come unglued I was just anxious for the ending. The Wachowskis don’t seem to understand when they’ve created a good thing. Here they take the great message built around an oppressive government and squash it with their own preachy hard-left politics. There’s nothing wrong with that in the hands of more capable writers and filmmakers, but here the latter politics don’t propel the movie. Instead they feel far more self-serving.

I know this movie has its share of followers but for me it’s a case of squandering a good thing. It goes off the rails and leaves nothing of any substance. There is a good message hidden somewhere under the clunky and peremptory politics but I lost my grasp of it halfway through. That’s unfortunate because I really wanted to like this movie. But in the end I can see why Alan Moore disassociated himself from it even if his overall problems with it were a little different than mine.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

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42 thoughts on “REVIEW: “V for Vendetta”

  1. Wow, there are more of us! I didn’t like it particularly much either and I think I landed on a rating somewhere similar to yours. But I’ve always been in a minority.

    • That’s a good first comment to get! I’m kinda feeling like I may get several comments from those disagreeing with me. It seems this film has a rather large following but it really didn’t work for me.

  2. Well then. Not cool, Keith. Not cool. I understand your problems but I don’t think they’re anywhere near as severe as you make them out. However, your points make me curious. I love the film but I may need to rewatch it with your filters on. I may have just been lying to myself because of the glossy badass overtone.

    • LOL! I know this film has a firm legion of support and I don’t intend to provoke. But I really think this movie takes those few edgy threads and milks them for all they can get. And past that lies a pretty bland and heavy-handed sermon that just didn’t make for good cinema in my little ol’ opinion.

    • Very true. I know this movie has a lot of fans but it didn’t work for me. I felt it thought it was a lot more edgy and revolutionary than it ever was.

    • Even though I’m a comic book guy this movie never appealed to me. But after hearing so much praise for it over the years I decided to give it a watch. Nope, wasn’t my thing. But I know many love it.

      • Do you think your expectations were raised due to the hype? Causing a more critical analysis, in comparison to if you hadn’t heard so much about it beforehand?

        Sometimes I find my expectations going into a movie, prejudice me towards it. I end up loving mediocre movies because I expected them to be crap, and liking movies that are otherwise deemed ‘awesome’.

      • Not really. I mean the hype didn’t spark me to watch it. I only saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those “I can’t figure out what to get from Netflix. Oh look, V. Might as well give it a look” kind of things.

    • Thanks my friend. I appreciate you giving my view a look. I just think the film gets to preachy for its own good. It sets its environment up nicely but never allows the characters to breathe in it. I just couldn’t latch onto it.

    • Sorry man but thanks for giving my review a look. Movies are funny that way. They work for some but not for others. Then again, that’s what makes them so great, right?

  3. Keith, great review but my sad face says this is a really underrated movie for me, but well done for being strong on it and you got plenty of agreement up there too.

  4. Hi Keith! Y’know I actually appreciate this film, I even bought the BD as I was so impressed by Hugo Weaving’s performance. That said, I totally get where you’re coming from and your review points out some of the things I had issues with (the Bush bashing, the β€˜blame America’ nonsense, the selective religious critique, etc.) I mean they were ‘easy targets’ and some filmmakers do it out of pure indulgence.

    I guess I do like the fact that the character V is against tyrannical/oppressive government, even if I don’t agree with his means. So yeah, to your point, it makes the America-bashing even more nonsensical, ahah.

    Again, I really appreciate your honest take on things Keith, even if we don’t always agree.

    • Thanks Ruth. I think Weaving’s performance is great and he was definitely the highlight for me. Sadly I just felt more and more disconnected from the movie the farther along it went.

  5. I agree, I find this movie to be hugely overrated. Many of the lines here were just silly for me and I’m shocked how beloved that movie is. It was entertaining but for me it really wasn’t anything special.

    • You hit the nail on the head. I find this to be an overrated film as well. I can’t quite figure out the fascination with it. But that’s kind of the way movies work. Some people like them and some people down.

  6. Another movie where we disagree. But It’s been a while since I watched this, so maybe a fresh viewing will cause me to be more analytical. I loved this movie, and thought it was executed pretty decently. I particularly liked the completely ambiguous way in which ‘V’s origin was portrayed.

    I’m a fan of the Wachowskis, SPEED RACER notwithstanding. But I can completely understand your reasons for not liking it.

    • I wanted to like this film. I just think in the end they’re selling their cool factor and not much else. Much like Cloud Atlas, I don’t think this is a much lighter weight movie than the Wachowski’s think. BUT as my wife will tell you – I’ve been wrong before.

  7. This movie was laughable, they actually had a scene where in the year 2016 someone is holding a negative Bush poster…….what a joke. I saw this in 2013 ans it looks like the oppressive government in the movie is the Obama administration of today……journalist intimidated, people with opposing political view harrassed by irs govermnet agency, yelling tv talking heads pushing state run propaganda………………..the socilaist bullies of facism.

    • It is funny how they do unintentionally resemble some of the things we are seeing today. Still the movie is so heavy- handed that I was burnt out. Nothing here that excites me at all.

      Thanks for checking out my review.

  8. Haven’t seen this since it was released and quite liked it at the time…should do a rewatch to see what my thoughts are about it now…

  9. Pingback: » Movie Review – Ninja Assassin Fernby Films

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