V For Vendetta

Director: James McTeigue (2006)
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea
Find it: IMDB

Vivacious video violence in this otherwise vaguely vapid adaptation of the venerable Alan Moore's V For Vendetta. It's a more faithful retelling than I'd initially remembered, and is far better than the execrable League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but feels too polished and slick to do justice to the source material.

Hugo Weaving is V For Vendetta, which seems like a rather clunky name for a superhero to me. Unlike Batman or Spider-Man, V For Vendetta is all about bringing down the government. Which is why he wears a Guy Fawkes mask, referencing the cheeky chappy who sought to blow up parliament in 1605. Witty people will do that joke about him being "the only person ever to enter parliament with honest intentions." LOL, mass murder. Those same witty people can currently be seen occupying Wall Street and London and Birmingham, wearing plastic V For Vendetta masks. Mass produced masks, made in China. Based from off've a hit film. Which they bought legally. From a shop. Way to stick it to the man, dudes.

V For happens across Evey (Portman) who is out after curfew, being hassled by government officials. After speaking alliterative nonsense at them, Vendetta attacks them with his knives and a hand that falls off. He blows up Big Ben and a friendship forms between the two. It's like Spider-man and Mary Jane, except Vendetta kidnaps Evey, shaves all her hair off and subjects her to the sort of thing you'd expect to see in 24 or Martyrs, before they start the peeling. It's like the most horrible scenes in 1984 or Brazil, except the hero is the one doing all of the horrible things. To be fair, V For is the hero that London deserves, not the one it needs.

The Tories The Norsefire party are running England, led by Adam Sutler (Hurt). V For Vendetta was written by Moore as a response to the government of the 1980s. It's no less relevant now (although Sutler is more classically evil than our Dave Cameron's plastic-faced brand of insidiousness). But it really doesn't translate that well to film. V For's mask is inexpressive (unless you like constant smug), like The Green Goblin in Spider-Man. Weaving is a great actor, but his voice is as smug as the mask looks. Everything else is too shiny, looking like a regular action/superhero film when it should be anything but. Stephen Fry is impossible to take seriously. Meanwhile, John Hurt turns his Sutler into a pantomime performance. Only Stephen Rea pulls it off, playing shabby copper Finch.

V For Vendetta is a fine film but a better comic book. This adaptation is prescient, relevant and clever. It's quite moving too; not hard to see why it would appeal to would-be protesters and rebels. It makes a nice change from hippies going around wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, but fuck me do those masks look smug. Whenever I see someone wearing a V For Vendetta mask, I don't think "ooh, look at that rebellious rebel," I think, "what a cock. I hope he doesn't try to talk to me." I'm allowed to say that, because I actually own a V For Vendetta mask. I write my smuggest reviews whilst wearing that mask. I'm wearing it now. The movie has ruined that beautiful bit of imagery and actually diminished V's power. V is not supposed to be Batman or Superman; V is a symbol, not a superhero. Knowing that V speaks like Hugo Weaving with a stick up his bottom has left me feeling as I did when I first discovered what a vagina actually looks like. Some comic books defy adaptation. Protesters, I beg of you: dress up as Green Arrow instead. He totally would have dug your cause.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November. But preferably, do it whilst reading the book and not watching this film. Definitely don't do either whilst wearing that horrible plastic mask.

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