film review **: V for Vacuous
Wachowski Brothers Botch Movie Adaptation of Classic Graphic Novel
By Nivair Gabriel
V for Vendetta
Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Written by Andy and Larry Wachowski
Directed by James McTeigue
Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt
Three great things about Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” are that it’s a collection of brilliant character studies, it’s unlike every other dystopian story, and the connection between the two main characters isn’t reduced to a cheap and hackneyed infatuation. In their movie adaptation, the Wachowski Brothers changed all of that.
Watching the film is like waiting anxiously for a bus, only to find that each one that arrives is going somewhere else. The movie is deceptive: with illustrator Lloyd on board, “V for Vendetta” is visually breathtaking, and most scenes are directly reminiscent of panels in the comic book. It’s all the more disturbing, then, when important plot points are scrubbed, character motivations are totally altered (or, more often, erased), and it becomes clear that Andy and Larry Wachowski completely missed the point.
“V for Vendetta,” the graphic novel, is a dark and personal portrayal of various people’s lives in a Fascist and futuristic Great Britain; the one thing the characters share is their connection with V, a masked figure whose ideas are stronger than his identity. The story is knitted together deftly, and the subtlety and thoughtfulness of the dialogue makes it truly unique. “V for Vendetta” the movie is an odd, skewed blend of Moore’s original lines and the Wachowski Brothers’ horrible new ideas.
Instead of showing the human side of the Fascist leaders, as Moore does with great success in the comic book, the Wachowski Brothers chose to add multiple pointless scenes in which the newly renamed Chancellor (John Hurt) spits with rage at his all-male lackeys. Moore’s more subtle portrayal, therefore, has given way to a glaring portrait of Hitler that leaves viewers no room for sympathy (or original thought). In the book, V’s at first unwilling prot g Evey (Natalie Portman in the film) has an entirely normal love affair with Gordon Dietrich (Stephen Fry), whose murder finally convinces her that she cannot find a place in such a corrupt world. In the movie, Dietrich is instead a gay man who resists the government — his entire purpose in the plot changes. The Wachowski Brothers, too, decide to spend script time developing their own concept of a biological weapon, glossing over the explanation of V’s imprisonment. V’s motivation is reduced to two lines: “What was done to me was monstrous,” and “they created a monster.” This describes a cookie-cutter Hollywood villain, not a character as nuanced and ambiguous as V. Obviously, Andy and Larry’s idiotic and overdone messages should have been left out of the script entirely, and it’s easy to see why writer Alan Moore has called this work “rubbish.”
The actors, at least, believed, even in this skewed vision. Stephen Rea gives a brilliant performance as the quiet and determined Inspector Finch, who in the process of looking for V becomes consumed by him. Rea made it possible to almost imagine that his character had layers. As the revamped Evey, Portman tugged at the heartstrings, performing memorably in the one scene the screenwriters managed not to ruin. Hugo Weaving lent his voice to the masked V with great success; on the rare occasions when the script lifted almost direct quotes from Moore’s book, Weaving delivered the lines perfectly.
For viewers interested in hot fight scenes and easy resolution of conflicts, this might be the film to see. V’s shrewd knives fly through the air, bullet-like raindrops fall on Evey’s face, and pretty much everything explodes. So as far as cinematography and special effects are concerned, director James McTeigue doesn’t disappoint — but it’s a far more difficult task to tell a good story, and this movie doesn’t.