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A Flawed Homage to a Great Comicbook

I learned a valuable lesson here, never watch a film of a comic book you really like. I read the V for Vendetta comic book a few weeks ago and was struck by its dark, heroic vision of a dystopian society where Brit’s were controlled by a government who surveyed them constantly and used the media to feed messages of fear and lesser ones of hope.

I knew when I watched the film I was opening myself up to become one of those people who sit through an adaptation pointing out why it wasn’t as good as the comic book and to a point I was that man. 

What’s it all about: 

In London in a time around now, the country has been ravaged by the after effects of a massive war between America and Russia, the government has a climate of fear in place, the media is used to control citizens and tell them how to think (oooh topical!), in this climate, there is one man ‘V’ a mysterious man in a mask and hat based on Guy Fawkes who dares to do something about it, at the start he rescues a young girl called Evie from the secret police and then takes her to his lair where she discovers a paradise of banned books, music (which has all been destroyed to avoid creativity) and culture.

V takes her to the rooftop and shows her a view of London just as many City Icon’s such as the Old Bailey are blown up (By V) She returns to the TV company she works at but meets the man again when he takes over the station for just long enough to hold everyone hostage and transmit a message of hope to the nation. The film follows on from this as Evie is brought into V’s world and discovers who he is and why he is, at the same time there is a parallel story (not used in the comic) of a gay man who dares to mock the system and the countries leader, and is killed for it.

The film follows Evie’s journey to believe in something to the point where she would die for it and in our worlds reliance on hearsay, surveillance and control at the detriment of creativity, fun and happiness. 

I will not spoil the story but I did think this opened up various routes of thought for me, is Evie’s willingness to die for her cause a comment on liberty and justice or could it just as easily be commenting on the faith and brainwashing of suicide bombers, is the media and surveillance track simply a comment on society as a whole or is it a real kick in the guts for this country and our overreliance on newspapers and the television to tell us how we must think.

I was disappointed that V’s story was not built further from his incarceration as it is in the book and also that the ending gives a slightly different message to the book, I didn’t take the film to have a love story in any sense involved, but the film plays it this way (in my view to its detriment), also I felt the inspector who follows V’s exploits was underplayed and his role in the book is much more integral. 

The plot of V being experimented on and his attempts to murder all concentration camp staff are underplayed and whilst the murders are very close to the book, overall this part was very disappointing for me.  In the comic book, these are the central themes of his desire for revenge, the reasoning behind his vendetta and really hit home, what a dictatorial environment V lives in, in the film, these are shown briefly but much more emphasis is placed on developing the relationship between V and Evie.

Leaving this aside I felt visually it was well made, the film did a lot of good things, it for the most part followed the book, but it is difficult to fill two hours with the detail and intricacies that can be put across in a book and for that reason I think the film is good rather than great. 

Visually the film is a mixed bag, it looks great in parts and suffers from being too dark in others, it isn’t able to match the imagination of its writer, in many ways, but it is not bad at all, its not brilliant, but is in no way comparable to a turkey like ‘The Spirit’.

I felt Hugo Weaving was good in the main role, courageous, eloquent and poetic with the swashbuckling spirit of Flynn or Fairbanks. Portman does a good job as Evie although her character has been changed a lot from the book and not for the better, she gives her best and can’t be faulted, it’s just a shame that her journey is less relevant than I had originally hoped and she becomes yet another movie heroine, rather than the damaged character of the book, who could quite easily continue as a heroine/anti-heroine for further adventures.

Stephen Rea is good in his small part as the Inspector and Stephen Fry is fine in his role as a tv presenter, although I found his storyline a bit corny and over elaborate in getting across the point that the state was fascist in its denial of anyone who was different this could have been done in a faster more subtle way allowing more of the original books content to be included in the film. 

Overall it’s a reasonable film in its own right, but is not in any way comparable to its source material.