Thursday, March 16, 2006

V For Vendetta: Preview Review

First, a small disclaimer. I last read V For Vendetta about 3 years ago, so I am quite fuzzy on the specific plot of the comic. As a result, while I am going to try to keep this review from becoming a movie/comic comparison. If I should do a little compare and constrast, it is very possible that I may err when describing the comic proper. Which is why I'll try to avoid it, when possible.

V the movie is very good. I'll just get that out of the way right off the top. It's stylish and engrossing, and the director, James McTeigue, managed to resist the temptation to Matrix-ize the production, for the most part. There are a couple of scenes that involve some CGI work, but it's smooth and unintrusive. (i.e. there's no bullet-time, for what it's worth.)

Elements of the comic have been rejigged, some just a little and some quite a bit. Most noticeably, the character of Gordon has been changed quite considerably.

I think the changes work, for the most part. Readers of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's original comic might swoon at the thought of changing anything, but this is not an arthouse film, and should be approached as a studio picture. And as a studio picture, it certainly engages the audience, putting forth a message of active resistance against oppression that is more complex than is common among Hollywood action movies.

The character of V is a difficult one, both in nature and logistics. V is so over-the-top, so animated in his speech and mannerisms, that it must be quite difficult to pull of without veering into caricature. I think if the wrong notes were hit, it would be rather easy to see V as a cartoonish character, someone like Bugs Bunny. Hugo Weaving does incredible work with his voice and body language, lending V a sense of nobility and sadness that is easily discernable, despite the abence of facial expression to serve as cue.

Natalie Portman is excellent as Evie. Acting opposite a dynamic personage such as V puts a great deal of pressure on the other lead. The audience must feel connected to Evie, especially when plot dictates that V disappear from the screen for great stretches of time throughout the film. I didn't once fidget during the Evie scenes, didn't once wish that V would show up and slash somebody or deliver a rousing speech, and I think that speaks of the power of Portman's performance.

V For Vendetta is a dark movie, but does contain scenes of great humor and heart. While ostensibly a movie about social problems, about facism and the risks inherent in giving up perosnal freedoms in the pursuit of security, V is very much at heart a movie about the relationship between V and Evie. I believe that a large part of why the movie connects and succeeds is the strength of the performances. I wasn't simply concerned about the plight of futuristic Great Britain, but heavily emotionally invested in the V/Evie interactions.

It's a movie about ideas as much as people. But the ideas would never have stuck, never would have been able to take root without the care that was given to characters exploring those ideas.

Highly recommended, whether you've read the comic or not.

Oh, and the song that plays over the end credits is genius. I left the theatre looking for a fascist government to overthrow. So watch yourself, Stephen Harper.

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