Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A resounding "meh"

Spoilers abound. Oooooo. Beware.

So, yeah, "V for Vendetta." ... I'm sort of tempted not to post anything at all about the movie because most of my thoughts on it can be summed up as "it's not as good as the book." Which, I mean, no fucking duh. The book's always better.

Still, it's interesting to note the ways in which the movie falls down in comparison, at least to me. Certainly this is the most faithful and best adaptation of Moore's work yet, but that's not saying a heck of a lot now is it? If anything, V proves to me that Moore's comics are too knotty, epic and intricate to adapt to film. We're probably better off not trying.

Anyway, Hugo Weaving is decent as V, though there were one too many hand flourishes to suit me. I can imagine how difficult it is to have to act without using your face, but the constant gesturing drew me out of the moment at times.

They attempted to make V more human also, and you get some "Phantom of the Opera" like scenes where he weeps in front of a mirror. That's not really in keeping with the icy character in the comic, but I understand the need to humanize him. I'm just not sure it works.

Natalie Portman is pretty good, so long as she isn't required to do anything too tricky. As soon as we come to THAT SCENE (you know what scene I mean) she stumbles, and I could sense her becoming all "actorly." I would think it would be a pretty impossible scene for just about anyone, so I will cut her a bit of slack. The rest of the cast is pretty good though, particularily the two Stephens, Fry and Rea.

One of my problems with Portman is the fact that she remains such a pretty thing throughout the film (not to mention a little too old for the role methinks). I mean, there she is, at her wit's end in prison and I'm thinking, wow, she looks good for someone who's just been tortured. If I were the director and she came to me looking like that for those scenes, I would have sent her back to make up, tout suite.

That Hollywoodization continues throughout the whole film. Everything's clean and precise, compared with the grubby, rundown feel of London in the graphic novel. Also, everyone seems to have digital tvs and the Internet in fascist Britain. You'd think those things would be the first to go, but I guess not.

As you'd expect with a film adaptation of such a rich work, many supporting characters are shunted to the side or forgotten entirely. John Hurt, as the fascist leader, comes off particularily cartoonish as a result and I wish they had spent, oh, five minutes more fleshing his character out a bit.

Ultimately, though, my gripes with the film tend to echo Moore's own derision toward the screenplay. In the original comic book series Moore set up two extreme political viewpoints -- fascism and anarchy -- and let them have at each other (while obviously rooting for the latter). The film just doesn't like those mean old jackboots and that's about it. It knows what it's against, but it doesn't have a single idea of what it's for. You didn't have to like or agree with Moore's ultimate thesis, but at least you knew where he stood.

I also agree with Moore in that it seems a bit of a cop-out to keep the story in Britain when what the film is really about is what's going on in the US today. The Wachowskis don't seem to have any real insight or even interest in British culture -- they lionize Fawkes, who was a religious zealot, and except for Big Ben and a few other landmarks, V could be doing his skullduggery anywhere.

All that being said, I didn't really hate the film either. McTeague does a decent job keeping the story moving along and there were a handful of sequences I liked -- the bit with the dominoes, Fry showing Evey his secret stash, even the ending with all the folks wearing V masks worked (but only at the end when they took them off -- you'll see what I mean if you see the film). The action sequences had a nice Matrixy thrill to them, and, as I said, most of the cast behave reasonably well.

So, in the end, your enjoyment of V for Vendetta is almost entirely dependent upon whether or not you've read the book. If you haven't, then you don't know what you're missing and will have a swell time. If you have, well, then you'll probably gripe about it in grumpy blogs like this one.



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