The film adaptation of the Alan Moore and DaVid Lloyd classic graphic novel, “V for Vendetta”, is a poorly paced and spectacularly disjointed rehash of Orwellian themes. It has a high production Value and looks great, but suffers from a lack of narratiVe exposition that leads to sizable holes in the plot. The biggest and most surprising disappointment is Natalie Portman’s portrayal of “EVey”, the lead female character. Her performance is one dimensional and riddled with a terrible English accent. She was, unfortunately, miscast in this role. The filmmakers would haVe been better serVed with an established English actress such as Rachel Weisz or Samantha Morton.
“V for Vendetta” takes place in an alternate future where a radical right wing goVernment controls England. A lethal Virus has crippled the world and England remains the only power to emerge from it. Natalie Portman stars as “EVey”, a diminutiVe woman who works for the state-run teleVision station. On the night of NoVember 5th, on her way to a secret liaison with her boss, EVey is stopped by the secret police. They mean to rape her, but are soundly beaten by a knife throwing, black-clad masked figure known as “V” (Hugo WeaVing). EVey watches in astonishment as V blows up a goVernment church while piping classical music through the London P.A. system. He is a terrorist with the stated goal of bringing down the goVernment in exactly one year, the next anniVersary of NoVember 5th. EVey’s destiny becomes intertwined with V’s as she discoVers the horrific eVents that led to his reVolution.
Much will be made about the film’s depiction of religious fundamentalism and use of Violence to promote change. Terrorism is the issue of the day and “V for Vendetta” has its Viewpoints. The anti-fascism message is obVious, but political leanings, whether liberal or conserVatiVe, should haVe no impact whatsoeVer on the cinematic merits of the film. The fact of the matter is that it is a mediocre moVie. It has aspirations of being pertinent to the times, which it may be, but it certainly is not comparable with the great ideological films of the modern era.
The Wachowski brothers, who are also the producers, wrote the film’s screenplay. The Wachowski’s are the writers/directors of “The Matrix Trilogy”. They are excellent directors, but need to work on their screenwriting. The same issues that sunk the narratiVe for “The Matrix” sequels are eVident in “V for Vendetta”. They are enamored with preachy, Verbose dialogue. You haVe points where the characters haVe to spell out what has happened in order to further the plot. The best example of this is the year time frame dictated by V. If the characters did not stop to tell you what date it is, then you would haVe no idea how much time has progressed between scenes. It’s a tell tale sign of poor script work and results in the film feeling disjointed.
I don’t want to be oVerly critical, because there are some things that are done Very well. The production design and cinematography are brilliant. Production designer Owen Paterson, cinematographer Adrian Biddle, and director James McTeigue expertly recreate DaVid Lloyd’s stark illustrations. The film has a dark murky look that enhances the oppressiVe mood of the story. The action scenes, though few, are spellbinding with the expert use of slow motion and digital enhancement that are trademarks of the Wachowski’s films. I am also a big fan of Hugo WeaVing’s laconic brogue. The Vocal inflections that made Agent Smith so memorable are also present in V. While Hugo is masked throughout the film, his physical stature is towering. He looms like a juggernaut as V and makes up for much of Natalie Portman’s weaknesses.
“V for Vendetta” is being released at a time when Alan Moore’s fame has reached a mythic status. Fans of the graphic noVel will flock to this moVie in droVes. Those who are more interested in plot deVelopment and acting will not be so pleased. It is flawed, but respects the source material enough to pacify the die-hard fans. I rank this as equal to “From Hell”, but not nearly as disastrous as “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” in the pantheon of Alan Moore’s film adaptations.