V for Vendetta (Warner Bros, R)

There’s an acknowledged audience for this type of thing now, one that is hungry for more films of this ilk, and who can’t sate their appetites on Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange forever.

 

Back when Fight Club came out in 1999, it was met with an only semi-successful theatrical run and mostly lukewarm (at best) reviews. In the intervening years, it has grown into a cultural phenomenon and self-appointed modern-day classic. Its legs in the market, coupled with the fact that it wasn’t entirely unsuccessful in the first place, made it a rather profitable venture for its distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, and now, unlikely as it may seem, the model that Fight Club set the precedent for is being imitated by Warner Bros’ new release, V for Vendetta.

In the months leading up to V for Vendetta’s release—hell, even when it was merely going into production—everyone was asking how a film about a heroic terrorist who blows up international landmarks could get greenlighted by a major Hollywood studio, what with us being in the post-9/11 era and all. Then, during production, there was the fact that there were terrorist attacks in London, the location of V’s terrorism attacks. Well, it’s easy to explain how this film got made: Fight Club. There’s an acknowledged audience for this type of thing now, one that is hungry for more films of this ilk, and who can’t sate their appetites on Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange forever.

But anyway, enough rambling about the debate on how V for Vendetta came to exist, as it is an interesting film on its own merits. It is famously based on the classic Alan Moore graphic novel (although Moore has been outspoken about his dislike of the film and has had his name taken off of the credits) and stars Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in the Wachowski Brothers’ Matrix trilogy; the Wachowskis also produced V) as V and Natalie Portman as Evey, a nice girl who inadvertently and inextricably gets mixed up with him. Evey and V live in a very 1984-influenced society, against which V rebels by blowing shit up and killing the oppressors of the society whenever possible (or at least when a lot of people will be watching).

The film is much better than most Hollywood action films just on principle, as it actually does have something to say—although it is debatable what exactly this “something” is. Its script seems to lend itself to being quotable to unimaginative young rebels, and when things are blown up, it doesn’t just create awe in the audience re: how cool the special effects are, but it also creates moral ambiguity for the central character(s), and could potentially spark heated post-film political debates.

Although that the film has a lot going for it, it is not without its flaws. Despite the aforementioned justification for its existence, this was a brave film for Warner to dump a pile of money into, and one has to wonder: Was it worth it? The ideas it puts forth are (perhaps intentionally) muddled, and the film on filmmaking standards is just as questionable. The action often feels over-the-top compared to the thoughtfulness of the rest of the movie, and the costume design, set design, and cinematography don’t really go any extra strides toward improving the comic book movie, as so many films in the past few years have. Portman is shaping up to be quite a nice and game action heroine (how many A-list actresses aren’t so vain that they would get their head shaved for a role?), and if anyone can rely on his voice to carry a character whose extensive dialogue comes from behind an unmoving mask, it is Weaving.

Really, what all of this amounts to is this: If I am correct in assuming Warner Bros. modeled V on the success of Fight Club, they did a stellar job, as they are both films that are immensely entertaining and purport to be more intelligent and about something than they actually are.

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