My name is Edmund Dantes
Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.
Ok, we’re going to push off the discussion of what makes a superhero a little longer. There’s something a bit more pressing to talk about.
I am referring of course to V For Vendetta, the film released this week by Warner Brothers, based on the comic series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.
Alan Moore has had more blow-ups with the major comic book companies than just about anyone, which is a damn shame. Moore is responsible for writing several milestones in comic books, and is as responsible as anyone for changing comics from their Silver-Age roots to the darker, more sophisticated works we now see, for better or worse. Among Moore’s major credits include Batman: The Killing Joke, Miracleman (or Marvelman to purists), the transformation of the Swamp Thing from a muck monster into the elemental of the Earth, V for Vendetta, The Watchmen, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Moore, of course, has wanted nothing to do with the film adaptations of those last four. This is understandable in some cases, such as LXG. -shudders-
All of this comes back to the fact that his fighting with Marvel and DC is a damn shame because V for Vendetta is a fine, fine movie. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers here, but even from the trailers we can learn the essentials of the plot. In the near-future Britain is controlled by a totalitarian extremist government. V has begun a terrorist campaign against the government to wake to the people of England up, and make them fight against the corrupt regime. Natalie Portman’s Evey gets ensnared into V’s plots, and it is largely through her eyes, and the eyes of Inspector Finch, played by Stephen Rea, that we get to see who V is.
Ok, there, we have the plot out of the way. Sure there are details, such as what exactly V plans, how he becomes the man he is, why Evey gets her head shaved, and so on, that I could go into. But I won’t, because you really ought to go see the film for yourself.
What I can tell you is that this is a masterfully done film. The visual tone of the piece is established immediately, and the movie manages to be dark and shadowy without forcing you to squint. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Wachowski brothers, but the script and pacing are tight, and there are moments of such tenderness that I actually found myself crying at a few points within the film.
A superhero film can be made or broken in how it handles the fight sequences, and while V is not a superhero, he is a comic book figure made flesh, so in this sense it’s close enough. While I had some issues with the early battle sequence with it’s multiple cuts, making it hard to follow the flow of the fight, V’s final fight in the film was pure beauty. I generally object to slow-motion fight sequences, but in this case, everything about it worked. Everything.
For all the visual elements, what makes the film shine is the acting. Rea does a wonderful job of dragging you through the investigation of V’s past, and showing you how hard it is to be an honest official in a corrupt administration. Portman reminded me that, Star Wars be damned, she has some real acting chops. I was moved during her transformation within her prison, and I would be astounded if more people do not feel the same. But the real star is Hugo Weaving.
The makers of this movie managed to do something that is all too rare in a comic book film. They left the mask on. We never see V’s face, something which remains true to Moore’s comic. V’s mask is a full face mask, showing no eyes or lips, and for the bulk of the film Weaving is in a tight fitting black outfit underneath a black cloak. Weaving’s performance, and everything V’s mind, had to be told through his voice and subtle gestures of the head.
And it works. He gives a performance as nuanced as any I’ve ever seen, without once seeing his eye, or the quiver of his lips. Weaving also uses his voice as a fine instrument. None of the vocal mannerisms of Elrond or Agent Smith intrude on V. Indeed, my wife didn’t even make the connection that Hugo Weaving played those characters until we left the theatre.
It isn’t a perfect adaptation of Moore’s work. A 300-page graphic novel needs to be cut down to be turned into a two-and-a-half hour movie. Storytelling techniques that work on the page must be altered for the screen. And if elements of the movie were adapted to resonate with 21st century residents of America and Britain instead of those living in 1985, I for one, am not complaining.
Tags: V for Vendetta