Phew! Russell’s Law of 50% Returns on Comic Adaptations holds true. Bad news for X-Men III perhaps, but V for Vendetta was fantastic. I enjoyed it while watching it, and I left the movie theater excited, eager to talk about the differences between the comic and the movie, which, except for two minor cases*, actually didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie in the least. The movie stands alone as a good movie. After a couple of days, I actually want to see the movie again, something that I can’t remember feeling about a movie in years. But, of course, I was eagerly awaiting V for Vendetta. And, there, that’s my review of it. 3.5 stars. Best adaptation of a comic I’ve ever seen. Go see it. Seriously. That isn’t all I have to say about reviews of the movie, however. I’ve been puzzled by much of the Big Media handling of V. A quick look at the Rotten Tomatoes listing of reviews for V indicate that it is getting a solid majority of positive reviews (76% as of this writing), but what strikes me odd is the group of reviewers that pan the movie. Variety, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Newsweek seem to be forgetting that V is a work of fiction, and not a call to destroy public property. These same reviewers don’t seem to have a problem with the thousands of forms of violence and depravity that any movie brightly highlights, but because V, the character, is a terrorist, a protagonist (one of three, it must be noted), and manages to blow up a couple of buildings (both implicitly empty), these reviewers cannot distinguish from their repulsion of real world events and film fiction. Odd. And V isn’t a hero. He isn’t a rallying force. He is the face of chaotic, violent opposition that must be discarded once the power structure has shifted. The movie shows this in no uncertain terms. If you’ve seen the movie and don’t know what I mean, you should have stayed until the credits. V completes his vendetta, and the sea of Londoners remove their masks. One complex question the movie asks is “When is violence justified?” But many reviewers were so angry at pokes to the Bush administration they felt, incorrectly, that the movie asked, “Is violence against the Bush administration justified?” I came across a uniquely skewed review, not from a Big Media name, but from a regular joe who submitted his review to Rotten Tomatoes. He claims V for Vendetta is trying to divide people and is anti-Christian. As he writes:
Vendetta takes modern day problems, issues and even events and twists them into a comic book political satire meant to reaffirm to those on the ‘Left’ side of thinking that the ‘Right’ is out to rule the world and crush anyone who doesn’t agree with them. ‘Christian’ believing people are made out to be closed minded intolerant Nazi style jerks that want to dispose of all Homosexuals and Religious leaders are only shown as hypocritical perverted sex offenders who hide behind their faith. I will simply say that if you believe this message… you have no idea what true Christianity is all about. I am not sure he saw the same movie as I did. Or actually lives on the same Earth as I do. Well, let me be more generous. This man obviously looks at the world through a lens of persecution. Instead of thinking that the movie portrays Fascists as using the trapping of religion to disguise their true morality, he believes that the movie portrays Christians using Fascism to hide their perversions. He really obviously believes that the movie is anti-Christian, when it couldn’t be plainer that it is anti-Fascist. I mean, honestly, who’d support Fascism? ‘V for Vendetta’ is an offensive, intolerant, irresponsible ugly film that fuels the fire of ignorance in today’s politically hostile world. V may be offensive, but that’s up the viewer. It is, without a doubt, intolerant of Fascism and the persecution of minorities. I don’t think it’s “irresponsible ugly” though. For a brilliant review (with spoilers), check out the Trickster: V espouses no political program; he merely destroys. In truth he’s an anarchist, the v-in-a-circle logo conspicuously echoing the anarchist’s “A” tag that was showing up in spray paint across Europe in the days when the comic first appeared.
Is V a good guy or a bad guy? It’s never clear in the comic–even though it is always clear that the totalitarian government is bad. If the moral balance is more obvious in the movie one suspects that is only because of the zeitgeist — in the current political climate you’re either for civil liberties and the rule of law or for unchecked government power and the legislating of morality. Neocon manichianism has pushed everybody to the wall. We differ in opinion about the source material. The original comic is unmatched for me, and I believe the comic pulled together the disparate threads of a dozen sub-plots in a conclusion that gives me goose-bumps whenever I think of it; although, Evey is a much stronger, more believable character in the movie than in the comic. I’m saddened that Warner Bros. got cold feet last November and pushed the opening back to March, and I’m annoyed at the anemic marketing for the movie, as well as Alan Moore’s inexplicable request to remove his name from the project, but a good movie was made, one that I eagerly await to watch again. * V does not fall in love with Evey! And governments can be evil without unleashing plagues. I thought that was kind of a cheap short-cut into forcing the audience to really, really hate Norsefire/Sutler. (And Sutler will always be Susan to me!)