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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

V For Vendetta

Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman in V For VendettaI walked into the cinema with heightened expectations for V For Vendetta, after all, it is the most-talked about Hollywood film in Singapore and Malaysia during the past few weeks. People I know told me it's a cool film, I see people on my MSN list quoting its lines, ranting and raving about Hugo Weaving's coolness, and the reviews I read are generally positive in Rottentomatoes (it scored 75% on the Tomatometer). Until Guestblogger Justin, who saw it few days ago, told me that he was rather disappointed with it, but he was willing to see it one more time with me.

Since it's written by the Wachowski brothers, I thought, even if it might not be the classic Matrix was, it might at least have some fun action scenes of the sequels (bad they may be, the action sequences, to me, ARE entertaining), with some rather thought-provoking questions thrown in for me to ponder. But as I sat through the movie, I realized that, yes, there are some similarities to the Matrix sequels, but unfortunately, not the action scenes, it's the over-the-top, overwrought, sheer pretentiousness, like the Zion rave scene, or the LENGTHY Architect scene, where you wish the film would just move on instead of lingering on something you barely care about. Based on Alan Moore's graphic novel, it was disowned by him as he thought the screenplay was 'rubbish', but then, this guy doesn't really want to have anything to do with every single film adaptation of his works after the disappointments of From Hell and the hellishly bad League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Basically, it's about England being fallen under a totalitarian rule of a fascist government, led by a Hitler-like dictator, in the year 2020 (I wonder what Malaysia, which targeted 2020 as the year they turn into a genuine first-world country, would be like, probably entire wiped off). V (the uber-cool Hugo Weaving of Matrix and LoTR trilogies) is a cool-looking masked vigilante/ terrorist/ madman who intended to overthrow the government by himself. Wearing a Guy Fawkes (a dude who tried to blow up the parliament back in the early 17th century, read about his information in this Wiki entry here, apparently Guy Fawkes' name is the origin of the word "guy" in the English language) mask, his great plan is to incite the public to stand up against the government, and also bomb some well-known British landmarks.

Natalie Portman plays Evey, a girl who finds herself suddenly involved in all these after she was rescued by V from sexual assault. V, a lusty dude, decides to enlist Evey's help as his accomplice. To serve as the Robin to his Batman, or something, I think. I don't know, if I were an insane, wealthy dude who plans to blow up the Parliament, I'll probably want someone like Natalie Portman for company. V is also a classy dude who listens to Jazz while frying eggs (he wears an apron...), and likes watching the old 1930s version of Count of Monte Cristo, but despite the eccentricities and quirkiness the filmmakers try to give him (to humanize him?) there's just something rather, ah, off about him.

As much as I like Hugo Weaving (who doesn't?), I agree with Justin that he is rather miscasted in this film. He sounds too smooth and cultured to be menacing enough. And hearing him ramble all day long about his ideas and intentions (especially after he hijacked a tv station) just lessens the impact. Perhaps that's the whole point of the film, to have a smooth-talking person with a magnetic personality who is capable of much violence. But then, you ain't really sure whether he has that magnetic of a personality, or is he such a merciless killing machine either. I find it rather difficult to really describe the character V, he remains an enigma throughout the film. Not someone you can relate to, or interested in, or amazed by.

Even the character of Evey is rather shallow, to the point where you feel indifferent during her torture scenes. The romance between V and Evey ends up being very jawdroppingly awkward and ridiculous. Was that even in the graphic novel? On the other hand, I find the subplot about the lesbian who got imprisoned and punished for standing up to her ideals and being herself more emotional and beautifully shot, but that whole thing was tossed into the film in such a random manner that the film could've done without it.

Characterization never worked for me, and while I don't mind films being slow-paced, where nothing really happens (... like Jarhead, or even Inside Man), if character drama is minimal, why would you give such a damn about what happens in the film? As for the action scenes, well... there are very little. You just see V actually fighting in a scene or two, with the lengthiest one being at the ending. But that ending fight is pretty much something you see at the beginning of most superhero films, it's just not good enough to be something you've waited for the two hours of the film's running time. So, maybe this film isn't about the character and the drama, nor the action scenes, maybe it's more about its ideas. Sure, it leaves me some questions, like...

How crazy V actually is?
Did he mentally destroyed Evey, how the hell can she go back to him after what he did to her?
Most of all, why do I feel so empty after watching the film?


Was the film I saw the same one everyone's raving about?

I can see its appeal, where people treat it as a political allegory, where the government controls its citizens via fear tactics. Pretty timely since something like this is happening right now, right? Watching V's plan succeeding slowly is rather exciting. Where the public begin revolting against their fascist government. Watching thousands of people in Guy Fawkes mask staging a revolution is a hoot. But ultimately, this film is still a hollow experience for me.

Watch the trailer:

Watch Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving interviewing each other and answering questions from fans:

Watch other reviews of the film:

Read other reviews of the film: Kansas City Star | New York Times | Blunt Review | Luke's Movie Reviews | The Girl In The Cafe | Restiffbard

Yes, as usual, if you have reviewed V For Vendetta (I know tons of you did), please leave the URL of your review onto the comments box. I'm sure many of you disagreed with this review.

BTW: Think Al Pacino would be more suitable for the role of V?