V for Vendetta
Caution: Spoiler alert. Seriously, I'm warning you. Ok. Fair enough, keep reading then.
I got the chance to see 'V for Vendetta' with my good buddy Dr. Neuromancer, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of the all-time classics of my late adoelesence/early adult hood translated to the big screen.
I admit, two things going in;
- As with 'Sin City', I had read the graphic novel and loved it, but not for many years, and I made the conscious decision not to go through my collection and re-read it before hand (though the temptation was much harder with V than with Sin City. I liked Sin City, but Alan Moore's works - especially The Watchmen - a cliche taste for geeks of my dotage, stirred much more intense attraction than mere enjoyment). There was then real risk that if I re-read the g-novel no matter how good the movie's execution I would feel it failed to do the g-novel justice.
This way, the movie at least stands a fighting chance.
- The fact the Wachowski Bros. were involved, and the overall zeitgeist of the movie's release with the inevitable comparison to world events gave me pause. It's one thing to release a movie that raps on a cultural touchstone years after the events (Platoon, JFK, etc.) but quite another to do so when the stone is still threatening to crack. For the Wachowski Bros, a pair of smart (Bound), extremely talented (The Matrix), if occasionally philosophically lazy film makers (Matrix 2-3) to be at the helm added the potential for real greatness, but also the risk that something cheap and tawdry might be done to the material for partisan polemic, or worse, out of the Wachowski's brothers indifference to it.
Needless to say I was greatly relieved when by the half hour mark I noticed that there was far more exposition than I expected, and less than a 1/10th the number of mindless action sequences that littered the latter Matrix movies. In fact, I found McTiegue's direction to occasionally verge on being almost calm - and absolutely comatose by Wachowski Bros standards. Which isn't to say there isn't action, there is, but it owes far more to the action of comic books than to 'wire-fu' special FX extravagance.
Also, there should be an award for voice acting. Hugo Weaving is absolutely perfect as 'V' - a man who is never seen without his mask - and a role about as far from 'showy' you can get as a result. But Weaving is pure magic. His voice, cadence, and intimations bring to life what could easily have been a thankless part. Instead, Weaving invests it with everything, while never descending into the campy robot drawl of 'Mr. Smith', and lends critical balance to the 'star' lead character of Natalie Portman. If Weaving had been less than excellent, the entire movie would have spun on an axis consisting of Portman emoting with a shaved head. That all said, Portman never guns the engine out of gear when she could have. 'V' could have been her movie, but she keeps her performance basic and compact, when an actress with less restraint (Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston) would have let it all hang out to the detriment of the flick.
Overall, what the combination of restrained direction and competent acting do is breathe life into the story that Moore penned/inspired. I am assured by Dr. Neuromancer (who read V far more times than I, more recently, and with much greater recall) that the majority of the plot was indeed still there, that the items I picked out as being likely alterations by the director/Wachowski Bros were indeed additions (the character played by Stephen Frye and the final end of Suttler), but in all these were mostly minor changes and in service to the medium.
I'd like to comment further about the story line itself, but it's late, and I have to get to bed, so I'll finish by saying 'Go see it, we'll talk'!