Alan Moore is an incredibly talented writer. He has carved out so many fantastic stories with many themes that are prevalent, even in our times today. Stories that can be enjoyed by comic book fans and non comic book fans. With titles like “Watchmen”, “V for Vendetta”, and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, his writings cannot be ignored. He has made many great works of literature. The themes and the analogies and the messages of these works can be a little bit too much pronounced for some. But these are the things that set him apart. With deep characterization and knack for storytelling puts him along with some of the most elite writers in history. It’s only natural that filmmakers and movie studios would want to translate these great works onto the big screen. What makes this difficult and a rather ambitious affair is the novels themselves are very dense. They have a lot of characterization and back-story that is hard to condense into a two-three hour film. Alan Moore has famously spoken against adaptations of his work saying that many just miss the point of the novels. Which to some degree you can understand why he would feel that way-with two poor adaptations, “From Hell” (2001) and “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003) – but in other ways it’s really unfair to ask to try to get every little detail because its next to impossible with his works of literature. However then comes along V for Vendetta, the next adaptation of his work. This is the first film made from a comic of his that is of any quality and a near masterpiece.
The story of the film is what you could call a “high concept.” The United States of America has been crippled by a deadly virus and the once great nation is suffering. While in Britain the whole system of government has changed into a totalitarian system that keeps the public in fear and promises security but not freedom. A terrorist- or freedom fighter- hopes to inspire the people to rise against their oppressive government, while he finds an alley in a young woman that he saves.
The stories main plotline may not sound the most original out there. However, it is what the film says that sets it apart. The themes of fear and blind trust are seen throughout the film and are represented in many different forms. Hope and anguish are seen throughout the film but there are a few huge running messages and themes in the film. In the film there is a large oppression of ideas and speech. Saying something that the government doesn’t approve of can easily bring you into prison without any fair trial at all. Back in the United States that is a freedom that we all treasure, even abuse at times, and there is always a fear in this country of the government not allowing us or overruling us to keep those rights protected under the First Amendment. The film also causes us to question the authenticity of what we watch on the news at night. In the film the government controls and regulates the media to their liking. Also in this society everything is closely monitored by the government with cameras and radio surveillance. In an era where “The Patriot Act” and policies regarding drone attacks on the American people are allowed to be implemented and the fear of government abusing that power is where the film really starts touching on a lot of real life themes. This film really does beg the question on if we can trust our own government with that power? The film also deals with issues such as homosexuality, religion, islamophobia, all issues we are dealing with today.
Moving away from the themes of the film and back to the film itself, the film is a carefully plotted film that will keep you guessing throughout. Flashbacks are used brilliantly to tell the back-story of the tragic character of V and many other characters. The film keeps up the twists and turns and never fails to surprise you or to appeal to your emotions, its appeal to tell the different stories without giving devoting too much time to one or the other. In doing so you feel closely connected to the story and the characters and really care about the outcome and their actions.
The acting consists of a great ensemble of actors doing some incredible work. Hugo Weaving stars as the vigilante V. Hugo does incredible work here and really did deserve an Oscar Nomination for his role. He really creates a truly memorable cinematic character. Natalie Portman is decent as Evey and does a good job with her transformation even if she did sometimes overact. Stephen Rea as Investigator Finch is another special performance that deserved some Oscar attention. He is a character who has been loyal to the government but in investigating V, he begins to question everything he has been taught to think. The rest of the actors do fine work here, Stephen Fry, John Hurt and Tim Pigott-Smith.
There are a few criticisms I have of the film though. The pacing in the beginning is very uneven. Even though it might not have the worst pacing ever, it was enough to notice it. Also, I felt the film needed to be longer, mostly towards the beginning. It would have evened the pacing out and added more development to the characters. In some of the earlier fight sequences, I question the way they choreographed it. However, these are very small complaints and not nearly enough to ruin my appreciation of this film.
Alan Moore however once again spoke out against this adaptation saying it misses the point of the novel, despite how well the film was made. He attacked the screenplay saying that the film became nothing more than American-centric conflict between liberalism and neo-conservatism, whereas the novel deals with the themes and conflicts of fascist state and anarchism. “There wasn’t a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged,” Moore states. You can understand the frustration in Moore’s eyes. However, I think even Moore misses the point of the film. The film does keep many of the principal themes of the original graphic novel , but changing some to carve out its own political identity fits more with a post 9/11 era. Whether or not you believe this is a liberal versus neo-conservatism is entirely up to you- the film subjects the viewers to make up their own minds- and you can applaud what the film did with original material and its own new material. In the future I would like to see a film that follows the novel more closely, but I am very pleased with this film and this vision of the work by Alan Moore.