I am absolutely chomping at the bit for another go at “V for Vendetta.” Last years brilliant graphic novel adaptation of Frank Miller’s “Sin City” is the only other film that has ever been as successful in bringing the specific style of comics to the big screen. I marvel at the concise construction of this film and the poignancy of its story. “Vendetta” nails it, in almost every respect this movie gets my highest recommendation.
I’m certain some of my comic book friends will tell me how “V for Vendetta” doesn’t do the graphic novel that it is based on any justice. That somehow, uppity author Alan Moore’s (The Watchmen) grand legacy has once again been besmirched by Hollywood phonies who can’t get anything right. They will quickly point out the celluloid debacle that is “ League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and rightfully so. They may also mention “From Hell” which for all it’s good parts (Johnny Depp and Ian Holm) is proof positive that one really bad actor, in this case Heather Graham, is is capable of single-handedly ruining a perfectly good film. There is no denying the tragedy of “Gentlemen” or the weak link in “From Hell” but “V for Vendetta” makes up for it and then some. I can’t even remember the last time I wanted this badly to keep my seat at the end of a film and immediately watch it again.
Based on the graphic novel “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore and David Lloyd the screenplay is tight and incredibly articulate. Unlike so many plot line retreads “Vendetta” feels new. It crackles with the unbridled energy that makes graphic novels so interesting and such a fabulous place for bold and visual storytelling. A tale of revolution and revolt in a future Totalitarian Britain, it has all the “big brother” imagery and future world paranoia of “12 Monkeys” or “A Clockwork Orange,” but better than both. And how can you not love a movie with the tag line: “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.” There are a couple of guys in a shed in Montana, who will never see the film, that will take that statement all wrong, but for the rest of us “Vendetta” is a marvelous and relevant take on terrorism and world politics with a little swordplay thrown in for good measure.
“Vendetta” screenwriters The Wachowski Brothers have made their first significant step in getting us all to forgive them for the abominable sequels to “The Matrix.” If they had left well enough alone, let the first film stand on its own, we would all still be in awe of their collaborative genius. None of us would be left trying desperately to erase the memory of the Zion dance party scene in “Reloaded” where the former power and mystery of a now shirtless Morpheus (and the series for that matter) evaporates in one embarrassing “Let’s dance!” moment.
The Wachowski’s are the familiar part of the phrase “from the creators of The Matrix Trilogy,” but they aren’t alone on this one. Technically “Vendetta” is James McTeigue’s feature directorial debut, but his list of credits is fairly staggering. Prior to “Vendetta” he served as Assistant Director or 1st Assistant Director on a couple of little movies you may have heard of. McTeigue worked along side the Wachowskis on all three “Matrix” pictures and next to Mr. Lucas for “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.” There shouldn’t be anymore second fiddle for McTeigue after this, unless by choice.
Natalie Portman proves that George Lucas’ green screen hasn’t permanently hindered her acting ability, she is exceptional as “Evey” opposite a porcelin masked Hugo Weaving (The Matrix). Weaving brings the appropriate amount of theatre and a remarkable depth to the character of “V.” We may not see his face, but without Weaving’s unique presence in the lead role this triumph could just as easily have been a disaster.
“V for Vendetta” appeals to so many of the things that get me all warm and fuzzy about movies, it is rock solid from start to finish. Although it is still very early in 2006 and it is hard to speculate at what is yet to come this year in film, I would be extremely surprised if “V for Vendetta” doesn’t spend the next 9 months holding down a spot on my top ten of 06’.