Tuesday, March 28, 2006

V for Vendetta

I don't really consider myself a comic book expert. It's only in the last few years that my interest in them has been sparked (thanks George). However, if there is one thing that it doesn't take an expert to know, it's that most movie adaptations of comic books suck ass.

V for Vendetta is a superb comic. Very similar in style to another of Alan Moores greats, Watchmen. Indeed there are many similarities between V and Rorschach. Most importantly, both are very long and complex affairs.

So when the news filtered through that the Wachowskis (of Matrix fame and Matrix 2 & 3 infamy) were planning to make a movie version of V, many people shuddered. How could they possibly bring to life a story in which the titular character is a brutal terrorist without having to water the story down due to political/war on terror/9-11 sensitivities? How can they possibly be true to a 300 page book without having to cut vast swathes of it out? With these thoughts in mind, coupled with some pretty awful looking trailers and the fact that author Alan Moore has disowned this and every movie version of his work to date, I prepared myself for the worst.

And yet... every now and then a movie comes along that genuinely throws out your preconceptions. V for Vendetta is a very good film in it's own right. At times clumsy and disjointed, it still offers a brilliant antedote to the current climate of fear we now live in.

How did the Wachowskis achieve it? Well, it's true that they have cut out some large parts of the book and fans of the comic may find themself miffed that quite a few characters either miss out on any meaty screen-time or just plain aren't there. Similarly, elements of the story are moved around, in an effort to exploit the cinematic medium to full effect. Bizarrely, none of the changes really bothered me. The central essence of the story is there and as such the film does not pander to peoples political sensitivities.

Like Lord of the Rings, the film-makers have taken a strong story and changed it to fit it's audience, and because of this it works on so many levels. Every incarnation of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is different than the last, but they are all worthy in their own right. The same can be said of V. It is dark, gritty and a little far-fetched, but it pulls no punches offering a World in which none of the main characters are 'Hollywood good guys'.

The downside is that anomoly of acting, Natalie Portman. How an actress can go from being truly stunning in Closer to God-awful in Star Wars can only be down to one of two things - the Director or the actresses desire and connection to the material. Portmans performance in V is truly awful. For the majority of the film she seems to be struggling with the accent (which varies between stoic brit and Aussie soap star) so much that most of her lines are delivered without thought or feeling. Only during a harrowing spell in a prison cell does she offer glimpses of her real ability.

When you consider that the majority of the story is told through Eveys (Portmans) eyes, it is a wonder that the film survives. However, thanks to a brilliant story and the performances of the other actors it not only held my interest, but had me willing on anarchy at every turn. Roger Allam puts in a great performance as the truly hateful Prothero while Hugo Weaving plays the man in the mask with great subtlety.

Is summary, it isn't polished but V for Vendetta really does delivery that rarest of things; a Hollywood movie that does not conform to type and goes some way toward killing off the memory of the Wachowskis Matrix sequels. Strong performances from Stephen Fry, Roger Allam and Hugo Weaving, while John Hurt is suitably evil as the Tory MP who turned Fascist. The story has been carefully updated to exploit our current fears about the war on terror and bird flu, without ramming it down the viewers throats. Great fun.

No comments: