Movie Review: V for Vendetta
So V for Vendetta opened this weekend. I wasn't super interested in seeing it, but then I heard some relatively good reviews, and decided to go when a friend asked me to join him.
To quote a recent book's title, I liked it, didn't love it. I mean, sure it looked cool. Nice and artful selective use of the CGI effects -- not flashy, as in The Matrix, and generally supportive of story and design. But the story kept holding me at arm's length. After I got home, I read some more of the reviews, and I was struck by something interesting.
Both the more positive reviews and those that were somewhat more negative picked up on the same aspects of the film, and they were the same things that I noticed. Though generally an action movie, V for Vendetta is more ambitious than the typical. Unfortunately, I think they failed somewhat in meeting the goals they were shooting for.
Clearly, the Wachowskis (who wrote and produced V, adapted from Alan Moore's graphic novel) were attempting to recast the story as a critique of our current societal situation. The problem, as I see it, is that their message was muddled on the one hand, and somewhat trite or overstated during its moments of clarity. The positive reviews I read after I saw the film mentioned that the film deserves credit for being more ambitious than the typical actioner, and the negative ones criticized it for being unclear in its message(s). So I guess the bottom line is, how willing are you to put up with that sort of situation?
On more than one occasion during the film, V makes a statement or speech that is clearly meant to be substantive on a thematic level, and Natalie Portman's character responds with, "I understand," or something of that nature. All I could find myself thinking was, "You do?!" Maybe I'm just stupid, or too literal a viewer. Maybe I'm just a lazy American who wants everything spoonfed to him. I don't think so, but I'll accept that critique, if some of you think the Wachowskis' statement was clear and well-stated. Call me dumb. I don't mind, and won't take it personally. But I won't agree, and will stand by my claims.
What I'm getting at is that I'm pretty sure I'd understand the film more, were I to rewatch it. But it wasn't entertaining, interesting, or exciting enough to make have much desire to give it that second viewing. Maybe I'll revisit it on DVD or cable, but I'm certainly not interested in seeing it on the big screen again.
Okay, I see they're saying American policy, particularly in its foreign wars, is wrong and/or dangerous. Not a very bold or new statement, whether or not you agree. If they are warning of the outcomes of an encroachment on personal liberties in defense against terrorism, I find their statement somewhat valid, but highly overstated. To say that we are veering towards fascism, I find the claim outrageous.
More importantly, I find the defense of terrorism in any form a dangerous one to make. Yes, I've heard the claim that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter." While this may be a valid point, I still find it a very dangerous one to make. Because many so-called freedom fighters are indeed terrorists who deserve no sympathy. Every terrorist thinks their points are valid. Does that make their actions valid and defensible?
Of course this raises the question of whose causes are defensible, and who is to be the final arbiter? There is, of course, no way to accurately answer this question. There is no absolute right or wrong answer. But I do believe it is a valid claim to make that many (and probably most, if not all) acts of terror are invalid. Thus, a defense thereof is a dangerous statement to make, in my mind.
Still, the more important critique of this film, as I see it, is that whether one agrees with the filmmakers' message(s), such messages are only hazily stated, and feel somewhat extraneous or overstated at times in V for Vendetta. Ambitious? Yes. Successful? Much less so. In my not so humble opinion.
Tags: V+for+Vendetta, Wachowskis, screenwriting