Surely it can’t be a coincidence that most of the greatest authoritarian dystopian fictions written over the 20th century are all set in Britain. V for Vendetta, 1984, I’ve ran out of examples since I don’t do much reading and don’t care to Google for more, but two constitutes a mass amount in my eyes, and since I do have a keen interest in dystopian fiction, I thought it’d be about time I watched the adaptation of Alan Moore’s 80s comic book, V for Vendetta. Way back in sixth form I wrote my coursework on V for Vendetta, but I don’t necessarily have that big an attachment to the graphic novel, nor do I have any lingering doubts about how the adaptation from director James McTeigue should really work.
It’d be rather difficult for this V for Vendetta adaptation to be mediocre, especially considering the marvellous cast tasked with bringing out the complexities of the original work. With Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman starring as V and Evey Hammond, the formidable leads are supported by intensely great supporting performances. Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Rupert Graves and Roger Allam, to name a few, are some of the many greats you’ll spot throughout this movie. They’re all particularly great, never quite leaving their mark as something or someone spectacular, but they do get to grips with the source material rather well. Hurt especially, who I imagine is enjoying his chance to portray the oppressor rather than the oppressed, as he did in Nineteen Eighty-Four all those years ago.
Although Weaving dons a mask for most of the film, the technical merits of the direction at hand present a rather emotive, titular lead. Whether Evey is recalling her parents, or we’re strapped into an act of espionage and revolution, Weavings’ performance conjures up a great adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic book character. With firm direction comes a portrayal that can linger on its leading character, with strong lighting, close-up camera work and angles that make for superb storytelling delights and the rather simplistic adaptation of the source material work far better than it should.
Darting between the dynamic between V and Evey, but also the policework of Inspector Eric Finch (Stephen Rea) brings a nice balance of detective work which unveils our story, and scenes in which the prose and style of the Wachowskis adaptation of Moore’s work can be presented. The writing at times does seem lifted verbatim from the comic, and that translation doesn’t always end up being too endearing or even all that easy to follow. For a film looking to adapt and rework a revolutionary message as a modern piece, it never brushes up on the dialogue or makes for any interesting iconography. Perhaps we’ve been mired by the overexposure to the mask V dons, or maybe the writing just isn’t up to scratch, often feeling cold and uneventful. Either way, it makes V for Vendetta rather difficult to fully engage with and take seriously.
Far greater than most adaptations, but like many, fails to live up to the greatness of its source text. Glimmers of great set designs and rips from Moore’s original work, but ultimately is a rather underwhelming adaptation. But, its strong cast of characters turn in some exceptional work and push this one to be far more entertaining than it has any right to, with interesting utilisation of lighting and camera coinciding with a story that absolutely works with this big-budget, Hollywood spin. Nothing monumental, but certainly an interesting enough watch.