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2006-03-19 21:57:33 (link)
V for Vendetta - Review

Itís a sad state of affairs when people look to a Wachowski brothers movie to spur political discourse and controversy. In a time of real issues to discuss, we could certainly find better rhetorical maestros than the men who brought us ďThere is no spoon.Ē Still, itís easy to see where V for Vendetta, the new graphic novel adaptation written and produced by the Matrix helmers, might raise eyebrows among the thin-skinned. It deals in the ramifications of war, censorship, government-controlled media, terrorism, and gay rights, all the while referencing present-day America. But for all its striving toward relevance, V for Vendetta poses one problem that should trouble audiences on all sides of the political divide. That problem, of course, is that itís an awful, awful movie.

Directed by Matrix assistant director James McTeigue and based on the graphic novel by David Lloyd and Alan Moore, the movie exists in a near-future vision where America has collapsed and England has been taken over by a Nazi-like dictator who controls the country through brute force, strict curfews, and a government-run television network (think Fox News with a few dashes of Stalin). Natalie Portman stars as Evey Hammond, a young network employee who is saved from the wrath of corrupt night patrolmen and recruited to rebellion by a masked terrorist known only as V (Hugo Weaving). Hidden in a lair full of forbidden jazz, vintage weapons, and a suspicious supply of Natalie Portman-sized clothing, V dons a Guy Fawkes mask, and in Fawkes fashion, seeks to blow up Parliament and tumble the establishment.

There are some good ideas at the core of V for Vendetta. The notions of masking, media, and the democracy of art and storytelling could certainly be interesting. And there is one downright brilliant TV-show-within-the-movie sequence that nearly justifies the whole thing by itself. But everything else is so stupid, sloppy, and borrowed that itís hard to notice the potential. Long, empty speeches spout from every character. Needless, misfired allusions to everything from Shakespeare to The Wizard of Oz fall flat. Orwell is already political parable designed for 14-year olds to digest; itís agonizing to watch it dumbed down even further to bumper-sticker philosophy to impress stoners and fourth graders.

All the movieís pedantic, vacuous attempts at intelligence might be forgiven if the action were better. But the movie buries its action in endless words and asides, only to disappoint with lackluster thrills. The parliament explosion and a couple of other scenes are nifty, but more often special effects are put to genuinely stupid use, like slow-motion rain or a needlessly complicated dominoes display. Pointlessness and lack of focus are the rules of the game here, though. Protesting the suppression of gay rights is all well and good, but not when it comes in a lengthy tangent to a movie that already feels desperately overlong.

For a movie that thinks itís a rogue intellectual stirring things up, V for Vendetta is more like the obnoxious grade school classmate who never shuts up, but has all the cool toys. Political discussions and the action genre both deserve better than this.

by Amos Posner


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