V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta on Blu-ray disc

By Jim Bray

Take a classic cautionary tale such as, say, George Orwell's 1984, twist it 180 degrees via liberals' unfortunate habit for projection, update it to the 21st century and you have V for Vendetta, a film that had plenty of promise but which instead would have Orwell spinning in his grave.

V (Hugo Weaving) is a vigilante, a terrorist. He's a man wronged by the British government of the time, which incarcerated him and subjected him to Nazi-esque and inhumane experiments (<sarcasm>undoubtedly the same kind of thing being performed currently on the innocent victims at Guantanamo </sarcasm>) that left him scarred physically and emotionally.

He now fancies himself a new Guy Fawkes, even to wearing a Fawkes mask to hide his identity and his disfigurement. He's also a bit of a superhero, kind of a blend of the Phantom of the Opera and Batman, I suppose. He's a whiz with swords and knives, and an amateur chemist who can build his own explosives and poisons from stuff readily available on store shelves.

And despite living in a police state, he appears able to move freely (more freely than citizens who aren't being hunted by the authorities, apparently) and can come and go at will, even when he has to fight his way through heavily armed law enforcement personnel. He can even Fedex-compatible hundreds of thousands of identical Fawkes masks to the public, with no apparent waybills or consignee addresses on them – and they all get to the right people.

Evey (Natalie Portman),  is our "everyperson," a young woman minding her own business until suddenly she's accosted by a couple of cops who appear to represent everything wrong with the current system: they're brutal thugs with rape on their minds, hooligans right out of "A Clockwork Orange". Fortunately, V shows up in the nick of time and prevents the attack, then takes her with him to witness his initial public act of terrorism, the destruction of a major symbol of the state's authority.

Thus begins her relationship with V, and an awakening to the cruelty of the state she really should know all about since her parents were taken away by the same state, never to be seen again. Will she join V (rocketing to success, perhaps, as a V2?) and be an agent of change or will she be like the rest of the public, apathetic and controlled – at least until the very first sign of revolution is presented to them on TV, at which time everyone suddenly becomes a revolutionary.

It isn't very revolutionary.

V has been through hell and that appears to be his justification for killing those he deems deserve it (with no jury of their peers involved), as well as his torture and brainwashing of Evey in the middle segment of the movie – his means toward the end of bringing her to his side. If I were Evey, I don't think I'd have been so quick to forgive him for doing to her exactly the kind of thing he hates the state for and which the state did to him.

Anyway, his plan is to get people thinking for themselves by doing exactly what he tells them to do, which is about as individualistic as today's youth wearing tattoos and body piercings to show their individuality (and, yikes!, as my generation grew our hair long).

Don't get me wrong. There's a lot to like here, but the politics are so divorced from any kind of reality that it was tough for my disbelief to be suspended. The production values are terrific, as are the performances (Weaving, in particular, is excellent in a role where we can never see his face or his expressions).

It's the script that falls down. It could've been really engrossing, and it's an interesting tale, but it's handled such sledgehammer subtlety (homosexuals/Muslims good, white people/Christians bad) that it had me ready to throw up at its misguided obviousness.

One bit of obviousness? The homosexual guy who keeps a Koran in his house because of its beautiful poetry is seemingly unaware that the beautiful poetry doesn't cotton to homosexuals.

Liberals just don't get it. Rather than really think for themselves, they sit back and let this pap flow over and through them, then run to to write smug, glowing reviews expressing their surprise that such a film could have been released during George W. Bush's administration, with all of its supposed assaults on free speech.

I presume they aren't talking about the assaults on free speech and freedom of expression we see in the real world today. After all, if Bush and his band of evil Hitler-wannabes were interested in preventing free speech, how is that Air America, MSNBC, CNN and the New York Times (and many others) are still allowed to exist? And how does one explain college faculty and students who are so committed to tolerance, diversity of ideas and "freedom of speech" that conservative speakers are protested and/or assaulted with regularity – and apparent impunity? And how about those evil Christians who, when portrayed in an unflattering light, riot – destroying property and beheading unbelievers. Or who fly airplanes into buildings in an attempt to bring us to heel.

Christians are an easy target because they turn the other cheek. It's radical Muslims who riot, destroy property and kill people (including homosexuals who, according the Iranian leader, don't exist in his country – and I wonder why), and who try to use every means at their disposal (Canadian "Human Rights" commissions, for example) to stifle any opinions that don't fall in lockstep with theirs.

I wonder when I'll be hauled in front of such a commission for this review…

If there are analogies to be made to totalitarian states such as exists in V for Vendetta, it should be to such regimes as the Soviet "Union" (a union of states coerced into the communist Russian sphere), communist China, communist Vietnam, Cambodia and its killing fields, and of course Nazi Germany – a country run by the National SOCIALIST party. In short, it's the left we need be vigilant against, the people who in the name of "fairness" and "equality" and "justice" are in the process of dumbing down our society and taking away our freedoms bit by bit – even the freedom to drive whatever vehicles we want or use the type of grocery bags we prefer. Or to smoke inside private businesses or use cell phones in private vehicles.

So be warned: the good that's in V for Vendetta, and at heart it could have been a good story, is overshadowed by far by its misguided agenda.

Prepare to be assimilated.

It's a pretty good Blu-ray, though. It's presented in 1080p, of course, in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and the picture is very good. Colors are rich and the black levels are excellent, though I didn't notice a lot of the depth you can see with many Blu-ray discs these days (the fight on the side of the building in SpiderMan 2, which I checked out after watching V for Vendetta, is an excellent example of this effect).

I was disappointed in the audio. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is very quiet; I had to crank it a few notches from what is generally an acceptable level to get it to where it should be. That said, the audio quality is very good. Dialogue is always understandable, which comes in particularly handy in a movie with so many long speeches delivered quietly, and the overall tone is very clean.

Forget about the surround channels, though; they're used very sparingly and that's a shame because there's ample opportunity for a very immersive sound field.

The Blu-ray disc is full of extras, too, though they aren't in HD.

First up is the "In-Movie Experience" "Director's Notebook: Reimagining a Cult Classic for the 21st Century", which is a picture-in-picture tour of the movie and its genesis guided by director James McTiegue. Be warned, though: it's only viewable if your Blu-ray player has the "BD Live" feature (my PS3 does, fortunately; your mileage may vary).

There's also a selection of featurettes, including looks at the production, a bit on Guy Fawkes, and a look at how comic books have evolved into "graphic novels" and how Alan Moore's original toon tome was adapted for the big screen.

You also get "Cat Power" montage, which is basically a music video, a Saturday Night Live parody and the trailer.   

V for Vendetta, from Warner Home Entertainment
132 min. 1080p (2.40:1), Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio
Starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea and John Hurt
Produced by Joel Silver, Grant Hill, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Written by The Wachowski Brothers, directed by James McTeigue

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

Buy the eBook
Ransom for the stars
of Jim Bray's
fantastic Sci-Fi Adventure