Very rarely have I left the movie theater feeling uneasy and uncomfortable. However, that was exactly how Owen and I felt after seeing V for Vendetta, a movie based on the 1980’s graphic novel that – at the time – was supposed to be a message against the Margaret Thatcher administration.
It’s 2026, and American society has crumbled, and England is now ruled by a fascist government. “V” (Hugo Weaving), wears a Guy Fawkes mask, and saves Evey (Natalie Portman) from some “fingermen” who caught her outside after curfew. He then takes her to the roof, and proceeds to blow up a government building, as it’s November 5, the anniversary of Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament. He then tells her that the next phase will take place in a year.
The next day, V takes over the government-controlled television station to broadcast his message of revolution just as Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) and his team comes to arrest Evey – who happens to also work at the television station. Now she’s being associated with V, and so he takes her to his lair, and explains to her that she must stay with him for the year – until the next 5th of November.
I’m not going to bore you with the rest of the story, but it was actually just that – boring. I wasn’t really engrossed with the storyline, and the characters were (to quote Peter Griffin), “shallow and pedantic“. It’s hard to connect to a guy who is behind a mask the whole time – even the Phantom of the Opera eventually removed his! Meanwhile, the lengths that V goes to put his plan into place seems to be more like a terrorism approach than an actual revolutionary. I suppose it’s not as bad when you consider that the goverment in power is more like a Nazi regime, so we can certainly see where he’s coming from.
But there were a few things about this movie that just felt wrong, especially in a post 9/11-world. Comments like “a building is a symbol” and how it’s okay to blow up that symbol take on new meaning after the World Trade Center attack. The finale of the film – where Big Ben and Parliament are blown up as the 1812 Overture triumphantly plays over loudspeakers – might have been appropriate back in the 1980s graphic novel, but today it just made me feel uncomfortable. It’s not like aliens destroying landmarks in Independence Day, a movie that (it seems) was the last pro-Western Civilization film to come out of Hollywood. Instead, this movie feels like it arrive about 10 years too late, and as such, one has to wonder what kind of bubble the filmmakers have been living in for the past few years to think that this would go over well. My advice: skip it, with prejudice.