Yes, I Enjoyed V for Vendetta
I was disturbed to hear that V for Vendetta cost $54 million. (Worldwide it’s already earned $70 million, so all is right with the world, eh?) Now, I’m always frustrated by how much a few hours escape at the cinema costs, even when a film is life-changing (this one isn’t). (Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which was life-changing for me, cost $6.5 million, by contrast. And Brokeback only cost $14 million.) During the film, I’m generally in filmgoer space, mentally, but before and after I often think about those abstract “liberal” ideas like “feed all homeless people for a year or make one movie…hmmmm….”
But if we surrender to the wisdom that says “it doesn’t work like that” and just look at the film, what do we have? First, we have to consider the issue of the Wachowski brothers label on the film. Yes, they are able to tap into cultural anxieties and do a good job of rendering comic books (literally and metaphorically) in the (cinematic) flesh. The Matrix, like V for Vendetta, captivated through focus on a world beyond our control—one via extra-terrestrial domination and one via political repression. Each film gripped and entertained me, got me thinking about how much we take for granted and also how much life resembled the film world. (Come to think of it, I liked Dark City this way, too.) Yet, The Matrix had more in common with the first Alien film (and the sequels yielded horror to sci-fi for both series—though the second Matrix film was no Aliens). By contrast, V for Vendetta, from a graphic novel I liked less than Watchmen but enjoyed, has more in common with 1984 (and I did like seeing John Hurt go from a long-ago turn as Winston Smith to another incarnation of Big Brother in V for Vendetta). Given that the Wach Bros. didn’t write or direct the thing, my criticism of them centers primarily on the ghastly budget and a curiosity of how much of that budget was truly needed to make the film.
With that out of the way, I want to praise the content and political pleasure I had in the film. I absolutely loved the heavy-handed Bush slams in the film. From a graphic novel aimed at Thatcher to this obvious and downright gleeful attack on Dubya, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the gang of lying, dangerous thugs; V for Vendetta is a wonderful reminder that many of us can see that the emperor has no clothes, that Empires must fall, and that intelligence and art will triumph over greed and power-mongering (thank you, Cyrano). It was uplifting, dammit. Like watching The Daily Show, I need some good Leftist uplift in my media, however hammer-you-over-the-head simple in metaphors and symbols it may be.
Does this mean that Natalie Portman’s shaved head bit doesn’t rely on Holocaust imagery it does not earn (can’t help but compare her negatively to Hurt in 1984, where the metaphor was far better earned and not played for titillation)? Naah. (And omigod, look at that picture! Found it on a random search. “Prison torture can make me feel soooooooooo sexy!”)
But go see the film. I did truly enjoy it.