There's been a lot of hullabaloo recently, over the Wachowski brothers siblings' latest movie, V For Vendetta. Pundits have been claiming that it's an endorsement for terrorism, and/or an indictment of the Bush presidency, a stab at the religious right, the anti-homosexuals, etc. However, I decided to patronize the movie anyways. At the very least it promised decent explosions, and Natalie Portman.
So, is the movie as bad as the pundits thought it would be?
So, is the movie as bad as the pundits thought it would be?
I didn't think so.
I'm not going to give many details about the background of the movie (you can find that sort of information out on your own), but I will give you my initial impressions of it: It seemed a sort of cross between classic sci-fi - think Orwell's 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, with a dash of Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. It's also reminiscent of Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium, although that movie could've been said to have the same influences.
1) A Totalitarian government, complete with secret police, reeducation centers, and state-run media.
2) Blacklists of offensive material, such as books, Korans, classical art/music, especially those of a homosexual nature.
3) Double-speak, the elimination of certain words, the redefinition of others.
4) A revolutionary seeking to overthrow an oppressive government.
So, is it anti-Bush/America? Yes and no.
Certainly, there are many similarities:
A politician who falsely espouses his Christian religion, for political gain - which Bush can be accused of.
A government that perpetrated atrocities against its own people in order to gain control - for those "Bush ordered 9/11" nutjobs.
An outlawing of homosexuality - which homosexuals think that Bush is trying to do. I can certainly understand why Larry Laura Wachowski would sneak something in like this.
While these certainly are jabs aimed squarely at the Bush administration, it amounts to nothing more than cheap shots, an off-hand attack. They are neither the focus nor crux of the plot, and were really more implied than explicit. And so, nothing to really have an issue with, although Bush's more fervent cheerleaders may take slight umbrage.
On to the terrorism angle: V For Vendetta was originally slated to come out late last year - unfortunately, right about the time the Islamic terrorists decided to blow up some trains in London. You can imagine that releasing a movie that revolves around the destruction of Parliament probably wasn't the best move.
So, they decided to release it this Friday, and the entire two weeks beforehand were devoted to internet and print pundits alike denouncing the movie as an endorsement for terrorism. I am happy to say that I don't believe that to be the case. Yes, the character known only as "V" is an anti-government revolutionary. Yes, he causes trouble, hijacks television stations, broadcasts, and even destroys a building or two. But nowhere in the movie did I see him attack innocent civilians. He correctly chastises them for the indifference and inaction, but never aims for civilian casualties. His violence, although mostly vigilantism, is always directed against the government.
It's hard for me to find fault with this. As one leaning towards Christian Libertarianism, I rather suspect that I'd also participate in action against a government that outlawed personal harmless deviancy, regulated speech or controlled the media, prohibited private ownership of firearms, and removed "troublemakers".
But I don't believe America is anywhere near that yet. However, we are on the path - personal freedoms are encroached upon every day (Kelo), the McCain-Feingold act is a pox on free unregulated speech, and dystopian cities like DC, Chicago, and NY ban firearms (for all the good bad it does them). We're at the low point on the curve - but it is truly a "slippery slope", and not a straight line, but an exponential one. The further along we get, the faster it gets worse.
It would serve us well to daily consider the state of our nation, and keep a constant watch on it - those who would give up freedom for security are legion.
Overall, I found V For Vendetta to be delightful - mostly enjoying V's vivid and vivacious vocalization, as well as his excellent diction and dialogue.
Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in the Matrix, Lord Elrond in the LOTR) does an excellent (and mostly unseen) job of bringing V to life through his perfect elocution and body language.
Natalie Portman, on the other hand, does a decent job for most of the movie, but had more than a couple cringe-worthy scenes (but in her defense it could've been horrible script-writing than acting). She also needs to gain about 50 more pounds, then call me. I've never seen her so skin-and-bones unnattractive before. Seriously, I think she may have been bigger when she was in The Professional (12 years ago).
In the end, V For Vendetta is a rousing story, and provides great food for thought for those who wonder if it's time to push the reset button on their own nation.
My answer: Not yet.
There's many discussions going on over this movie, so I thought I'd append some extra thoughts:
You can certainly read a lot into it if, you wish. Many political bloggers saw the movie's government as Hollywood's depiction of America. It may be, given how deluded the tinseltown elitists can be. But I daresay for the majority of the viewing public, they won't draw such an immediate and obvious conclusion. That is especially why I don't take offense to this film - the government is fictional. While there are some American similarities, Vendetta's government is no more a representation of ours than the Empire was in Star Wars.
However, if that government was real, then I would have no problem with the movie's message. You can draw as many parallels between the movie and reality as you like, but that is not America, it is not depicted as America, it is nowhere near what America is today.
To the contrary, ar15.com member leonUK comments: "accurate depiction of Britian, where's my mask?? :)"
Regarding Webster's 4th definition of Terrorism, it says "in order to intimidate a poulation or government" - again, I see no intimidation of the people of any sort - throughout the movie, you see the population not afraid of V, but rather half-heartedly amused by him. It is only the government and its minions that have any reason to fear.
Now, this is not to say that it would be the same in real life - but aha, this is a movie, and I will treat it as such. I am perfectly able to interpret a movie in the realm of fiction and extract enjoyment from it, without it threatening to imprint its fictional mores and values on my reality.
People seem to keep confusing the tangent plot points confused with main plot points.
The anti-americanism is there, but it is a sideplot, a backstory even. If this movie had been about a totalitarian American government, then people would have a valid gripe.
The homosexuality plot is also tangential to the overall arc - it just shows one subset of the persecuted populace. Like a previous poster said, they could've also rounded up some hindus or catholics to provide a little balance, but they chose not to. In fact, just about any undesirable person was imprisoned, like person who satired the high chancellor, and they executed him because he had a forbidden copy of the koran. At no point did they state his sexual preference as a reason for persecution.
In short, the anti-american digs and the whole gay persecution angle are merely subplots, and not really meaningful otherwise. The purpose the anti-americanism serves is to provide a context for the british government to use the US-caused world chaos as a backdrop for increasing government control. Likewise the gay angle was for showing persecution of undesirable classes.
Like a previous poster, as a Christian, I do not condone the homosexual lifestyle - but I don't believe the government should have the power to outlaw it. Whether or not the movie is a calling for a gay revolution is besides the point - I can't condone any government, whether it be totalitarian, libertarian, communist, republic, democratic, british, american, or arabic, that takes such a stance against personal liberty.
UPDATE 2 (03/21/06)
Upon further reflection, I have come to believe that the Wachowskis, being complete Tinseltown tools, meant for the movie's Britain to actually be reality's America.
It is quite likely they believe that America is that way - or that we are on the cusp of becoming so. They merely lacked the balls (hardy-har-har) to actually rewrite the story to place it in America.
If that is the case, then they truly are as repulsive as the rest of Hollywood, and this movie is deserving of all the scorn heaped upon it.
However, this nefarious plot has a flaw - being that the majority of their audience will most likely draw the different conclusion that the movie's Britain is not reality's America.
I personally think that the movie's Britain looks a lot more like reality's Britain :)
UPDATE 3 (03/27/06)
I can't stop writing about this movie, it seems.
The creator of the graphic novel (comic) V For Vendetta, Alan Moore chimes in on the movie:
"V for Vendetta" was specifically about things like fascism and anarchy.
Those words, "fascism" and "anarchy," occur nowhere in the film. It's been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. In my original story there had been a limited nuclear war, which had isolated Britain, caused a lot of chaos and a collapse of government, and a fascist totalitarian dictatorship had sprung up. Now, in the film, you've got a sinister group of right-wing figures — not fascists, but you know that they're bad guys — and what they have done is manufactured a bio-terror weapon in secret, so that they can fake a massive terrorist incident to get everybody on their side, so that they can pursue their right-wing agenda. It's a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about [England]. The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it. And if the Wachowski brothers had felt moved to protest the way things were going in America, then wouldn't it have been more direct to do what I'd done and set a risky political narrative sometime in the near future that was obviously talking about the things going on today?"
My previous comments seem to have some validation now. The Wachowskis are whacked out enough to believe that America is like their movie, but in a moment of liberal weakness and financial strength, decided to keep the movie decidedly British. (It's generally not good business sense to aggravate your viewing audience). Again, the almighty dollar trumps staying true to your beliefs.
Blatantly stolen from Ace