Firstly, I should mention that I am extremely annoyed that I should find myself starting a review by remarking on the amount of time and attempts it seems to have taken to mount an adaptation of a graphic novel by Alan Moore that is actually somewhat faithful to the source material.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was an abomination apparently stitched together by someone who glanced at one of the covers of the serialized novel, and there was simply no way From Hell could have captured the detail and theosophic plotting of Moore's dense Jack the Ripper novel. V for Vendetta seems to have finally put this right….
But then one finds out that this is the film from which Moore had his name removed, and the righteous anger becomes a sort of bewildered dismay.
Research into exactly why this may be is best left up to the reader – it's a longish story and would not reveal overly much about this DVD.
V for Vendetta is based on the graphic novel by Moore and artist David Lloyd. Originally begun in the 80s for a black-and white British magazine called Warrior, it concerns a vengeful madman in a Guy Fawkes mask (known only as V - the madman, not the mask) loose in a near future England (the novel is set in 1997, the movie sometime around 2030) run by fascists. That capsule description does not do the novel justice; even at that early stage in his career, Moore produced a lengthy, dense tale that began as a Phibesian, almost Jacobean revenge tragedy, then spiraled into dark psychological and political territory.
The movie itself rings some changes in the characters, some surprising and welcome (changing Evey – Natalie Portman – from a gray drudge to a more dimensional character), some necessary (gone is the omnipotent Fate computer, and the Supreme Leader's fetishistic obsession for it), a lot of gritty 80's underworld-type bosh is jettisoned, and overall, it seems more a tale about Bush's America than Thatcher's England… which is one of Moore's major sticking points.For a movie written and produced by the Wachowski Brothers of Matrix fame, Vendetta is surprisingly lacking in big action scenes, concentrating instead on the political thriller aspects and the relationship between V and Evey. Portman continues to impress as an actress, but Hugo Weaving as V is particularly astonishing, trapped behind an immobile mask, he conveys all through body language and voice.
This is the usual breathtaking WB Home Video product, with a beautifully crisp transfer from film elements that had never seen a projector spocket in their life. The menus are cleverly designed, for a change not instantly causing the viewer to dive for the remote.
Disc One contains your feature presentation and the making-of Freedom! Forever! The Making of V for Vendetta. Sadly, all the making-of docs in this set seem very dry and corporate; perhaps one expects some of V's subversiveness to seep into the extras.
Disc Two holds the design portion of the doc, Designing the Near Future. It continues with the more helpful (especially for us Yanks) historical Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, followed by England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics. For those of us who have experienced several New Waves in comics, this one is about the early 80s, when V was first written. Several comics figures are interviewed, but artist David Lloyd is, of course, the only V creator in evidence (for the record, he seems to like the movie).
The disc also holds the theatrical trailer, and a "Cat Power Montage", a rather time-wasting music video of V scenes set to the single Cat Power song played on the main character's jukebox. I think. There's also a plug for the soundtrack album.
If you use your remote to go one up from the Cat Power link, though, you'll highlight the winged seal above the menu and access Natalie Portman's rap video from the SNL Digital Shorts library. These shorts, produced by the comedy troupe Lonely Island, have been about the only consistently hilarious thing on Saturday Night Live for years, and this one is a honey.
Included in this Special Edition is a DVD keepcase-sized V comic book, reprinting the first nine chapters of the novel. Reading this may also illuminate a bit of Moore's ire, as the theatric flourish of V's revenge against his former tormentor's is sadly lost in the movie; whether this is an improvement or creative misstep is going to be up to the individual... which is a concept V would have doubtless approved.
Dr. Freex, 8/30/2006