Two late-but-great reviews of "V for Vendetta"

Two home-run reviews of V for Vendetta popped up this week, and even though the film is already fading, I thought them worth a read:


L. Michael Foote reviews V for Vendetta for Stylus. (Caution: Harsh language)

Merely replacing the simplistic morality of one political system for another, the people of England never honestly question their own circumstances. Finally realizing that something is wrong with their society, citizens leap at the vague beliefs of a man who gains their attention by hijacking national television for five minutes. When a mob wearing identical masks descends upon their oppressive government, the people prove to be naught but an easily malleable symbol. When the group drops their disguise and the camera briefly scans a sea of faces, characters martyred for V’s cause appear cheering among the crowd. These people are but symbols used to achieve a goal. Anonymous and singular, the mass is there to be manipulated.

John Zmirak (Godspy) says that for most types of moviegoers, “this movie will remain, like The Matrix, a harmless fantasy.”

But he adds this:

…there’s another group of people who might see this film whom I worry about: the marginally paranoid, disaffected ‘losers’ who serve as the recruitment pool for extremists and terrorists. Think of Timothy McVeigh, who read a single novel — The Turner Diaries — and began to plan the bombing of Oklahoma City. Or the ‘shoe-bomber’ Richard Reid, a Moslem convert whom millions of air-travelers would like to beat to death with their footwear. Or the assemblage of social misfits which Al Qaeda was able to recruit for the attacks in 2001.

To these people, a film with lines like “Sometimes blowing up a building can change the world” is like a dose of crystal meth. What makes things worse is the fantasy element in the film: No innocent bystanders are killed, no children blown apart by the indiscriminate use of explosives in a crowded city, no hospitals filled up with bloodied old people, janitors, and pregnant women. The acts of terror depicted are welcomed by the populace, which greets each explosion as the onset of liberation — and fills the streets in Guy Fawkes masks to show its support. Was this how the residents of Madrid, London, or New York City greeted the terrorist attacks of the past few years? Of course not. They were greeted with outrage and justified indignation — and crackdowns on civil liberties. But the daydream of vindication so powerfully woven in this film might help efface those realities in the addled minds of men predisposed to destruction and desperate to “make a difference.”

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  • Mike of FL

    As V said in the movie the building is but a symbol. I do doubt that anyone would have been in the parlimant building on that Nov. 5th. This is just a movie after all, but one that makes you think.

    I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences of too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.
    Thomas Jefferson (1791)

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

    Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
    John F. Kennedy, In a speech at the White House, 1962

    I’m not a fanatic , heck I don’t even believe that capital punishment is right. Death is to permanent and life is just to hard to come by. I think what the movie makes you realize is that the time to act to save your liberty and freedom is while you still have enough liberty and freedom to effect change, wait to long and peaceful change is almost impossible.

  • Gaffney

    Fortunato has it spot on; Moore’s book proposed that neither the extremes of facism nor the extremes of anarchy are good for the people. The film could have – and should have – been able to make us as an audience think outside of the boxes of current political rhetoric.

    As I said in my review:

    “It’s not as if there were no opportunities. Evie, clearly not of the government, need not have been of V either. (And considering her circumstances, she shouldn’t be on V’s side.) V comes right out and tells her (and us) that the future should be neither of the fascist or the anarchist – it belongs to Evie. So what does Evie stand for?

    “She blows up parliament, voting for anarchy. Mostly because she wasn’t offered an alternative by the film makers. There was no third choice to consider – and there should always be a third choice.”

    I go on there to suggest a third choice that could have raised the movie above its genre, as well as become a positive artistic influence on society.

    But alas, the vision of the film suffered from something that Looking Closer strives to fight: It knew what it was against, but it didn’t know what it was for.


    PS Jeff, I have to say that I didn’t see any Bush reference Mike’s comments. “And a rebel trying to inspire his own countrymen to stand up and change their country” seems to be a reference to Timothy McVeigh – which, quite frankly, scares me.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Fair enough. But I live in Seattle, where 90% of the cars have Bush-hating bumper stickers, so forgive me if I’ve been conditioned to assume…

  • Thom

    In all fairness, nothing in Mike’s statement suggests Bush. Afterall, in Iraq there are terrorists helping the insurgency who are “blowing up a country not their own.” Not saying your initial reaction was incorrect, but there is the possibility he did not mean Bush at all.

  • Fortunato

    The “V” of the movie is a disappointment compared to the “V” of the book.

    The “V” of the book treated his actions as an undesirable but also sadly unavoidable evil based on the current condition of his country.

    Interestingly, he was grooming Eve (which phonetically is a backwards “V”) to take his place as the “Creator” V who would lead the people into Utopia — if they allowed it — while removing himself (the “Destroyer” V) from the picture because his time was past. In the book, Evey ultimately rejects violence and thus sets herself up as a contrast to the first V; in the movie, she embraces violence.

    V’s eventual suicide in the book was purposeful and larger than himself; he was tacitly stating that destruction and violence are not good things, they are only useful for leveling a defunct society so that one can rebuild, and then violence must itself be done away with, like toys that we have outgrown as we have matured and thus no longer serve any good purpose.

    I could respect the V of the book, who was much more complex, less revenge-driven, and overall more negative on violence than the V of the movie — where violence to me seemed glorified rather than heavy-heartedly accepted as inevitable.

    The movie really lost the heart of what made V himself. It was a real disappointment and probably has done more harm than good by its sloppy brush strokes.

  • -B

    Been thinking of this since V for Vendetta came to the silver screen. While I’m not for the anarchy of V (and those two latest reviews are right on target), Christians are not in any agreement with regard to civil disobedience. I think a movie like this is a good start for getting Christians to think about the ethics of that by pointing out the extremes and then moving from there towards a reasonable argument towards whether civil disobedience could be a socially acceptable means of making changes in government and government policies. My two cents worth.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    The two extremes you have just set up are rather drastic simplifications, don’t you think?

    I mean, if by “a terrorist indiscriminate bombing of a country not his own” you mean Dubya, wow, I don’t know where to start. A president trying to hunt down those plotting to atack his country, and a terrorist just indiscriminately bombing someone else’s country… those seem like *slightly* different things to me.

    And before you get going, no, I’m not a raving apologist for the current administration. But beginning a conversation by employing severe overstatement, well, that just guarantees an unproductive conversation.

    If by “a rebel trying to inspire his own countrymen to stand up and change their country for the better” you mean the character V, then I would ask “Where is V’s vision for a better country? What does it consist of?” And does “changing their country for the better” include the murder of people within the buildings he’s bombing? What I see is a suspicious, vengeful character whose first impulse is to resist with violence that endangers the lives of others, making him a questionable leader at best. And any populace willing to sign on and follow V without further investigation is a populace asking for trouble.

    I’m not blind. I just demand to see things more clearly than by gross caricatures.

    Now, I’m only going to say this once, folks: Keep your comments on this entry focused on the movie in question. If this starts veering toward a debate about the ethics of the Iraq War, I will refer you to the zillions of other Web sites preoccupied with that discussion. I’m weary of shouting matches here at this blog, and if folks start throwing fuel on political fires… if we depart respectful and gracious dialogue… then I’ll have to start deleting posts.

  • Mike of FL

    there is a big difference between a terrorist indiscriminate bombing of a country not his own. And a rebel trying to inspire his own countrymen to stand up and change their country for the better. If you can’t see the difference you are blind my friend.