Film: V for Vendetta
Year: 2005
Rating: 5/5
Summary: An engaging and important film. Highly recommended.

I avoided watching V for Vendetta for a long time because it was based on a comic book. Most films based on comics offer little depth for the audience to think about, due to the censorship of the American Comics Code Authority. This code dictates strict rules of censorship, such as prohibiting the creation of criminals that the audience could sympathise with and forbidding the promotion of distrust of the law.

V for Vendetta, on the other hand, was a British graphic novel, and as such wasn't subject to this censorship. This is certainly evident in the story, from its violence to its subversive nature and its intent to make the audience think.

Although I still have not read the original graphic novel, I certainly found the adaptation interesting. The modern style and use of Hollywood violence combined with a plot depicting the overthrowing of a dystopian, Orwellian society make this film very similar to Equilibrium. In my opinion, V for Vendetta is better thought out and has more depth to it, but both are certainly worth watching.

This film tells a rather straightforward revenge story of a monster attacking the people who disfigured him in the first place. It is kept interesting by an element of mystery: fragments of the protagonist's past are only revealed as a detective discovers them, following the clues of his murders to work out his motivation.

V for Vendetta has its bad points: the main female character is nearly raped twice, whereas the main male character is strong and comes to her rescue, implying that women are weaker than men. Almost as outmoded is the idea that British people watch Benny Hill, which is clearly referenced by a fictional television show in the film. A lot of slang terms also seem to have been crowbared in to make the film feel more British.

There is also the typical storyteller's idea that the people will wait for a leader to rise up for them rather than take action into their own hands together, but while this isn't an encouraging message to send out, it does indeed make for a great piece of fiction.

These minor setbacks are more than made up for by the good points of the film, which are almost everything else about it, from its style - several single frames are so artistic that I can only assume they were taken straight out of the original graphic novel - to its important call to arms against the slippery slope to a fascist state. The graphic novel's story was updated to reference current events, and the film's message is so relevant today that I'm surprised it wasn't banned.

The protagonist's philosophical stance is that that the ends justify the rather violent means, which at first seems blatantly hypocritical as it is the very same stance that the party members themselves subscribe to. However, I do not believe this to be a flaw in the film so much as the start of a philosophical argument beyond the scope of a story.

The same is true in real life, for instance, in the case of medical corporations versus animal rights extremists, both of whom use their ideologies to justify their violent means. In both cases, the freedom fighters or terrorists would argue that they only use violence against those already using it in turn. At any rate, V for Vendetta isn't simplistic enough to tell the audience what to think or who is right or wrong. Its creators merely try to provoke thought and debate, which is a good goal for any story teller.

The story is interesting, the politics are important, and this film is inspirational. I would highly recommend V for Vendetta to anyone interested in dystopian societies or conspiracies. Although it is violent in places, its warning is one worth being reminded of.

A slight correction is in order - many people have since told me that most American comics now happily ignore the Comics Code Authority, and have been for several decades. They have also pointed out that Hollywood adaptions of comics are generally weaker than the original stories regardless of their country of origin. It looks like the CCA isn't to blame as much as the movie industry.