March 23, 2006


T for Terrific (Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing, 3/22/06)

One irate citizen's Margaret Thatcher is another's George W. Bush, which might explain why writer Alan Moore has distanced himself from V For Vendetta, the big-screen adaptation of his influential graphic novel.

Penned in 1989, Moore meant for his work to be taken as an indictment of Thatcher's conservative platform in England. The screen version, filtered through the sensibilities of Hollywood players such as the debuting director James McTeigue, producer Joel Silver and the writing-producing team of the Wachowski Brothers (all of whom were involved in making the Matrix trilogy), has been upgraded for a new chapter in world history. The Great Britain of the 1980s remains, but it's now forced to share space with the United States of the 2000s. [...]

Set in England in the year 2020, V For Vendetta envisions a world that's been torn apart by all manner of conflicts. The United States, we're told, has fallen as a superpower and now lays in ruins, largely destroyed by a civil war from within. England, meanwhile, struggled with a dreadful plague that killed thousands but has since reemerged under the rule of a fascistic government headed by Chancellor Sutler (John Hurt). In this Orwellian landscape, dissidents, intellectuals and homosexuals all meet with the same fate -- execution -- while all news is filtered through the sensibilities of a government-sanctioned TV network.

Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is a low-level worker at the TV station, yet she's also the daughter of political activists who were dragged off -- and summarily murdered -- by government thugs when she was still a child. Like most Britons, she lives in fear of the ruling body and keeps her head down in an ongoing attempt to remain clueless about the atrocities surrounding her. But that's before she meets V (Hugo Weaving), an eloquent swashbuckler who sports a Guy Fawkes mask and speaks of a regime change.

A man of mystery, V subscribes to the theory of a radical revolution, of achieving freedom by any means necessary. He refuses to apologize for his violent actions, and while Evey gradually comes to understand his goals, she can't quite commit to his methods. Meanwhile, Chancellor Sutler will stop at nothing to remove this thorn in his side, and his administration largely depends on the efforts of dogged Chief Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) to locate and apprehend the masked man.

V For Vendetta is that rare blockbuster that's interested in words more than action. That's not to say the picture doesn't contain its share of explosive set pieces and dashing derring-do, but its import rests in the muddy waters it navigates. What exactly divides a terrorist from a freedom fighter? V's mission to take down Sutler involves blowing up lots of prime real estate (indeed, the movie's November 2005 release was delayed partly to distance it further from last July's London bombings), and those in charge refer to him simply as "the terrorist." But when a government is as rotten as the one seen here, does the end justify the means? [...]

[S]ome of the allusions skewer more toward the Nazi regime than the Republican Party (though many will persuasively argue that they're one and the same), but how to deny the topicality evidenced in the scenes involving detainment centers where prisoners are hooded, humiliated and tortured, or the presence of a TV station that's unabashedly pro-government, or an administration that instills a vague fear of foreigners to quiet the teeming masses, or a ruler who uses faith-based initiatives to crush opposing viewpoints?

One is frequently tempted to give these Bush = Hitler folks the benefit of the doubt and assume they're just reaching for a convenient, bad analogy -- and then loonies like this guy remind us that an awful lot of them really mean it.

Posted by Matt Murphy at March 23, 2006 9:24 PM

There's a very good review of Vendetta at TCS which convincingly accuses it of making fascism look cool:

Fascism is always cool. We forget just how cool fascism was; to concede its dark appeal is to risk seduction to its tenebrous charms. We forget the glamour of Nazism: the handsome uniforms, the brisk, cut-the-crap efficiency; the glorious parades and compelling symbols and hypnotic propaganda -- so unlike the sloppy, ineffectual, dithering Weimer Republic and its painfully uncool parliamentarians.

We forget that, not so very long ago, a very different costumed crusader fought his lonely fight against the forces that oppressed him, employing violence as a means of transcending their petty boundaries and cruel injustices. Every tyrant needs a symbol to make the power of the People seem greater than the flawed and petty men from which it springs. Every fuehrer needs his Parsifal. And today's fascist now has V.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 23, 2006 11:00 PM

Where's King Charles III? Is "V"'s true identity Prince Harry?

Posted by: Jayson at March 24, 2006 12:11 AM

"instills a vague fear of foreigners to quiet the teeming masses" Give creditss to where credits are dued. It's racist for these people to minimize the impact and "power" of the brown skinned Islamists. They just don't get respect. They keep on bombing cities, commit mass murders all over the world, they kill people for disagreeing with them, cut people's heads off for just being Buddhists. Burn embassies, threaten insurgencies because of a few cartoons. Yet it is the moronic Bushitler who instills a vague fear of foreigners to quiet the teeming masses. What the heck can Binny and Zarqwaii do to get respect?

Posted by: ic at March 24, 2006 1:24 AM

The saddest part about all the Hitler name-calling is that many of these fools would probably say that the President is the worse of the two.

Code Pink would have lasted about 10 minutes under the Nazis. Here, they can shriek at Nancy Pelosi for being insufficiently radical (at a meeting in SF in January), without fear. Of course, Nancy Pelosi would have lasted probably only a minute longer.

Posted by: ratbert at March 24, 2006 7:25 AM

nancy Pelosi would be auditioning to be Eva Braun's understudy.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 24, 2006 8:19 AM

Kind of like Katie Couric, eh?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 24, 2006 9:09 AM

Eva was perkier.

Posted by: Noel at March 24, 2006 9:24 AM

katie is more in the evita mold.

Posted by: toe at March 24, 2006 2:11 PM

These people have no problem with fascism at all--their objection is to democracy. They don't think that people with whom they disagree have any right to determine government policy. Just listen to the rhetoric about "Take back the White House" which every Democrat always throws out--it far predates the 2000 election, and gets to their fundamental mindset, that the government belongs to them, and no opposition government can be legitimate. The late Patsy Mink gave a jaw dropping speech at the HI Dem state convention shortly before she died in which she shrieked (show me a screaming politician, and I'll show you a lefty) "We have a RIGHT TO RULE!"

Posted by: b at March 24, 2006 3:27 PM