V for Vendetta – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam

Synopsis: Set in the not to distant future, London has survived global devastation that has crippled former world powers such as the United States.   The government has a dictatorial stranglehold on the populous, however, in which anyone caught with a dissenting view tends to disappear.   This story follows the goals of freedom fighter/terrorist V, who seeks to inspire the people to rise up against this government.

I freely admit that this week the only thing I have been posting about in the last week is Supanova, but I hope I can be forgiven for this given the amazing time that was had at Sydnova by all, and as such I found it an event much worth of promotion.   As I type, Perth Supanova (or as I have seen it written on the Supanova Facebook page, SuPerthNova) should be in full swing and I hope all in attendance have a blast.

For my last Sydnova related post, I am going to connect it back to my cosplay for the event.   Such a brilliant film needs more than just photos taken of a guy trying to be the title character.   For a film that sells itself on action set pieces and Natalie Portman having gotten her head shaved for the role, there is much more to the film than these popularised elements.   As I type this, the film sits at 180 on the IMDB Top 250 list, and I would suggest that this is largely due to the film being a very thought-provoking piece.

Alan Moore was behind the original graphic novel on which the film was based.   This is the same creative talent behind From Hell and Watchmen.   However, being dedicated to the medium of comics, he did not permit his name to be listed in the credits for the film.   The story itself though is extremely intelligent, and it is very easy to miss certain connections if one does not remained focus.   One of the incredible moments of cinematography in the film is not necessarily an action set piece, but an intricate collection of dominos that is set falling.   More than being just really cool, this image appropriately represents the film.   V has manufactured a series of events, that rely on a keen sense of intelligence, observation, and intuition into knowing how people will respond to his stimulus.   He truly weaves a tapestry, one that the end result is not obvious until the final thread is put in place.

More than an extremely intelligent plot, V’s ideals themselves, and how he expresses them, are thought-provoking.   There are many phrases that he utters that are imbued with power and inspiration.   A few personal favourites include “People should not be afraid of their government.   Governments should be afraid of their people”, “A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world” and “What I am is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof”.   This is a film about knowing that something is wrong with the world, and that somebody needs to stand up to do something about it.   One person alone is not enough however.   One person may start the wind of revolution, but without a cause people can and will rally behind, change may not be possible.   The story really does highlight that the line between freedom fighting and terrorism is really very fine.   How is it defined?   The audience supports V’s cause, as his motives are justice and an attempt to end oppression.   His deeds themselves however, are not necessarily admirable… killing party leaders and blowing up buildings by themselves are dastardly acts, and the film title admits that part of his motivation is also revenge.   Perhaps this is the strength of the character however.   He is not a typical unambiguous hero type.   The story does not flinch from addressing this, Portman’s Evey indicating at one point that what was done to him has actually made him a monster.   Regardless, his methods do not change, but he does at least acknowledge by the end that it should not be he who decides how the final events should unfold, redeeming the character from his former path.

The film comes together from incredibly strong performances.   Portman is as always brilliant, which may excuse her top billing, though that choice does strike me as a marketing ploy to promote the film where Weaving’s  recognition in the US was not high enough.   Portman amazingly portrays two sides of the same character though, her story arc taking her from constantly frightened to a reserved but forceful bravery by the end of the film.   The transition is really quite remarkable, and certainly took more than a radical haircut to achieve it.   The film really does belong to Weaving, though.   This is a performance that never once has the mask removed.   Despite this, he displays a range of emotion that is evident without the facial cues that many actors would normally rely on.   The fact that he also has an amazing voice that articulates the script and gives already powerful words an even greater gravitas really brings home that a special quality of actor was always needed for the role.   In this case they had it.   All the supporting actors are all on similarly fine form, I could continue this essay at great length discussing each one, but I have let this particular stream of consciousness last too long already.   Suffice it to say, as far as performances go, this film has no weak link.

There is something about the work of Alan Moore that gets me overly analytical, and has my reflective reviewing style more go into absolute overdrive.   Those familiar with my Watchmen review observed the same essay style of review as I have presented here.   The fact is however, that the films based on his source material, let alone the source material itself, are brilliant, original, thought-provoking stories.   Do yourself a favour and delve into his world further.

5 stars out of 5

V for Vendetta on IMDB

V for Vendetta on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTlgpnNQYmg]

Watchmen – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino

Synopsis: The year is 1985, but nowhere near how you remember it.   For years, costumed vigilantes have been fighting crime, and there is even a genuinely powered super being, who turned the tide of Vietnam. However, such masked crime fighting has now been outlawed, but a team known as the Watchmen come out of retirement after one of their own is murdered.

A review by Film Nerd.

The graphic novel on which this film is based is perhaps the most influential ever published.   Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and published by DC comics, it was released in 12 parts, but broke the mold on how graphic novels were presented.   At the end of each issue, there were distributed documents that cover the history of this alternate reality, in the process giving it great depth and background information on the lead characters.   In addition, there was a running story of a comic within the comic, being read by a child at the news stand.    This comic reflected events and themes presented within the story itself.   All this on top of what is in many respects the film noir version of a super hero story.   Basically, a whole lot more was there than “biff”, “whack” and “pow”!

So how do you bring a story like this to screen??   The great difficulty lies in the fact that on-screen, it is difficult to present all this extra information without detracting from the narrative.   The comic within the comic was excised, though it was filmed as an animation separately and released in addition to the film on DVD and Blu Ray.   What was clever though was presenting this history in one of the most creative and entertaining title sequences I have seen in a film in a very long time.

Does the film work?   Yes it does, and fans of the source material can watch this as a worthy representation of the story they love.   It can be a harder pill to swallow though for the uninitiated.   It is not a clear-cut story, there are hidden agendas, personal motives, and a resolution that may upset those familiar with your regular comic book film.   It is a film that makes you think, and if you are willing to re-watch it and think it over, you may get a whole lot more out of it.   With a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes, though, if this sounds like too much work perhaps it is best not to start.   I hope Urban Fantasist will add her support to this review though, as someone who did walk out of the cinema disappointed (especially after I had built it up before she saw it), but whom has admitted she kept thinking about it afterwards and had a different appreciation of it after considering the various themes.

And it does make you think.   It is a film that the most noble characters make questionable decisions, and those with the outwardly despicable are perhaps more worthy of respect, given they have their own moral codes and they stick to them.   In fact, it is perhaps these characters, exemplified by Morgan’s “The Comedian” and Haley’s “Rorschach”, that carry the weight of the film, and perhaps have a better idea of the true face of society than any of the other characters.   To go into these external characters could take a lot of time, but each does have their own agenda, and their own purpose for crime fighting.   Quite realistically, seeing justice is not always the primary motive.   Other reasons for becoming a masked vigilante are explored, and many have their own psychoses, whether that been seeking pride from a parent, the fetishistic element of dressing up, seeking fame, or seeking a sense of power.   Even Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan gives a different spin on the super human, who can manipulate matter after a science experiment gone wrong, but as he becomes more powerful, he becomes increasingly distanced from his own humanity.

I could keep discussing themes and ideas for this film given enough space and a willing audience, but I will save that for another time.   If any interest were to be expressed, I would happily write essays on impressions and interpretations I have had of this film.   To avoid this review becoming perhaps a tad dry though, I will start to wrap up.   This is a violent film with adult themes, Bride of Film Nerd had some obvious distaste towards a number of scenes.   It has disappointed people who went to the cinema expecting a more traditional superhero narrative.   But it is a great film for those willing to investigate it and explore its ideas.   That said, Hollywood please hear my plea and not bastardise this brilliant tale with a sequel!!

4.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

Watchmen on IMDB

Watchmen on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRMjr1UKa5k&feature=fvst]