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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
A toned-down V?
If you haven't seen V for Vendetta and/or plan on reading the graphic novel, don't read this post. It includes massive spoilers for both versions.
Comic book maestro Alan Moore has built a reputation for taking his name off the film adaptations of his work. Big-screen versions of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, From Hell and Constantine received poor reviews and mediocre box office returns. Still, Moore's reasons for distancing himself from these adaptations vary from creative differences to a lawsuit over the screenplay for League.
Moore's name is also missing from V for Vendetta, released in theaters last week, but this time many critics have deemed this adaptation worthy of the source material. While the film received praise for its daring narrative, the differences between page and screen are notable.
In the comic, the nearly nameless V is an unapologetic mad-bomber bent on turning a dystopic, fascist UK into an anarchist state. He describes his vision for the country as "The Land of Do-As-You-Please" and predicts that Britain will be in for a period of self-destructive collateral damage before his idyllic plans can finally take root. The film version skirts around V's full intentions as the character babbles on about freedom, leaving the future of the UK up to Natalie Portman's Evey and "the next generation."
The biggest deviation is in the film's finale. In the comic, V blows up Parliament before page one. After he's taken down by Inspector Finch, not the members of a would-be coup, Evey takes his place and dons her own Guy Fawkes mask. The final pages send V's explosive funeral pyre through London's subway system to 10 Downing Street as the city is swarmed with rioters.
In the Wachowski Brothers' (shouldn't we be calling them the Wachowski Siblings at this point?) version, the citizens of London storm the streets surrounding Parliament, each dressed in V's trademark mask and cape. As Parliament explodes, they remove their masks and swear their allegiance to his shapeless cause. As the credits rolled during a recent screening of the film at Lloyd Cinemas, I imagined the on-screen mob holding hands and singing "Kum Bah Ya" as Big Ben sat in the embers. Meanwhile, the Londonites flip out and tear the city to shreds in the source material.
The comic also features Finch stripping naked after a bizarre LSD trip in the detention camp responsible for creating V, Chancellor Sutler being driven mad by a seemingly omnipotent computer and a bleaker conclusion.
Is this a case of the Wachowskis sugar-coating controversial material for Bush's America? Maybe. It's amazing that they got a greenlight for this project but if you're going to portray a ruthless anarchist as a hero, you may as well go all the way. Despite their changes, the film retains the comic's key theme: that "ideas are bulletproof."
And that Guy Fawkes masks are incredibly creepy. I'm really looking forward to seeing those things all over the place come Halloween.