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V for Vendetta is a vitriolic vociferation of vengeance and villainy.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

To compensate for that cheapskate second disc, some retailers are offering unique packaging
To compensate for that cheapskate second disc, some retailers are offering unique packaging

Every once in a while a movie comes along with a lot on its mind. It’s not warm and fuzzy, it’s prickly and oftentimes uncomfortable. But the story it tells and the ideas it presents are so outrageous, subversive, spot-on, and controversial, sometimes all at once, the movie becomes a perverse joy to behold.

Movies like Terry Gilliam’s increasingly relevant masterpiece, Brazil, and David Fincher’s Fight Club fall into this category. V for Vendetta qualifies as the latest entry in this special pantheon of anti-establishment filmmaking funded by well-established film studios.

In the case of the latter, events begin way back in 1605, when Guy Fawkes was executed for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Thereafter, to celebrate the safety of the king, English folk light bonfires and fireworks on the night of November 5.

Rebel With Many Causes

Well, 400 years later, not much has changed. Terrorists abound around the globe (some of them have even been unwittingly voted into office) and England still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day (also known as Bonfire Night).

In the not-so-distant future (at a time when events in the “former United States” make headline news), many take umbrage to what’s going on. One man in particular takes action.

This man, who parades around London in a Guy Fawkes mask and goes by the code name “V,” is rebelling against a hardline British government that fabricates news, covers up its own missteps, condemns godlessness, enforces color-coded curfews, hires fingermen, and imposes blacklists. And that’s on a good day.

Yes. V for Vendetta has a lot on its mind. The docket includes censorship, subway bombings, avian flu, biological warfare, immunization testing on humans, homosexuality, and other subject matter that’s sure to get somebody somewhere all riled up.

Of Bombs and Bombast

V (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix) is fond of quoting Shakespeare and demonstrating good old-fashioned chivalry. While on his way to blow up Old Bailey, he saves a damsel in distress, a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman, Closer).

Evey’s been fingered by the fingermen. Her parents were political activists and the apple never falls far from the tree. They will watch her and, if necessary, coerce her into submissiveness.

Before she knows it, Evey is an accomplice to V’s affairs of the bomb, assisting in his escape following his next mission, the hijacking of the British Television Network. During his on-air spiel, V promises great things to come next year on November 5, when the Houses of Parliament will finally come tumbling down.

There is a method to V’s madness; as the story unfolds it is revealed why he hides behind the mask, which in turn leads to the rationale behind his murderous missions.

Vox Populiā€¦

While the pacing could use some adjustments here and there, in some respects V for Vendetta is like the works of V’s favorite author, Shakespeare. At first, it takes some time getting used to the timbre, but through acclimation and the course of events, those initially unnatural elements grow compelling and the ears eventually adjust.

At the very least, V for Vendetta is a cautionary tale and a good, swift kick to the butts of both politicians and commoners, whether you’re British, American, or any other nationality. As V succinctly states, people should not fear the government, rather government should fear the people. Take that with a grain of salt; power in the wrong hands, whether they be serf or lord, is a dangerous thing.

Amidst all of today’s real-world scandals and life-threatening forces, the timing for such a message couldn’t be better. Indeed, some of the subplots in V for Vendetta hit so close to home, the film’s theatrical release was delayed from its original November start, which had been planned to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day.

Or maybe it’s as Warner Bros. claimed, that McTeigue needed time for some technical finessing of the movie.

Whether it was that fine tuning or the fact that London’s Underground had all-too recently been the subject of a terrorist attack is debatable. It all depends on which spin doctor you choose to believe.

DVD Extras

V for Vendetta falls into Warner’s standard modus operandi: a “special edition” two-disc set with the second disc being rather sparse.

To help compensate for that cheapskate second disc, some retailers are offering unique packaging. Target has an exclusive lenticular box cover and bonus V comic book (the packaging concept is similar to Best Buy’s Batman Begins exclusive last year). And Best Buy also has a doozie of a gift set that features the 2-disc DVD plus a 1:2 scale replica of V’s Guy Fawkes mask and postcard-size reprints of the film’s four teaser posters. Even fans “down under” can get in on the “exclusive” bandwagon with a limited edition collector’s tin package.

As for those DVD supplements, Disc One includes a 16-minute “making of” featurette that discusses some of the divergent points from the graphic novel and the story’s political underpinnings, including the story’s origins during the Thatcher-era ’80s, and the development of Evey’s expanded character arc.

Disc Two includes a mere 45 minutes or so of extras.

Designing the Near Future covers the set design and Hugo Weaving’s challenges of acting behind the mask.

England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics is an interesting look at the independent comic book scene as it sprouted up in answer to the family-friendly and out-dated comics “code.” It also includes a history of V from the independents to its new home at the major-league player, DC comics.

Most interesting is Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, which is a brief, 10-minute historical recap on the real-life Guy Fawkes.

The Cat Power Montage is really just a very a short music video for I Found a Reason. There’s also a static screen ad for the film’s soundtrack CD.

Finally, the disc also houses the original theatrical trailer.

Picture and Sound

The film’s picture quality is excellent, featuring a widescreen-enhanced presentation of the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio.

The sound is also well done, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track available in English and French (well, Quebecoise French, anyway). There are also English, Spanish, and French subtitles.

The bonus materials are in English with optional French Subtitles.

How to Use This DVD

As a refresher course, start with Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot on Disc Two and, if you want to be geeky about it, view the film’s theatrical trailer, then head over to Disc One for the movie.

After that mini festival, check out the “making of” featurette on Disc One then return to Disc Two for Designing the Near Future and England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics. If you’re into Cat Power, check out the music video, otherwise, you’re already done!

  • james: i think that this movie was one of the best of the year to be watched more then once August 28, 2006 reply