I went out and caught V for Vendetta over the weekend. I had to wait (on pins and needles) for the rest of the crew that I’ve seen the other Wachowski bros films with to find some free time (children and anniversaries. I mean, let’s get our priorities straight. This is film after all) it seemed only fitting to experience it for the first time with same group that I watched The Matrix with for the first time.
On the subject of The Matrix trilogy, I find I’m the odd man out. Unlike most of the people I’ve spoken with, I actually liked all three of the films. To me, they were consistent story-wise, if not consistent action-wise. The philosophical inquiries into the meaning of life and what real is were enough to keep me interested even when the action sequences failed to move others. In hindsight, even “the Matrix” can’t live up to the mythos of “the Matrix”; much less survive criticism as a sequel to the film. I can’t rewatch it like I would like to. So many of the action sequences have been lifted and used in other action movies, that I find myself remembering where I’ve seen that bit since the movie was made, rather than enjoying the film for itself.
I followed my usual pattern with this film. Once I had determined I was going to go see it, I avoided all reviews, trailers and websites concerning the film until I had seen it. I’m glad I did. If I had known what it was being criticized for, I would have been looking for those points in the film while watching it the first time, and that would have colored my initial impression. As it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the film.
For those critics who seem to get hung up on the promoting terrorism aspect of the film, I was immediately reminded of the Franklin quote from 1776:
A rebellion is always legal in the first person, such as “our rebellion.” It is only in the third person – “their rebellion” – that it becomes illegal.
In this instance, the dictatorship/regime that currently holds power (in the film) has labeled V a terrorist, but it doesn’t follow that he considers himself a terrorist. They are afraid of him, and that’s the way it should be, he is rebelling against their tyranny.
We see the world of V for Vendetta largely through the eyes of Evey (Natalie Portman) and it is a scary place to live. She unwisely goes out after curfew one night and is only saved from a fate worse than death by the unheralded appearance of a masked man who calls himself ‘V’. As the story unfolds we discover the all too familiar trappings of a police state and it’s charismatic leader Adam Sutler (John Hurt) who is always shown in bright light while very clearly being the dark character. Whereas ‘V’ (excellently voiced by Hugo Weaving) is always in the dark, never shows his face and yet is clearly our hero. We follow Evey through the mental tug of war that she is subjected to, as the world she thought she understood is revealed as something else entirely. The audience growing and changing in our understanding of her world as she also begins to understand it.
There is a real temptation to draw too close a parallel to current events when watching this film. If you really want to enjoy it, I suggest that you take a word of advice from the film:
“Artists use lies to tell the truth; Politicians use lies to cover it up”
Just watch the film. Save the “what does it all mean” questions for after the credits roll.