Monday, March 21, 2016

A Reel 10: V FOR VENDETTA


“Remember remember the 5th of November…”
 

This month marks the 10th anniversary of James McTeigue’s
V FOR VENDETTA.

Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore in which a masked freedom fighter named V attempts to start a revolution against a tyrannical neo-fascist government in a future United Kingdom, V FOR VENDETTA was James McTeigue’s directorial debut, and was produced by the (then) Wachowski Brothers, who were coming off their successful run with THE MATRIX franchise.

Using history and literature as inspiration, including the Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot of 1605, along with Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo and the writings of William Shakespeare, Moore’s graphic novel was adapted for the screen by the Wachowski’s. It was an ambitious and bold project, with a narrative led by a masked terrorist fighting against a government which ruled with an iron fist. The Wachowski’s wrote the script even before their first MATRIX was complete, and revised and revisited it over the years. When things finally started rolling, the directing job went to McTeigue, who had served as an assistant director for the two MATRIX sequels, along with STAR WARS: EPISODE II.

The important role of V, the masked main-character, was first given to James Purefoy, who spent six weeks filming before leaving the production. The role was filled by Hugo Weaving, who had previously starred in THE MATRIX trilogy, and was enjoying fame from his role in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The role of Evey Hammond, the young girl who falls in with V, went to Natalie Portman, who had impressed McTeigue during their time working together on STAR WARS. The super-villain-esque role of the Supreme Chancellor, Adam Sutler, went to the great John Hurt. The rest of the cast was rounded out by Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, and a young Imogen Poots.

Once filming was complete, V FOR VENDETTA was slated to be released on the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ historic plot to destroy Parliament, with the tag line “Remember remember the 5th of November”, which was taken from the traditional rhyme about the event. However, due to the extensive visual effects work, the film was delayed four months into March of 2006. The missed opportunity did not hurt, as V FOR VENDETTA opened number one at the U.S. Box Office and in five other countries. Famed critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the film “two thumbs up”. It would win few awards, although Natalie Portman would win Best Actress at the 2007 Saturn Awards. The character V, whose face is never revealed, was included in Fandomania magazine’s list of The Greatest 100 Fictional Characters.

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V FOR VENDETTA did not win any Oscars, has not been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, and as a movie based on a graphic novel, it is often lost among the flood of comic-book adaptations involving men of steel and caped crusaders. But the strong symbolism in V FOR VENDETTA has made the film one of the most significant entries into pop culture and society since STAR WARS. The film itself speaks to how the famed mask is a symbol, and that has become true as the face of Guy Fawkes has become a symbol today for the oppressed, for fighting for freedom, and seeking truth. As a film, the film is very progressive as it tackles an evil government which persecutes women and gays, and watching it today one has to wonder just how far from that fictional storyline we really are in reality. The dramatic prose, characters, and commitment to history and the arts give the film a richness, and the action scenes, which are fantastic while remaining tempered, make V FOR VENDETTA one of the most entertaining and worthwhile action-flicks in the modern era. This Blogger keeps this film in his personal Top 20, proudly displays the poster at home, and revisits the film once a year; always on the 5th of November…and often wonders when the world will catch up to V.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”
 
 
 
 

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