Today is the 415th anniversary of the infamous Gunpowder Plot in 1605, and just after the 10th anniversary of the intended release of the stunning thriller: ‘V For Vendetta‘. So, ten years on, has the film cemented its place as a true modern classic, or is it not worthy of such praise, and should it be forgot?
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
V For Vendetta’s Legacy
Although it intended to release on November 4th, 2005 (the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot), V For Vendetta’s worldwide opening was delayed until March 2006.
However, once it finally did open, it was met with praise from the critics, however it’s now clear that that acclaim has not lasted the course of 10 years, despite the small cult reputation it has garnered. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film only has a 73% score with an average rating of 6.8/10, and only 62/100 on Metascore.
The only saving grace for the film is from IMDb and this site, The Mad Movie Man. It sits strongly in 144th place on IMDb’s Top 250, with a rating of 8.2/10 from over 700,000 users, and despite the site’s criticism for having more comic book and superhero fanboys rating films, it is the highest ranked comic book movie on the entire site.
Meanwhile, I have given V For Vendetta an 8.9/10, a hugely high rating by this site’s standards, and it’s placed in 43rd on my Top 150 Movies. So, the question is: who is right? Is the film overrated by fanboys, or underrated by the critics? Let’s find out…
Story and Themes
The film is based on the 1988 graphic novel ‘V For Vendetta’, written by David Lloyd, and centres around a dystopian Britain in the near future, where a totalitarian fascist regime has taken control of a nation of chaos and imposed a police state, robbing the people of freedom of speech, information and movement across the country.
However, the government is then met with a fierce opponent in the illusive terrorist ‘V’, who disguises himself by wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, as he stages various attacks on major landmarks around London in order to promote his message of revolution against the political oppressors.
During this time, he meets a young woman called Evey Hammond, who is unexpectedly drawn into his terrorist activities and herself becomes a fugitive, and is initially forced into hiding in V’s underground base, although she ultimately escapes.
The story is clearly the main reason why this should be regarded as a modern classic. On the one hand, it features a swashbuckling crusader in V who, effectively like a superhero, saves the world from brutal political oppression, and in that, it is a massively entertaining film to watch, thanks to his brilliant acrobatics and fantastic dialogue.
However, what makes this a truly worthy film is that it blends the superhero/graphic novel genre with a very dark but hugely intelligent tale of political oppression and revolution.
Few fiction films in the 21st Century have gone to the lengths that this has in showing off the naked brutality of a totalitarian regime, and so this is a hugely unique modern film in that regard, but it’s also one of the most fascinating perspectives on the concept of revolution.
It looks at V’s revolution from two points of view, one being that of the supporters, who will fight and do anything for what they believe in, and the other being his opponents, who regard him as nothing more than a petty terrorist. As a result, despite your moral desire to support V’s cause, as a viewer, you feel conflicted in supporting V, due to his apparent lack of true morality as he searches for political justice.
And nothing sums that sentiment up more perfectly that Natalie Portman’s character, Evey Hammond. Initially, her support for V seems a simple affair, but following his murders of various high political figures, she begins to doubt him, culminating in her escape from V after he attempts to use her as bait to murder a paedophile priest.
Then, after her harrowing term of torture and imprisonment in a mysterious jail is revealed to be of V’s own making, it makes you really rethink whether you fully support this man. He’s clearly a committed revolutionary, but the fact that he was willing to physically and psychologically torture Evey for the cause makes him a much bigger anti-hero than you would have ever thought, making him one of the most fascinating protagonists ever put on screen.
The film ultimately raises the question of morality in revolution. Is it right to resort to violence and terrorism in order to reach a supposedly just cause?
As you can see, the film is a lot deeper, intelligent and politically controversial than most modern films, which is surely key to seeing it as a true classic of the modern era, given that uniqueness amongst the crowd.
Performances, Directing and Visual Effects
The plot, then, is an absolute triumph, and surely the maker of a cinematic classic, but you can’t have a true classic without strength right across the board, and that’s where the acting, directing and visuals come into play.
Firstly, the performances are astounding. Natalie Portman’s accent isn’t actually that bad, and the rest of her performance is incredible, bringing a genuine vulnerability to her character that makes her so much easier to sympathise with and care about. Meanwhile, Hugo Weaving is also amazing as V, putting in the whole show whilst never removing that mask, which is something very difficult to do, but he pulls it off expertly.
The film is directed by James McTeigue, who brings the graphic novel feel to the story by showing off a lot of bright colours contrasted with a dark backdrop throughout, and it really works to make a hugely good-looking and exciting film to look at, whilst his camera work is also expert, managing to keep up with and further emphasise the chaos of the whole story, another hugely impressive achievement.
And then, there’s the visual effects. Apart from the climactic fight scene and the few explosions, there’s visibly very little CGI in this film (and even in those scenes it’s pretty good). Most of the stunts, settings and visuals are all practical, and you can feel the difference, making this a much more pleasant and simply realistic film to watch.
But visual effects are an integral part to making a long-lasting modern classic, because they’re what can feel outdated the most quickly. Take 2001: A Space Odyssey for example. It’s an astonishing film, but so many people don’t take it as seriously now because of the visual effects, because they all think it looks fake and stupid.
However, that won’t happen to this film due to the fact that the effects are mostly practical, which gives it even more credentials as a long-lasting future classic.
It’s a film that does divide people, and it really depends on how much you enjoy the action as well as are interested by the political drama. However, I believe that, in 30 or 40 years, this film will have stood the test of time and be regarded as a true classic of the early 21st Centurym above many of its counterparts (i.e. Inception, The Dark Knight, The Lord Of The Rings, Mad Max: Fury Road etc.), and that’s why it just can’t be forgotten, it needs to be praised more as a true cinematic great.