As the MCU set to storm theaters again with Infinity War, just after the theaters have started to recover from the showing of Black Panther, It can be hard to forget that there are other movies out there based on comic books. Now, I’m not talking about the DCEU, which has honestly been kind of a flop with the exception of Wonder Woman. I’m talking about some of the other movies that were based on lesser known comic books. Take today’s movie for instance. Granted, the comic it was based on was from DC’s offshoot company, Vertigo, but you aren’t going to see any of the famed Justice League members in this movie. That is because Vertigo comics focused on darker, and more adult themes that wouldn’t be able to make it past the normal comic censors. I remember being pretty excited to go see this movie in theaters when it came out, and had no problem attending a late night showing, even though I was leaving early the next morning to go out of town. So let’s all get a little bit of anarchy in our systems with today’s movie, V For Vendetta.
The plot: As Lewis Prothero starts giving his usual propagandist speeches on the television for his show, a man dressed in black and armed with several knives dons a Guy Fawkes mask, cape, and hat, then heads out. At the same time, Evey Hammond is also watching Prothero’s program as she gets dressed, turning it off as he goes on his fevered pitch against immigrants and homosexuals. Realizing how late it is, Evey quickly heads out, trying to reach her destination before she is caught for being out past curfew but she ends up being detained by 3 Fingermen, members of the ruling Norsefire party’s secret police. The Fingermen intend on raping Evey as punishment for being out past curfew but she is rescued by the masked man, who introduces himself as V. V invites Evey to join him for a concert and takes her to a rooftop just as midnight sounds and the date changes to November 5th. Referencing “The Bonfire Prayer”, V begins waving a conductor’s baton and Evey hears “1812 Overture” being broadcast over the speakers on the street, attracting the attention of the residents in the area who go outside to see what is going on. As the crescendo hits, the Old Bailey, London’s main criminal court, is destroyed by explosives, while fireworks going off in the pattern of the letter V light up the sky. The next morning, High Chancellor Adam Sutler holds a video conference with his cabinet; Eric Finch (The Nose) – head of Scotland Yard, Peter Creely (The Finger) – head of the Secret Police, Brian Etheridge (The Ear) – head of the government’s audio surveillance, Roger Dascombe (The Mouth) – head of the government’s propaganda machine, and Conrad Heyer (The Eye) – head of the government’s visual surveillance. The cabinet tells him that they are stepping up their various surveillance measures and doing their best to capture the terrorist, as well as try to identify Evey to find out her role in the matter. The next day, Evey reports to work at BTN and apologizes to her boss, Gordon Deitrich, for standing him up the night before. When Evey delivers some packages to one of the studios, she is shocked to discover that they all contain Guy Fawkes masks and quickly grabs her things to leave. Meanwhile, Finch and his partner, Dominic Stone, get a lead on Evey’s identity and after breaking into her apartment, realize she works for BTN. As they head to the studio, Finch looks up her information and decides to call in some back up. At BTN, V shows up, wearing an explosive vest, and takes one of the studio’s hostage just as Finch and his men show up. Finch spots Evey and tries to capture her but they lose her just as V has the studio play a pre-recorded disk he made over the emergency network, causing it to reach every TV in Britain. In the video, V speaks out to the citizens of England, telling them there is something wrong with the country and inviting them to join him outside Parliament in one year if they feel the same way. The police, accompanied by Dascombe, manage to break into the studio only to find that V had made all of the hostages wear Guy Fawkes masks and cloaks in order to help cover his escape. Dascombe works on defusing the bomb V left on the control panel while Stone manages to get the drop on V as he tries to leave. Evey, who had seen V and quickly hidden, decides to help him but ends up getting knocked unconscious and V quickly knocks out Stone, then carries Evey away. Later, BTN shows edited footage of the police shooting V (in reality it was one of the hostages by mistake) and saying he was dead while trying to paint him in a bad light but the seeds of doubt have already started to grow among the people. Evey wakes up in a strange room and as she explores her surroundings, encounters V, who says that she is in his home, the Shadow Gallery, which is a collection of items that have been deemed forbidden by Sutler. Evey says she has to leave and V tells her that the police were there looking for her, which means they know where she lives. He then apologizes and says that he can’t allow her to leave until after Guy Fawkes day of the following year, which upsets Evey. The next morning, Evey apologizes to V for her reaction and noticing his severely burned hands, asks about them but he tells her he was in a fire a long time ago and quickly changes the subject. That night, V uses Evey’s ID to gain access to the BTN building and Prothero’s studio apartment in the building. V confronts Prothero as he gets out of the shower and reveals they share a history back when Prothero was in the military. Some time later, Dascombe calls Finch, who arrives to find that Prothero has been murdered and Dascombe tries to find a way to spin it while Finch works on finding any trace to link it to V and find him. The next morning, Evey is woken by the sounds of struggle only to find it is V reenacting scenes from The Count Of Monte Cristo as it is playing on the TV behind him. V apologizes for waking her and invites Evey to watch the movie with him. Afterwards, a news reports talks about Prothero’s death and Evey realizes the news anchor is lying about how Prothero died. Evey asks V if he killed Prothero and when he admits he did, she gets upset. Meanwhile, Finch and Stone are looking into Prothero’s history and are trying to figure out why he was put in charge of the detention center at Larkhill and go looking for more information about it. Back in the Shadow Gallery, Evey tells V her history and about how her parents were grabbed by the Fingermen one night and offers to help V if he needs it. V does so and has her dress as a school girl and meet with Bishop Lilliman, who has a fetish for young girls. Evey tries to warn Lilliman about V but the bishop doesn’t believe her until V bursts into the room. Evey apologizes to V and quickly flees and V calls out for her but turns his attention to Lilliman when he tries to shoot him. An audio surveillance van picks up on V’s altercation and alerts Finch but he arrives too late to save Lilliman. Creedy shows up and tells Finch that Sutler is not happy about Finch’s poking around into Larkhill and tells him to focus on finding V before his own loyalty comes into question. Finch speaks with the medical examiner, Dr. Delia Surridge, and she confirms that the same poison killed Lilliman and Prothero and when he asks her about the flower V places on the bodies, she gets a shocked look on her face and identifies it as a Scarlet Carson, a species thought to be extinct. Stone calls Finch back to the office and shows him that all of the staff at Larkhill are now dead with the exception of one doctor, who they are unable to find due to the doctor changing his name. Meanwhile, Evey makes her way to Gordon’s house and he quickly brings her inside. After she explains what happened to her, Gordon shows her a hidden room in his house filled with forbidden items and reveals that he is gay, which would mean the end of his career and possibly his life if anyone were to know. Late that night, Surridge is woken by V and the two talk briefly before V admits that he already killed her and she dies peacefully. As this occurs, Stone learns that Surridge is the doctor from Larkhill and Finch rushes over there only to find her already dead, with her journal lying on her night stand. Finch speaks with Sutler, who tells him that the journal is a matter of national security and not to be told to anyone. Disregarding the order, Finch reads the journal and learns that Larkhill was used as a testing facility for biological warfare before it was destroyed and while most of the patients were killed by the experiments, Surridge said she had hopes for one man who was known as Prisoner 5 (the roman numeral V). Finch finds himself questioning what really happened at St. Marys’ school and Three Waters, which were the sites of terrorist attacks, and asks Stone if perhaps they incidents were not what they have been led to believe. One night, Gordon informs Evey that he changed the script of his show and as they watch, Evey is shocked to see he made a satire/parody skit, with an actor portraying Sutler chasing after V. When V is captured, he is revealed to be another Sutler and they two men fight before being killed by the police. Later that night, Evey is woken by the sounds of struggle and Gordon bursts into the room and tells her to hide just before the door is smashed and he is assaulted and captured by Creedy and the Fingermen. After they leave, Evey sneaks out the window and attempts to escape but she is captured and a bag is placed over her head. Evey is interrogated and tortured for the location of where to find V but she refuses to tell them. Evey discovers a note from the prisoner in the cell next to her and reads it in between her bouts of torture. The note is from an actress named Valerie Page, who was a lesbian and describes her life up to the time of Sutler’s rise to power and how both her and her girlfriend were taken by the Fingermen. When Evey is threatened to be executed by firing squad unless she tells them what they want to know, Evey, inspired by the note, refuses to give them what they want and chooses the firing squad. The guard says she is without fear and free to go and walks away, leaving the door open. Confused, Evey walks out the door and discovers that she is in another part of the Shadow Gallery. V apologizes for what he did and when she asks about Gordon, he tells her he was executed when they found a Koran inside his house. Evey yells at V for what he did to her before collapsing to ground in anguish and he leads her outside onto the roof for some fresh air and she walks out into the rain and cries out in release. Later Evey tells V she is leaving and offers him back the note but he reveals that Valerie was a real person and happened to be in the cell next to V’s in Larkhill. V asks Evey if she would come see him before Guy Fawkes Day and she agrees to see him, then leaves the Shadow Gallery and heads out to start a new life. Meanwhile, Stone uncovers that there were 3 covert ops who knew the truth about Larkhill and while two of them are dead, one of them, Rookwood, knows they are looking for him and contacts Finch to arrange a meeting. Finch and Stone meet with Rookwood, who tells them about Sutler’s rise to power and how the weapon that was developed at Larkhill was used on the British people, under Creedy’s suggestion, as a means to instill fear in the populace and ensure Sutler’s winning the election. Rookwood says that he will give them all the proof they need once they place Creedy under surveillance so that he feel safe from being killed. As Creedy is placed under surveillance, V approaches him and offers a deal to Creedy, saying he will turn himself in to him in exchange for Creedy bringing him Sutler. Meanwhile, Finch discovers that Rookwood had really been dead for years and realizes that the man they met was really V. As Guy Fawkes day approaches, masks, hats, and cloaks are delivered to every person in London and more and more instances of unrest occur throughout the city. When a Fingerman shoots a little girl who was wearing a mask, he is attacked by several bystanders, leading to riots throughout the city and martial law being declared. As day breaks on November 5th, Evey returns to the Shadow Gallery to keep her promise to V, who is honestly surprised she came. V asks her to dance with him and as they dance, they talk for a bit before he shows her a subway tunnel with a train loaded with explosives that is pointed towards Parliament. He tells her that the decision to blow up Parliament lies not in his hands, but in hers, and says that she must be the one to shape the new world, as he is part of the old. V says he must go to meet his maker and Evey begs him not to go, saying they can leave together and kisses him but V apologizes and leaves. As a televised speech by Sutler appears on the television, Creedy and his men enter an abandoned Subway tunnel and meet with V. Creedy reveals that he has brought Sutler and V speaks with him briefly before Creedy kills him. Creedy then turns his attention to V but V kills the two Fingermen that try to take off his mask. V mocks Creedy, who orders the rest of his men to fire and they shoot V but when their guns are empty, he is shown to still be standing and begins slaughtering the men, leaving Creedy to be last. Creedy fires at him but V continues towards him, then proceeds to break his neck. V removes the armored breast plate he was wearing to try and protect him from the bullets and makes his way through the tunnels back to Evey and admits his love for her before dying in her arms. On the streets of London, hundreds of citizens donning V’s garb march towards Parliament, ignoring the military barricade that are in place. Evey places his body inside the train and prepares to pull the lever when Finch shows up and tells her to stop but when she refuses, he lowers his weapon. As midnight sounds and the crowds gather around Parliament, Evey pulls the lever and sends the train on it’s way, then asks Finch if he likes music. They head up to the roof and watch as Parliament and Big Ben explodes and Finch asks who V was and Evey tells him he was all of them.
V For Vendetta met with mostly positive reviews from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Visually stunning and thought-provoking, V For Vendetta‘s political pronouncements may rile some, but its story and impressive set pieces will nevertheless entertain.” The domino scene, where V tips over black and red dominoes to form a giant letter V, involved twenty-two thousand dominoes. It took four professional domino assemblers two hundred hours to set it up. Alan Moore, who wrote the graphic novel the movie is based on, was upset with several of the changes that made V more “morally appealing” and felt that the “fascist government” he created had been defanged. This led to him refusing to have any credit listed in the film and any money he received was given to his partner on the book, David Lloyd. The movie was a success at the box office, earning $132.5 million off of a $54 million budget.
I think this might go down as one of the most impactful comic book movies to ever come out as you will always be able to find a real life situation that mirrors the political aspects in this movie, albeit hopefully not completely. The acting in this was pretty good, with Hugo Weaving doing a good job giving voice to V while Natalie Portman was equally good as Evey. As good as they were, I honestly think Stephen Rea helped set the undertone for the movie as Finch, as he went from loyal party member that didn’t question anything to beginning to doubt what is being told and wanting to learn the truth for himself, while John Hurt and Tim Pigott-Smith did well in their roles as Sutler and Creedy respectively. The story was toned down from the comics but is still well told and really can be used as a showcase of how a fascist government operates. The special effects in the few fight scenes V felt a little over dramatic at times in the use of the slow motion but I know it was meant to showcase his superhuman strength and speed. Still, the choreography was well done and, while slow, the fights were no less exciting. One of my favorite comic book movies to make it to film and definitely one that should be watched.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5