Since the Park Place theater in Morrisville, NC appears to have run their Saturday late show as a public service, instead of for profit, it behooves me to say that I appreciate it. I want to assure them that the local movie-going community appreciates their efforts on our behalf and that the low attendance should be blamed on the film, which is deeply flawed.
What's wrong with the film? Alan Moore, who wrote the original graphic novel but asked to have his name taken off the film, sums it up nicely in his interview at MTV.com:
When I wrote "V," politics were taking a serious turn for the worse over here. We'd had [Conservative Party Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher in for two or three years, we'd had anti-Thatcher riots, we'd got the National Front and the right wing making serious advances. "V for Vendetta" was specifically about things like fascism and anarchy.It should be pointed out, in fairness, that Moore is a bit hard on the film. This is not to say that the parts he dislikes are not there, or that they are less annoying than he lets on, but that the film is not without its pleasures. The acting is good throughout with Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea being the standouts. The special effects, the pacing and the direction are all fine. The writing is maddeningly uneven -- there are long sequences that capture the feel of Moore's original and are actually quite involving, and there are also long sequences that have been added to update the story and are jarring and annoying.
Those words, "fascism" and "anarchy," occur nowhere in the film. It's been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. In my original story there had been a limited nuclear war, which had isolated Britain, caused a lot of chaos and a collapse of government, and a fascist totalitarian dictatorship had sprung up. Now, in the film, you've got a sinister group of right-wing figures — not fascists, but you know that they're bad guys — and what they have done is manufactured a bio-terror weapon in secret, so that they can fake a massive terrorist incident to get everybody on their side, so that they can pursue their right-wing agenda. It's a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about [England]. The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it. And if the Wachowski brothers had felt moved to protest the way things were going in America, then wouldn't it have been more direct to do what I'd done and set a risky political narrative sometime in the near future that was obviously talking about the things going on today?
George Clooney's being attacked for making ["Good Night, and Good Luck"], but he still had the nerve to make it. Presumably it's not illegal — not yet anyway — to express dissenting opinions in the land of free? So perhaps it would have been better for everybody if the Wachowski brothers had done something set in America, and instead of a hero who dresses up as Guy Fawkes, they could have had him dressed as Paul Revere. It could have worked.
Watching V for Vendetta is a bit like attending a live performance of MacBeth with a troupe of fine actors doing excellent preformances on one side of the stage and a troupe of monkeys hurling feces at the audience from the other. I can't really recommend it, but if you are determined to go you should try to ignore the monkeys... and wear a raincoat.
Update: 22 March
A few other reviews of V for Vendetta that share my point of view (more or less) are Jason Apuzzo's at Libertas and my friend Bill's at SciFiDimensions. Jason's piece draws parallels to a relatively obscure film that you can read about here.