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March 19, 2006

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» 5th of November from Brick and Mortar
Great review of a great movie. Go see this movie. Squirm at how uncomfortably close to reality some of the totalitarianism is. It's just a brief distance to the edge, folks. [Read More]

» V for Vendetta Review from MacPhoenix: Blog
Phew! Russells Law of 50% Returns on Comic Adaptations holds true. Bad news for X-Men III perhaps, but V for Vendetta was fantastic. I enjoyed... [Read More]

» V for Vendetta, E for Excellent from Brouhaha
Remember, remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot...I see no reason why gunpowder, treason should ever be forgot. Did you like the original Matrix film? Did you like Sin City? Do you like action films with a message behind them? The ... [Read More]

» The politics of V for Vendetta (no spoilers) from Mano Singham's Web Journal
I believe that V for Vendetta will go down in film history as a classic of political cinema. Just as... [Read More]

Comments

scarshapedstar

A government that engineers a terror attack on its own soil, and then sends in their own corporations to profit from cleaning up the mess... gee whiz, where'd they ever get that idea.

The Liberal Avenger

I can't wait to see it!

Jones

One helluva review, Chervoka. First time I've ever been here. I'll be back.

Craig Shergold

The word you're looking for is "spoiler". Please don't forget it in the future.

And, yes, I still want to see it.

ChrisV82

That was a pretty good article. I think you and I are mostly in agreement in our opinions of the comic and the movie, and where they both went right and wrong.

I did think the comic was more into the 1984 stuff than the movie (such as the voice of London/England/whatever), but I think the film was a pretty good adaption. It took everything it wanted from the comic, added what it needed to make itself a good film, and flowed well enough.

I said yesterday after I saw it that I'd give the comic a B (it's been a while since I read it, but that's the impression I retain) and the film a B. I might bump that up after reflecting further, and having time to digest a little more. I still feel that a totalitarian government in the Western world would be far more clever and not so overtly Nazi-ish (ditto with 1984, also); but I can get past the heavy-handedness, which could have been a lot worse.

I went in expecting it to be lame; I came out pleased. I guess it really deserves a B+/A-. Good show.

Lev Raphael

As an author and reviewer, Denby's review and some of the other bad ones (NYT , WaPo, Salon.com) made me know I wanted to see it for sure, whereas before I'd had my doubts. There's something about a dunderheaded review that reveals bother the reviewer's lack of insight into the book or film and points to the work's excellence.

I quite agree with this review. The film was tight, taut, coherent, compelling, exciting, and far more interesting than the original source material which is hardly the work of genius you're eharing it called (though that's probably more as a stick to ebat the movie with). I was thrilled that it was so much better than I'd been led to believe/expect by major reviewers.

As for the references to other works, what was the problem with that? When Quentin Tarantino does it, fine, but when the Wachowski Brothers do it, no go?

And as a bonus, when's the last major film you've seen that was so subversively pro-gay?

chervokas

Craig-

Spoiler, shmoiler.... I presume when I read or write a review of a book or movie that there will be a discussion of the plot, unless the plot is somehow irrelevent, in which case the book or movie is probably not worth reading or seeing.

Chris-

I pretty much agree with you, B+/A-...but it's like Peckinpah...it's hard to call Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garica a "great" movie because it's such a rickety, trashy, homemade contraption...but why do I just want to watch it over and over, why is Warren Oates' psychotic quest so tragic and heroic despite it's trashy surroundings? Isn't that what makes it great even though Citizen Kane it ain't? That's they way I feel about V.

Lev-

I usually appreciate the criticism of over-referential pomo art....Too often references and ironic intertextual commentary are substituted for insight and character definition in narrative art these days. It's the nature of post modernism to substitute detached, ironic, self-awareness for the old fashioned 19th search for transcendence. I'm a 19th century kind of guy. "Hast see the white whale" and all that. But I know you can make great PoMo art too (Paul's Boutique anyone?). In the case of V, I simply think that whatever references exists further instead of undermining the story's basic thrust, and, frankly, the originality of it's twists on classic themes. "Subversivly pro-gay"? I don't think so. First of all it's blatantly, fundamentally pro gay on it's face. Second of all, it's hard for me to call a glossy Hollywood blockbuster "subversive." "Forrest Gump," was more subversive, although it was subversively conservative and obnoxious and offensive. But I will say this for V...I came out of there feeling good about the idea of blowing up the White House. It's the feel good hit of the spring!

Ripley

I'll tell you what I think: Great review of a great film that happens to be just my kind of agit-prop. It's certainly got the insider-class squirming in their Gucci's. Bravo.

Slappy

I thought the movie was OK as I was watching it. A bit heavy handed and obvious but still not too bad. (As the rain falls on the girl we get a quick shot of V coming out of the burning rubble for example) Then I realized it was based on a comic as I watched the end credits. I wasn't familiar with the comic and didn't know much about the movie going in. After realizing it was based on a comic, the movie made more sense. V is a very comic bookish super hero/villian. The plot twists are very comic bookish as well. Nothing wrong with that. I love the X-Men movies myself.

However, if this movie were not based on a comic I am not sure it would stand on its own. As a movie alone and not based on a comic book adaptation I don't think the movie would hold up.

chervokas

Don't agree, Slappy. I think the XMen movies, and almost every comic book movie dumbs down the original material and fails to live up to the dramatic potential of its source. Except for the first Spider-man movie (and now V) there are no unqualified successes among the comic book movies I've seen.

V, by contrast to me, makes something else of the source material--the way kubrick made something else of his source material (Lolita, The Shining, 2001, etc). Obviously it's impossible for me to view the movie w/o my 20 years of prior knowledge of the source material. But my family members--ranging in age from boomer professional to Gen Y teen--hadn't read the comic but loved the movie. The movie spoke to them in a very contemporary way, both politically and visually.

I think there's an aesthetic thing happening in pop narrative right now where a group of creators who grew up on comic books are putting that aesthetic to new use across platforms. I'm thinking of Jonathan Lethem, The Wachoskis, Kevin Smith, Joss Wheedon, and to a lesser extent Michael Chabon. And there's a clash of aesthetics going on. In away I think you're either a Brokeback Mountain kind of person--favoring intimate stories of real people, or you're a V for Vendetta kind of person--seduced by myth and scale and magic.

Of course the two can crossover (all that great magical realism from Machado DeAssiss to Woody Allen's Alice, Chabon et al's script for Spidey 2--that's my favorite stuff, I'm not really a fan of pure fantasy a la Lord of the Rings); and one can be a fan of both.

But to those who cherish small, intimate realism--drama over the visual arts-- something that can be identified as "comic bookish" begins inherently a notch below. (In movies "comic bookishness" can often be seen in the kind of "heavy handed" visual metaphors and similes to which you object. Comics, after all, tell tales through iconography first, words and actions second.)

As I said in the review, V the movie is better than V the comic book, and I suspect it will hold up well to repeated viewing, and even small screen viewing where the story will be less overwhelmed by the visuals (tho' that relationship is an aspect of the original).

ChrisV82

I think if you could take X-Men 1's story and mash it together with X-Men 2's action and budget, you'd have a pretty good comic book adaption. X-Men 3 looks horrible.

But that's off-topic. I wanted to know how you felt about Sin City. I felt it was quite possibly the most literal adaption I've ever seen, but hearing Frank Miller's cheesy pulp dialogue on the screen was more grating than hearing it in my head. And really, both the comic and the movie were not big on story - it was definitely a visual, emotive kind of creation.

loopster

Not to be a killjoy, or a cliche-dropper, but sorry, the comic is better. I think it's more than fair to take Denby, et al, to task over their elitist view of the film's politics. The movie's not subtle and wasn't supposed to be; it's not a drawback. What is fair, is their critique of the movie's aesthetics, which are far less inventive and exciting than the story deserves. I hate to say it, but the film feels flat, flatter than it should feel, at any rate. Some sequences work very well, but many others don't. It simply doesn't feel alive, the way it should, and doesn't even have the stylistic razzle-dazzle that we're supposed to expect from the Brothers W.

The comic isn't perfect, but it feels more powerful, more generous, both more ambivalent and more committed than the film. I hope the film does very well. I hope that lots of people see it and talk about it. I think that it stands a chance of becoming a truly important film despite its shortcomings. I wish Alan Moore (whose work I admire tremendously) had kept his mouth shut in any case. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed in the execution of "V for Vendetta."

chervokas

Loopster, the comic's more ambivalent for sure, but like I said, it was easier to be ambivalent then.

I prefer the movie. Alan Moore, who can be a very purple prose technician and whose work can be very precious at times (both true of the original V), for once really benefitted from having someone try to turn his cerebral constructs into people in action in a sympathetic way (vs, say, the unspeakable monstrosity that was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen flick).

For my money the comic book never felt alive--it was a bunch of cool ideas carried by some knock out visuals, I hadn't wanted to re-read it for 20 years. It seemed bone dry and disengaged, but the movie throbs. I'm going to see it again. And this time in Imax.

Slappy

Chervokas:

This is just a personal preference but I prefer my fiction to be fiction based and my reality based movies to be based on reality. When the two mix, it just doesn't work for me. I like the XMen movies because it took the comic book world seriously as opposed to the god-awful Batman movies. The characters are more than just superheroes with super powers. The XMen world is fantasy and that allows us to "believe" in mutants.

V is fantasy but tries to put us in a world that is real. The fantasy makes the realism less real and the reality based parts of the movie take away form the fantasy. For me, you can't have both. The comic book V character cheapens the far deeper political underlinings of the movie. And the attempt to truely make us (or me rather) feel the horror of such a society is impossible with such a comic book character running through it. Imagine Schindler magically lifting the Jews magically out of Europe using his telekintic powers. The horror of the halocaust is lost, or at least lessened. Orwell's 1984 would be cheapened if the lead character were to have psychic powers. It would not work. Brave New World is fantasy and yet still works as a piece of fiction because it follows its own rules within its own universe. V attempts to horrify us with a realistic, all to close to reality, vision of the future and yet releases a comic superhero in the middle of it, I no longer fear this vision for it is now fiction based and not an attempt at an alternate or futuristic reality.

I believe I understand your point. My tastes are just different.

chervokas

Chris, I'm a Frank Miller fan. But I never was a big fan of the Sin City books precisely because they felt like warmed over pulp stories---a dash of Chandler here, a little James M. Cain there, some really over the top violence, and voila!

I love those pulp novels and the film noirs, but the Sin City book never seemed like a step forward, just a chance to draw some really great pictures. Still, the dialogue in Sin City was no cornier than Fred McMurray's dialogue in Double Indemnity. (Admittedly not the greatest example of good dialogue in classic film noir)

You're right, it was a literal adaptation. And it was great to look at (especially the parts when Jessica Alba is on screen ). But I didn't think it was a great movie by any stretch of the imagination.

My wife, however, who is not a comic book reader, adored it!

Apropos V for Vendetta, the Frank Miller movie I'd like to see is Martha Washington Goes to War.

chervokas

"Imagine Schindler magically lifting the Jews magically out of Europe using his telekintic powers."

That could have been the plot of a Gunter Grass or Salman Rushdie novel!

Slappy

Overall I would say more than the movie being good it is interesting. I'm glad I saw it. It certainly wasn't a waste of my time. And interesting alone is an accomplishment.

p kibble

David Denby is a priss and a scold. He's turned into what his his mentor Pauline Kael once accused late-70's movie audiences (and movie critics)in "Fear of Movies": shivering little fraidy cats who start mewling loudly every time a filmmaker steps on their tails.

Unfortunately, when Denby swings into his stern Calvinist mode, he can almost always be counted on to miss the point. Thus, if there was a problem with Kill Bill I (which I enjoyed), it wasn't due to its stylized, cartoonish violence so much as to its relentless self-referential movieness, its compulsive referencing to every filmmaker or genre that Tarantino admires, which began to feel airless and oppressive after a while. (Kill Bill 2 was better--as in Jackie Brown, there were some characters who shucked off the straight jackets of pop mythology and emerged as something like recognizable human beings.)

Denby's similiarly off the mark with V for Vendetta, though for sheer obtuseness Jeff Giles' long whine in his Newsweek review is unmatched. Giles complains that the movie "contains dialogue likely to offend anyone who's not, say, a suicide bomber."

I for one don't mind being "offended" in this way. "Offensive" movies can skewer received perceptions and start people asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions (which, believe it or not, is not the same as sanctioning mass murder). Apart from entertaining, V for Vendetta is also intended to provoke and even enrage.

I'm sure Giles and Denby would prefer their movies---and their movie audiences---all be safely housebroken. But some of us don't take our social cues (or our tastes)from those tea-sipping chats on NPR, where every one is given a turn to speak his or her piece in the name of "balance." "Balance" (and, thanks to Fox, "fair")has become a code phrase for "Don't shake them up"---the dangerous plebs out there who might start asking for their heads back once they start hearing someone aking all the "wrong" questions.

Oh, and will V for Vendetta start---to use that fetish phrase- a "national conversation" about freedom, etc? God, I hope not. Actually, what I'm hoping for is a good old fashioned shouting match, full of name-calling and the standard Anglo-Saxon expletives. Having to sit through George Sephanopulis's show where George Will or Cokie Roberts will inevitably parse the Insidious Implications of V in their bland, oh-so-measured tones is more than anyone should have to bear.

tim t.

saw the flick on saturday - months ago my expectations were high; then i decided to lower as we got closer to release date. i was surprised by how much i liked this film and found more than a few powerful moments - and make no mistake... its set in england - but its really about the states... the crowd was quiet and serious.. and when i was going to bed last night i caught a piece on the news about how v was the #1 movie over the weekend - i gave a fist pump and said outload "yes!" considering the lack of marketing by warner bros. i was surpised to see it #1. i think there is truely a hunger out there... for what, i'm not sure yet... but maybe.. just maybe...

Slappy

"Actually, what I'm hoping for is a good old fashioned shouting match, full of name-calling and the standard Anglo-Saxon expletives."

Amen.

sean

I haven't seen the movie yet, so maybe I shouldn't be responding, but in general David Denby is the worst. Even when I agree with him (which is rare) his reviews seem shrill, narrow minded, and dull. (Greil Marcus once remarked that Denby's style was the literary equivalent of clearing ones throat.) His idea of great recent American movies: meretricious stuff like Mystic River and outright lying crap like last years Crash.

chervokas

Sean, I didn't see Crash. But I thought Mystic River was good.

Wally Whateley

An excellent review -- best and most complete one I've seen so far, and I'm in total agreement. I'm recommending the movie to everyone I can.

daveminnj

i'd like to see it, but i'm wondering
is it incredibly depressing?
syriana (great movie) did me in for 2 days.

chervokas

Depressing? Nah. I actually found it uplifting!

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