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March 24, 2006

Caspera's Review of V For Vendetta

Caspera posted a long review in the comments. He hit a lot of points I meant to hit but didn't, and some that just blew by me. (Like, for example, V's gallery of "banned art" seems to include a lot of absolutely inoffensive landscape paintings-- what the hell?)

A couple of more points before I post Caspera's review:

Just out of pure spite, I'll note that V has the narrowest shoulders and biggest paunch of any action hero I've ever seen. He looks like the effete faux intellectual jagoff dilettante artiste he is. Couldn't they have at least padded his shoulders a little to make him look capable of taking out nine or ten young trained SWAT officers without dripping sweat? Memorizing Shakespeare is all well and good, but if you want to actually do battle against the armed forces of fascism, maybe you could mix it up with a few bench-presses here and there.

It's very funny when they show V, naked, arising from the fire that birthed him -- in those flashbacks only, he's actually played by a body-builder with standard-issue heroically broad shoulders and narrow waist. When they cut back to the present-day V, I kept wondering-- What the hell happened? Five years ago he was Rowdy Roddy Piper, now he's Judd Nelson with a weight problem.

And just to answer egotisticus: No, the mark of "great art" isn't its politics nor its intentions. If that were the case, any inept student film about Chimpy McBushitler would count as great art. There is a question of craft, and of craftiness; wit, intelligence, style, originality and the occasional flash of the unexpected or novel weigh in the balance.

V has none of those. I defy anyone to answer: What, precisely, was interesting or new or surprising about V? Everything in this piece of shit was done before, many times, and almost always better. I was begging for the movie to surprise me with a single plot twist or character turn that wasn't wholly obvious and obligatory from the initial set-up. It was a miserable failure at doing so; in fact, it was dangerously incompetent at producing anything similar to genuine entertainment or interest.

Except for one thing: Those daggers. The daggers he used were big, heavy, chrome-gleaming sonofabitches, and they looked like they weighed a pound and a half each. When he threw them at people, he would invariably knock his opponent off his feet with the force of the hefty weapon, and the daggers did look almost big enough to knock men around in this manner.

But that's it. Yes, it made a weapon I hadn't previously thought of as cool -- the lowly dagger, doing a mere d4 damage per hit -- look like a pretty menacing weapon. (Although, you know, it looked sort of silly when he was hacking into people with these daggers as if they were six pound battle axes or claymores. Yeah, they're heavy, but I don't think they're heavy enough to be used as chopping weapons.)

So that's the high point of the movie, really -- making a dagger look pretty cool.

Pretty minor achievement. Krull made the "glaive" (it wasn't really a glaive, but whatever) look kinda cool too, but that hardly marks it as great art.

Anyway, on to Caspera, and then I swear I'll shut up about this horrible movie for good:

I am going to bore you all to tears with my prolix take on this vile, foul movie. No, no. I insist.

I saw the movie and indeed it sucked. Ace is right. Politics aside, it was aesthetically annoying and cliched. The flagship review from the Village Voice called it "tasteless," so that should tell you something. Here's a litany of complaint, in no particular order.

To show that V is cultured they give him his metrosexual bachelor pad with banned paintings on the wall. It is never explained why some of the paintings, say an idyllic scene, would be banned, but there they are. Oh, and V has 5000 of the paintings hung on the wall with no rhyme or reason. It might be tasteful for me to steal the entire contents of the Musee D'Orsay, but I think it would be in bad taste for me to try to hang all the paintings on the wall at once. Not to mention all the roses. God, the roses. What, does he have some hydroponic rig in the closet?

V uses Evie's id to get back into the BTC (i.e. the BBC). Since the police and the BTC have long since determined that Evie is a co-conspirator, it is absurd that they didn't not disable her pass. The movie offers no explanation for this.

I am not sure why they bothered to explain that V uses Evie's pass, give that he can apparently move through solid walls in other scenes.

The movie uses the I-am-Spartacus-everyone-has-a-Fawkes-mask trick multiple times. At least three by my count.

Evie kissing V's stupid mask is stupider than Spiderman's upside-down smooch with Kirsten Dunst. It may be the stupidest kiss in cinema history, so I hope it makes it into an Academy Awards montage.

The Koran stuff is weird. So Evie's gay friend has a banned Koran. She says, "I didn't know you were a Muslim." He says, and I am quoting from memory, "I'm not, but one doesn't to be a Muslim to admire it's poetry." (Or maybe it was imagery, but it makes no difference.) You mean like verse that enjoins people to execute homosexuals by burying them? And what the hell are they getting at anyway? The Koran was banned presumably because of its ideas not because of its aesthetics. The movie wants to dodge this problem so it repeatedly spends about 3 seconds addressing the issue each time it comes up. The reluctance to actually engage the issue these scenes raise gives them an odd feel.

The lesbian who was executed by the State for -- get this -- being a lesbian writes her autobiography on a fairly hardy brand of toilet tissue -- it looks more like vellum than tissue. Evie never calls out to the woman, as a normal woman might do, because their interaction being only by means of the tissue paper becomes a plot point. It is, however, absurd. The bulk of this poor soul's autobiography contains historical information that would be known to Evie (but not to the audience), so what is supposed to be a touching sequence actually produces a comic effect. It would be as if my autobiography went as follows: "I shall not live for much longer, so to ensure that a little bit of myself survives, I give to you this my autobiography. I was born in 1967. My first memories were of Presidents Nixon and Ford. Nixon's efforts to solve the Vietnam quagmire, either through negotiation or force, came to nought, and Ford also could do nothing to forestall the fall of Saigon..." Seriously, that's what it's like. Autobiography? Bah. Poorly disguised exposition, more like.

And as for the scenes where you get to see the full V, I think the movie rips off a lot from Spawn.

The final knife fight is pornographically violent with loving closeups of slow mo exaggerated blood spurts.

The movie is filled with annoyances such as this. And this is before you get to the movie's politics. Larry the Urbanite and ergastularius are wrong on this count. Sometimes a movie's politics are so vile, the movie should be shunned. I have no problem with black people's not wanting to see Birth of a Nation. I mean, who wants to see the KKK lionized? Ha, ha. Very funny. Anyways, V for Vendetta might as well have been penned by Tim McVeigh. McVeigh was convinced that by blowing up the Murrah building, he would provide the spark that would lead to revolution. This is exactly what V explains he is trying to do in the movie. Waco and Gulf War I, in which McVeigh fought, convinced him he needed to strike a blow against what he saw as a fascist state. Just like V, McVeigh's colossal ego made him envision the destruction of the existing order as the only way to address his personal problems. Now what are good liberals like ergastularius doing defending Tim McVeighism? "Blowing up a building can change the world" to strike a blow against fascism is arguably the core idea behind the Oklahoma City massacre. As Ace pointed out, the filmmakers constructed a world so cartoonishly fascist as to justify such action, but such cartoonery was exactly what was going on in McVeigh's head. My government is fascist, so whatever I do is justified is a dangerous idea when it's not being silly, because all it requires one to do is make a half-baked argument that thus-and-so is fascist -- liberals are experts at this -- and then, boom, your mass murder is justified.

[Spoiler alert]

Ramming a subway car full of TNT into Parliament is exactly like flying a plane filled with jet fuel into the Pentagon. Very tasteless, too, even in fictional form given that real flesh and blood people were recently blown up in a minor league version of this plan in the real Underground.

Perhaps the most foul part of the movie conceptually is that V tortured Evie over the space of days if not weeks, ostensibly trying to get her to reach the place were he is at. V repeated shoves Evie's head into a toilet (it is quite a clear toilet, shot from inside the bowl, a trick which Sin City already exhausted). She is enraged when she discovers that it was V and not the State who tortured her, but this rage quickly turns to love. This is vomitously foul. What we are witnessing is a cult initiation whereby the sociopath methodically scrapes away at the humanity of Evie so as to produce a copy of himself -- another equally capable sociopath -- so that she might carry on his legacy after he's gone. The movie interprets this torture and voiding of the conscience as love. Maybe the erstwhile Larry Wachowski's confusion of sadomasochism with love is what we're witnessing. He's deeply into that shit.

I would think that a movie that claims to be seriously revolutionary would communicate some idea of what the revolution will bring, but there really are no specifics given as to exactly how things will get better after all the destruction, only the assertion that the destruction is a pre-requisite for ushering in this new order. It is not this revolutionary's job to specify the nature of this new order, only to insist that whatever it is has to be better. Of course, this attitude is just shy of pure nihilism. To say that all that exists must be smashed because whatever follows must be better is to say that all that exists must be smashed, full stop. The movie replaces this gaping whole in its argument with revolutionary romance, but it wears thin eventually causing one to be relieved when V finally ceases his interminable prattle. Sure these fascists are bad, but they did get V to shut up finally, so they can't be all bad

The final credits roll over the Rolling Stones' Street Fighting Man. I think this is funny because that song, like the Beatles' Revolution and the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again were all about opting out of the revolution.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine massacre fame found a connection with the Wachowskis' work, and they modeled their Columbine massacre as a sort of trenchcoat-wearing Matrix-like rampage. Having seen V for Vendetta, I think Harris and Klebold were on to something. V is a Columbine massacre of a movie, filled with adolescent rage disguised as political commentary, except it uses throat-slitting instead of shotgun-blasting for its violent fantasy of revenge against the imagined oppressor.


End Caspera's review.

I heartily endorse his view of this film as potentially dangerous murder-pornography for those young, stupid, or crazy enough to believe that killing their "oppressors" is justified. That was actually the film's intent, and if it fails to inspire such violence, it's only because it's so ineptly made.

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posted by Ace at 10:12 PM

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