V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

I didn’t see this film on the big screen, and as I watch it begin now on the new DVD, I think maybe I should have. The portentous introduction, I suspect, would have played better in a dark theater than a living room with distractions abounding. It quickly became irrelevant, though, as I got lost in the movie.

This two-DVD set (review copy provided) has

  • the trailer
  • a 15-minute making-of with artist David Lloyd, producer Joel Silver, director James McTeigue, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, and Stephen Fry (who provides the best justification of graphic novels as art on the disc, but I would expect no less from a writer)
  • a 20-minute piece on the movie’s design (which talks about how interesting it was to make an anti-fascism film in Berlin) and visual effects
  • 12 minutes of information on Guy Fawkes and other key events in English history
  • an Easter egg (the foul-mouthed-but-bleeped Portman rap from Saturday Night Live)
  • a 15-minute documentary on the graphic novel “and the New Wave in Comics” that includes David Lloyd, Karen Berger, Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Levitz, Geof Darrow, Paul Chadwick, and some of the movie folk. It starts out with comic history in the 1950s, including the Comics Code, that had us quibbling. Berger tries to say American comics were all about superheroes until the British comic revolution, which ignores the diversity of genres in the 50s, and later on, Levitz says that black-and-white art reminds readers of editorial cartoons. (The series was originally in black-and-white, which leads to film noir comparisons, until Lloyd says it’s because they couldn’t afford anything else.) Many of the interviews were filmed, based on the scenery out the window, at San Diego. I didn’t learn anything new, but then, I wouldn’t have. For movie viewers, it’s a nice overview, serious and significant without being too long.

The single-disc edition just has the movie and the making-of.

V for Vendetta

The mood of the film quickly overtook me, so that I forgot I was watching, instead experiencing. Visually, it’s very impressive, especially when it moves out of the studio and into the city or during the knifework. There were times when V’s speeches blended into background noise while images washed over me.

Natalie Portman was better than I expected (I’m not a fan), but I always enjoy seeing Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and Hugo Weaving. That’s a very nice job of voice acting, spending the movie behind the mask but still creating an expressive character.

I tried to reread the graphic novel when the movie came out, but it was for me too much of its time. (I know some disagree, and I see their points, although it doesn’t work that way for me.) I do think that the lengthy speeches, especially the one with all the Vs, work better in print, where they can be read at the reader’s preferred speed.

The film, on the other hand, is very much of the now, with media manipulation, increating governmental control, and lying politicians more concerned with impressions than fulfilling their purpose. It seems more American than English to me, but at least with the British setting, I got to hear some wonderful accents.

Personally, I was surprised on the making-of to hear the director talking about making Evey less of a pawn and giving her more intelligence than in the graphic novel. It was surprising because I found myself thinking that she doesn’t actually do very much, mostly serving as motivation for the male characters. If that’s been beefed up, then I’m glad I haven’t reread the book recently.

I’m also glad to have this available in a more permanent form, because I suspect it’s one of those movies that will change for me as I do. By that I mean that it asks for the reader’s interpretation, and as I change over time, I’ll find different things in it. The film modernizes the original graphic novel in a way that’s reminiscent of elements of Brazil and Network.

It’s not often that I find myself admiring a crazy terrorist who’s surrounded himself with popular culture. I thought the mask worked wonderfully, with many scenes the more powerful for staring at that unmoving, grinning face. This may just be the best superhero movie ever; it’s certainly the best use of a mask and cape.

Apropos of nothing else, I wonder why they chose the Cross of Lorraine for the fascist symbol. I saw something about it being the symbol of the Free French during World War II. Is there some kind of ironic reversal behind the choice?

More information is available at IMDB. The DVD is available August 1.

(And now, a personal story — V for Vendetta was the most difficult trade paperback KC worked on at DC. By the time they decided to do the collection, a whole bunch of other countries had already done one, using DC’s film.

The film was normally set up eight pages to a sheet, but it had all been sliced into individual pages on its journeys, and all the identifying page marks had been removed. Since it was a four-color printing process, there were four sheets of film for each page, one each for black, cyan, yellow, and red.

The only way to resolve this situation was to find the black plate for each page and compare it to the original comic. KC set up shop in a conference room with track lighting and taped the black films up, one page to a light, to see which ones were which. Each color sheet then had to be matched to the black plates one by one. The end result was two weeks of solid work to assemble the film, stopping whenever the room was needed for meetings.

The film also had all the opaquing on it that the other countries used to white out the word balloons to substitute their own language. It all had to be washed off by hand. Because this wasn’t the first time the film had been opaqued and washed, it was in terrible shape, and much of the lettering had closed up, including approximately 90% of the Es.

There were thousands of these lettering corrections, which would be done by the printer when they shot new film. Weeks later, KC was summoned into Levitz’s office, along with Production Manager Bob Rozakis, where Levitz told KC that the cost of the film corrections for this book was astronomically high. KC had been told to fix what was wrong, which included broken lettering, only no one had told him what a normal number of corrections would be or how much it would cost.

KC felt that Levitz wanted to be angry about it but had to settle for resigned frustration. KC had done what he was instructed to do, and Rozakis backed him up. KC remembers Levitz saying something about that as a result, the collection wouldn’t go into profit until its third printing, due to the correction costs, but I don’t think that’s a problem now.)


  • Jer

    One – you’re right – you should’ve seen it in the theater. It’s definitely a big movie that suffers dramatically from moving it from a dark theater with a big-screen to a well-lit living room with a television.

    Two – they actually say that they make Evey less of a pawn in the interviews, huh? I read the book again AFTER watching the film and I was struck that Evey in the book is a total follower – she never makes a decision on her own. Even at the end, when V ostensibly forces her to make her own decision to stay with him, she appears to be suffering more under the aegis of Stockholm Syndrome that actually making her own decision. I thought the film actually did better in this aspect, where Evey finally starts taking her own life into her own hands at the end, after V’s brutal “shock therapy”. Of course, she’s a pawn through the rest of the book, because she’s the “go-along, get-along, good citizen” who doesn’t really think much about what’s going on, and is only trying to live her life. In the novel, Moore is not very subtle about it (going as far as making her a prostitute), while in the movie its a more metaphoric form of prostitution (working for the state-run media giant), but its effectively the same.

    Three – The book is really, really depressing compared to the movie. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) in the movie is much, much darker in the book. Right down to the ending, where in the movie its one of hope, where the citizens finally start to take some responsiblity for the monster they’ve sat back and allowed their government to become, while in the book the citizens turn into a mob-minded monster to destroy the monstrous government. Partly its a work of its time, but partly its a work of Alan Moore at THAT particular time in his life (which may amount to the same thing in literary criticism, I’m not a literary critic, so I can’t say).

    Fourth – thanks for the history of the “Making of V” for DC. I imagine they’ve had their investment returned to them in spades by this point — that’s a book that I don’t think they’ve ever had out of print since they first compiled it.

  • Ralf Haring

    It’s never been out of print and likely never will be. Like with Watchmen, the rights would revert to Moore and the artist if it went out of print.

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