OVERRATED: V for Vendetta

by keelin shaughnessy 


Twelve years after its theatrical release, the cultural iconography of V for Vendetta remains. Masks bearing the stylized visage of Guy Fawkes, designed by David Lloyd for the comic series in 1982 and further popularized in its film adaptation, have become one of the most prolific symbols of contemporary protest and revolution. But despite its cultural significance, V for Vendetta is a profoundly overrated film.

Directed by James McTeigue and written and co-produced by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta centers on a masked revolutionary, V (Hugo Weaving), hoping to overthrow the Norsefire Party, a tyrannical regime in dystopian future England, with the help of a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman). The film demonstrates the issues which arise in the adaptation of graphic novels to film. V for Vendetta's source material comes from a 1980s comic series of the same name, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. The original series, in the words of Moore, "was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England." The chief revolutionary, V, was not so much a troubled anti-hero as the film portrays him, but an insane anarchist who operates in a morally ambiguous gray zone. In the comic, the Norsefire Party are flawed, albeit developed characters rather than one-dimensional villains overly-reminiscent of the Third Reich. The Wachowskis ignore many of the nuanced thematic elements of the initial comic in favor of a simplistic good vs evil parable of American liberal values overthrowing the bigotry of Bush-era conservatives, laden with clichés and plot holes, and leaving no room for subtlety.



V for Vendetta not only misunderstands the intent of its source material, but oversimplifies the complexities of revolution and human nature to such a degree that it renders a film devoid of depth and thought-provoking material.That's not to say that every film must be thought-provoking or complex, but when a film as facile as V for Vendetta continues to provide inspiration, or at least iconography, for real-life revolutions, it bears scrutinizing.

In an era of bigoted world-leaders, militaristic police forces, biased news sources, and anti-minority sentiments, it might seem that V for Vendetta has never been more relevant than today. Certainly this seems to be the case for many intellectually-inept internet users, who have taken V's words as a rallying cry and flock to the comments sections of Youtube clips of the film to declare a similar sentiment. But despite the Wachowskis' apparent attempt to frame V for Vendetta as an allegory for contemporary politics, it lacks the nuance required to merit genuine consideration as such.  

The hacktivists, Wall Street occupiers, and other various anti-establishment groups who have adopted V for Vendetta's Guy Fawkes mask as an icon of rebellion are likely unaware that Time Warner, one of the largest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world, owns the rights to the infamous design and are paid a licensing fee for each mask sold. The mask is not so much an icon of rebellion as a commodified product. V for Vendetta is not a bad film, per se. Looking past Natalie Portman's horrific attempt at an English accent, a multitude of cringe-inducing lines such as "artists use lies to tell the truth; politicians tell lies to obscure the truth", and a lack of complex plot or characters, it remains an entertaining film in many regards. But it is decidedly overrated.