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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
James McTeigue
Cast:
Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Graves, Roger Allam, Ben Miles, Sinéad Cusack
Writing Credits:
Alan Moore (comic book), Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski

Tagline:
Remember, remember the 5th of November.

Synopsis:
Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, V for Vendetta tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked man (Hugo Weaving) known only as "V." Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V's mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself - and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plan to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.

Box Office:
Budget
$54 million.
Opening Weekend
$25.642 million on 3365 screens.
Domestic Gross
$70.511 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 132 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 8/1/2006

Bonus:
• “Freedom! Forever! Making V For Vendetta” Featurette
• “Designing the Near Future” Featurette
• “Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot” Featurette
• “England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave In Comics” Featurette
• “Cat Power” Montage
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


V For Vendetta: Special Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 31, 2006)

As I mentioned when I reviewed The Unbearable Lightness of Being, sometimes movie titles make it too easy for critics to mock the films. This seems to be the case with 2006’s V for Vendetta. Sure, this opens up comments like “T for Terrific!” or “S for Sensational!” but it also leaves us with choices such as “C for Crappy!” or “A for Awful!”

If forced to run a line like that, I’d go with “D for Disappointing”. I looked forward to Vendetta but found the end result to be less stimulating and involving than I anticipated.

The film’s prologue reminds us of the act of insurrection committed by Guy Fawkes (Clive Ashborn) in 1605. It then brings us to a time in the near future that finds Britain as a fascist police state run by Chancellor Andy Sutler (John Hurt). While she’s out past curfew, government goons called “Fingermen” threaten young TV station assistant Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman). A vigilante in a Guy Fawkes mask who calls himself “V” (Hugo Weaving) rescues her.

He also has other tricks up his sleeve. As the clock chimes the start of the fifth of November – the anniversary of Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament – “V” explodes a prominent governmental edifice in a flamboyant manner. The authorities cover up the terrorist nature of the attack but work overtime to track down the man behind it.

“V” doesn’t stop there. He takes over the TV facility to broadcast his call to arms. “V” gives the citizens a year to stand up against their oppressors and promises more fireworks come the next November 5th.

During his getaway, the authorities actually almost nab “V”, but Evey helps him escape. This furthers their bond and he starts to look after her. “V” takes Evey back to his lair to keep her out of the grasp of the authorities. The rest of the movie follows the development of their relationship and the fight against fascism. We also learn more about their backstories, how those connect with the current events, and the police attempts to track and stop “V” and Evey.

While Vendetta disappoints me, I definitely won’t call it a total loss. Indeed, I find much to admire in this ambitious, unusual action flick. It certainly follows a more intellectual, challenging path than normal, and it also goes down a dark road much of the time. Vendetta may be based on a comic book, but there’s nothing light or simplistic about it.

I also admire the fact that the film uses its setting as a not-too-veiled comment on current society. Actually, “not-too-veiled” makes it sound like the filmmakers take easy, obvious shots at the Bush administration, but that doesn’t occur. One can easily draw the parallels between the fascist society in the movie and the Bush regime’s gradual assault on privacy – all in the name of “security” in both cases – but Vendetta doesn’t pound us with those similarities. That allows it to be more challenging and involving.

As an old history major, I must give some points to an action flick that features such a historical basis. Rarely do you learn anything from the traditional Hollywood shoot-‘em-up, so Vendetta gets more credit for this factor. Heck, it even helped me understand the last line of John Lennon’s “Remember”. For 25 years, I had no idea what he meant by “remember, remember the 5th of November”. Now I do! (And yes, I was a history major, but 17th century England wasn’t my forte.)

So what lets me down here? I simply think the movie never quite revs up to provide the energy it requires. The first act works pretty well. We get a concise introduction to the characters along with a fair amount of pizzazz to bring us into the project. And then… it fizzles. Some will defend the slowness that pervades the second act and much of the third, and indeed the film uses its time for some valuable character and story delineation.

However, I feel it peters out too much. The film becomes much more about backstory than anything else, and we lose our sense of the present situation. The flick uses the police investigators in an attempt to remind us of the current issues, but those moments feel tacked on and don’t create a real feeling for the events. I think the filmmakers could have expedited a lot of the slower material and given the effort a brisker pace. I don’t mind flick’s the go slowly, but the turgid pacing causes too many problems here.

Frankly, it really feels like they tried to fit too much into one movie. The film meanders from one focus to another and includes so many different threads that it fails to coalesce. Again, this is mainly a problem during the interminable second act, especially since we know where the events will all lead. Everything progresses inexorably toward November 5th, so the exposition often fells like lackluster foreplay.

In addition, the emphasis on the backstories actually dilutes the power of the movie. It gets too murky and tends to distract us from what really matters. This means that the more we know, the less we care. The film can’t handle all the intricacies particularly well, so the nuances obscure the overall arc.

A lot of the dramatic heft evaporates when “V” and Evey separate. The film builds to an emotional punch when we see the story of Valerie but it dissipates after that. Sure, it rebounds somewhat as November 5th nears and we get cool moments like all the masks “V” sends to the citizens but it simply can’t recapture its initial energy.

I really wanted to like V for Vendetta when I saw it theatrically, but I didn’t. I hoped that a second screening would give me a greater affection for the flick, but it didn’t. Perhaps a third time will be the charm. Right now, I view Vendetta as ambitious and occasionally satisfying but too erratic to soar.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

V For Vendetta appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the movie itself, this transfer came as a disappointment.

Sharpness created many of the concerns. Though much of the film displayed more than adequate definition, matters faltered more often than I’d expect. The flick more than occasionally came across as moderately soft and indistinct. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement appeared. While I witnessed no source flaws, I thought grain was a bit too prominent.

With its subdued palette, Vendetta didn’t demand much of its colors. The film stayed with a fairly monotone scheme that favored browns and other earth tones. These were acceptably delineated but not terribly impressive. Blacks tended to seem somewhat inky, and shadows could be a bit murky and indistinct. They were acceptable most of the time, but they made the movie less clear than anticipated. At no time did Vendetta become less than watchable, it lacked the clarity and punch I expected from a modern, big-budget flick.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of V For Vendetta proved more satisfying. Much more satisfying, in fact, as the mix was quite dynamic. The soundfield opened up the spectrum in an impressive manner. The many action sequences presented lively elements that surfaced from all five channels. The information blended well and created a vivid setting for the material. Explosive scenes worked best, as they used the surrounds and sides to immerse us in the blasts.

Audio quality always remained solid. Dialogue seemed distinct and concise, and I noticed no signs of edginess or other flaws. Music was crisp and vibrant. The score showed good range and clarity at all times. Effects were similarly full and clean. They lacked distortion and presented more than adequate low-end material. This was exactly the kind of strong mix that should come with a movie of this sort.

For this two-DVD package, we get a mix of extras. On Disc One, we find Freedom! Forever! Making V For Vendetta. This 15-minute and 55-second featurette presents the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from co-creator David Lloyd, producer Joel Silver, director James McTeigue, production designer Owen Paterson, and actors Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Steven Fry, Stephen Rea, Roger Allam, Sinead Cusack, Rupert Graves and Hugo Weaving.

We learn about the development of the project and the adaptation of the graphic novel, the flick’s theme, tone, and story, characters and performances, and the film’s political commentary. The title “Making V For Vendetta” doesn’t fit the content, as we learn precious little about the film’s actual creation. Instead, the program sticks with more thoughtful, philosophical material. That factor means “Freedom” manages to become more involving than the usual promotional featurette. It seems too brief to truly investigate the movie’s ideas, but it’s an interesting teaser.

As we move to Disc Two, we get three more programs. Designing the Near Future lasts 17 minutes and 10 seconds as it includes remarks from McTeigue, Paterson, Portman, Silver, Weaving, supervising art director Kevin Phipps, set decorator Peter Walpole, costume designer Sammy Sheldon, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, model unit supervisor Jose Granell, model unit crew Nigel Trevessey, and supervising location manager Nicholas Daubeney.

“Future” looks mostly at sets, locations, and production design. We find out why they shot in Berlin and notes related to that choice. We also learn about specifics of the various sets and other visual elements like costumes, props and effects. “Future” covers these issues well and offers solid discussions of why the filmmakers chose the various pieces. It gives us a tight and consistently engaging look at the material, so it definitely deserves a look.

A view of history comes to us via Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. This 10-minute and 15-second show features Fry, Allam, Portman, Cusack, Investigating the Gunpowder Plot author Mark Nicholls, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics author Paul Hammer, A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603-1707 author David Smith, and Gunpowder Plot Society president David Herber. The participants cover the facts behind the Plot and give us a taut little synopsis of that subject. You might even want to watch this show before you check out Vendetta as its presentation of history may help flesh out the story.

For the final featurette, we find the 14-minute and 38-second England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave In Comics. We hear from Silver, Lloyd, Fry, McTeigue, Vertigo executive editor Karen Berger, comic book authors/artists Bill Sienkiewicz, Paul Chadwick and Geoff Darrow, and DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz.

As implied by the title, it looks at trends in modern graphic novels. It looks at the original Vendetta comic and traces the development of the genre over the decades. We see how the comics opened up more in the Seventies and Eighties as they led into darker, more unusual titles. We also get a look at British comics of the era and the rise of smaller publishers. All of this takes us to the creation, development and execution of Vendetta. “Wave” is too short to offer a rich history of graphic novels, but it throws out more than enough useful details to succeed. It’s a good little glimpse of the project’s history and issues.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a Cat Power Montage. “I Found a Reason” lasts for two minutes as it combines that tune with clips from the movie. This means it gives us nothing more than a really cheap music video.

Ambitious and unusual, I admire V For Vendetta more for what it attempts than what it does. It shoots for the moon but succeeds too sporadically to become a consistently successful effort. The DVD provides terrific audio but suffers from bland picture quality and lacks many extras, though what we get is pretty good. I think just highly enough of Vendetta to recommend at least a rental, but don’t yell at me if it disappoints you.

Note that you can buy either this two-disc Special Edition of V for Vendetta or a single-DVD edition. While this one retails for about $35, the more basic release lists for $29. The cheaper set loses the second platter of extra but still includes DVD One’s featurette. I’d advise purchasers to go with whichever one they find for the least money. I like the extras on DVD Two, but they’re not substantial enough to merit much additional cost.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7959 Stars Number of Votes: 49
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main