People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.
I know that creator Alan Moore isn’t a fan of the film adaptation of V for Vendetta (nor of other adaptations of his graphic novel work), and I can see why he might feel that way. The film offers a more traditionally heroic and easily digestible version of the story, with less nuance.
But I actually prefer this movie to the book. What the Wachowskis (who wrote) and director James McTeigue created is an astoundingly relevant social commentary merely wearing the form of a comic book story.
The tale’s terrifying backdrop posits a future in which a fascist dictator has refashioned the British government into an oppressive rule based on bigotry, propaganda, control of information and ownership of the media (fake news), and using religion — a twisted and heretical counterfeit Christianity — as a tool of subjugation rather than salvation. And while at the time of its release it felt like a sort of sensationalized and distant vision of England’s future, it has in many respects very quickly materialized into the present United States, just 10–15 years later.
A young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) accidentally gets pulled into the world of the mysterious masked freedom fighter V (Hugo Weaving), who openly challenges the totalitarian government ruled by High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt, interestingly playing the other side of the table from his protagonist in 1984). As more is revealed about V and his tragic history, we also discover the secrets of those in power and why they must be punished.
Evey, however, is an unwilling accomplice — V rescues her from being captured (and likely tortured and killed), but in so doing so he dooms her to complicity for his own crimes against the state. From there, both must learn to find what’s worth living for. Worth dying for.
While the film made an immediate impact with its Guy Fawkes mask imagery which was co-opted by various movements for rebellion, anarchy, or freedom (most notably the Anonymous group), as time passes it’s increasingly the message, rather than the symbol, which now rings forth clearly. No masks are required to stand up to tyranny.
I’ve always had a fondness for the film, but every time I watch it it looms larger on my mind. Our Cinapse film club even commented just a couple years ago about how its satire had become disturbingly prescient of reality in recent years — but on this particular rewatch, I was struck not so much by the film’s relevance to our current state, which is obvious, as by its response to it. Not merely an indictment of evil, but defiance against it. I was so deeply moved and inspired, and brought to tears, by V’s powerful declarations of boldness, truth, and power. To stand firm in the face of fascism. To fight back against bigotry. To face and conquer fear of reprisal.
It’s a message that’s never been more relevant.
The 4K edition of V for Vendetta also comes with a Blu-ray disc (with identical content to prior Blu-ray editions, including bonus features) and Movies Anywhere digital copy. My copy came with a metallic slipcover. One thing that’s nice about this release is that the slipcover and case cover art are different, but also complementary to each other.
For this UHD release, we get not only the stunning presentation upgrade, but also some additional bonus features new to this edition.
One thing that’s always struck me about V for Vendetta’s cinematography is that it often skews to a hyperreal (ie the “soap opera effect”) look, more so than filmlike. I found this to be even more true with the 4K presentation. While this might give an element of stageyness to certain scenes, it’s a stylization that has been true of other presentations of the movie, and in that consideration is the truest to that look here.
Special Features and Extras — 4K Disc
- James McTeigue & Lana Wachowski in Conversation (13:18)
- Natalie Portman Audition (14:06)
- V For Vendetta Unmasked (23:28)
Legacy Special Features and Extras — Blu-ray Disc
- “Director’s Notebook” In-Movie Experience
- Behind the Story Featurettes:
Designing the Near Future (17:16)
Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot (10:18)
Freedom! Forever! Making V For Vendetta (15:57)
England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics (14:40)
- Natalie Portman SNL Rap (2:34)
- Music Video: Cat Power Montage (2:02)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:24)
Get it at Amazon: https://amzn.to/38ky70w
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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.