Somewhere in my files I have a screenplay adaptation of my favorite graphic novel of all time, Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” While it’s not a bad script, in the end it’s basically just a superhero movie stripped of so much of the nuance and complexity that made the original story so great.
While comic books and movies are both visual media, it’s actually pretty hard to translate a dense graphic novel to the silver screen, as the writer of that script found out. I think the Wachowski brothers and director James McTeigue discovered that too when they set out to make “V For Vendetta,” settling instead for a pretty good tale that suffers for some of the stuff that was lost along the way. Suffice it to say, watch the movie and then read the graphic novel, if you haven’t done so before (or read it again, just for the heck of it), and see what you missed.
The Wachowskis and McTeigue held onto most of the best stuff, though, and spun the story a bit in light of what’s been going on in the United States the past few years. Luckily, the allusions to present day events don’t hammer us over the head, but they’re there, including a quick reference to events in Iraq turning out for the worst (the movie is set sometime in the not-too-distant future).
“V For Vendetta” tells the tale of a young, naïve girl named Evey (Natalie Portman) who has a chance encounter with V (Hugo Weaving), a stylized terrorist who blows up a government building not long after he first meets her. She becomes embroiled in his fight against the fascist government that has taken over England, but she begins to wonder if his ways are the only ones to enact change. The basic beats of Alan Moore’s story are still here, although they’ve been massaged a bit to give us a cleaner through-line, dropping some of the sub-plots from the graphic novel.
The first DVD of this two-disc set includes a 15-minute featurette called “Freedom! Forever!: Making V For Vendetta.” It, like the other documentary materials in this release, feature interviews with McTiege, Portman and other members of the cast, producer Joel Silver, and assorted members of the crew. It’s not bad, but, like the other materials, it hints at more that could have been discussed. There’s no commentary with the film.
Disc two gives us “Designing the Near Future,” “Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot,” and “England Prevails: V For Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics.” Each of them runs between 10 and 15 minutes. They constitute the rest of the documentary materials, which is a shame because there was still plenty of bandwidth on the second DVD to give us a more in-depth look at the making of the film. What’s here isn’t bad, however.
The first featurette is self-explanatory. The Guy Fawkes one concerns the plot to blow up the British Parliament building in 1605. While Fawkes wasn’t the mastermind of that scheme, he was the one remembered for it, and as a result, November 5 is a day for celebration in England every year. V wears a Guy Fawkes mask and idolizes what the man attempted to do.
The third featurette covers the early-to-mid-1980s in the comic book world, when Alan Moore’s star was on the rise because of “Watchmen” and “V For Vendetta.” Many British comic book writers and artists were being discovered by Americans around then, and this featurette offers interviews with Paul Levitz and Karen Berger of DC Comics as well as “V For Vendetta” artist David Lloyd, Paul Chadwick of “Concrete” fame, alternative artist Bill Sienkiewicz, Geoff “Hard Boiled” Darrow, and others. (Trivia note: the artist interviews were filmed at the San Diego Comic Con; the convention center is visible through the window behind them. I assume they were shot last summer.)
Alan Moore is conspicuously absent from all of the documentary materials, but that’s not a surprise, given Moore’s curmudgeonly behavior in general. In fact, he was so disgusted by the script (and by a Joel Silver comment that he said was a lie) that he had his name removed from the credits and had all of his royalties given to Lloyd. Unfortunately, none of that controversy is addressed in the bonus materials.
The Wachowski brothers also don’t show up in any of the interviews, however, which I did find interesting, given their love of comic books and the fact that they wrote their first draft of “V For Vendetta” over a decade ago. Makes me wonder if they were also upset about something. Assuming there’s no bad blood on their part, hopefully they will rectify that situation in a future DVD. Given how many times the studios re-release movies on DVD these days, I’m sure another edition of “V For Vendetta” will show up eventually.
The film’s trailer and a montage of footage set to a song by Cat Power round out this set.