Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Superhero > Politics > V For Vendetta (HD-DVD)

V For Vendetta (HD-DVD)


Picture: B+     Sound: B+*     Extras: B     Film: B+



Alan Moore is one of the great maverick writers and innovators of fiction in our time, but the film versions of his graphic novel comic books have not been favorites of his, especially since it is one complex visual medium adapting from another medium (comic books) at a new height of complexity.  His version of V For Vendetta was a book aimed squarely at the evils and problems he saw in the Margaret Thatcher years in complex terms.  The Warchowski Brothers decided to pick up the book as material for a feature film, but Moore still decided to disown it far in advance.  James McTeigue was hired to direct, something he had never done for a feature film before.  The story about one man represented by one letter (the title character, more or less) who has seen his home country of Great Britain becomes an intolerant fascist police state.


It looks like this has been in the making for a while and as it is hinted that The United States is in chaos, Britain has taken advantage of that and more as they continue to terrorize their people, commit terrorist bombing on the people that they blame on foreign insurgents and censor anything and everything that does not conform with their extremely narrow definition of what is acceptable.  Seeing them as motherless bastards, ‘V’ (Hugo Weaving in an easy to underappreciated performance) has decided upon an elaborate plan to show up their fragile hold on power before it is too large for the human race and the future.  This will involve old friends, old bitter enemies and a young lady named Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) who has a key stake in all this whether she knows it or not.


Much better than League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and on par with The Hughes Brothers’ underrated From Hell (now both on Blu-ray from Fox), the authorship of Moore and talented collaborators like David Lloyd still remains and casts a giant shadow if not retaining their full authorship because the books will always be the books and serious classics of a still underrated artform.  In this case, the book asks even tougher questions and is even morally ambiguous in ways that would force a more accurate adaptation to be a trilogy or mini-series.  However, in a filmed form, it is more effective better to get to the point even if some deeper points are lost.


That this film was made as boldly as it was in the time it came out is in itself remarkable and a debate as to whether ‘V’ was a terrorist or freedom fighter when it is obvious who has the fascist power here shows an amazing amount of denial on the part of some critics and writers, though it is more accurate in more than a few cases to state explicitly that the film was so effective that there was an undeclared ideological campaign against the film to stop it from having any more commercial success than any other fiction with a brain and point of view.


Some tried to say this was just a pastiche of ideas and images, but that would be accusing it of being some kind of psychedelic head trip film that it is not.  Others labeled it as “gay” and pro-homosexual in a way Superhero genre work always is by the reactionary Right and other homophobes (strangely recycled a few months later against Warner’s Superman Returns for reasons we can go into in that HD-DVD review), but that is also made to obscure any serious thought about its content.  The Warchowski’s screenplay is not flawless and even the book owes a debt to Orwell and even Huxley, while the film is Stanley Kubrick influenced in a way that is not trivial like most who imitate him.  Instead, it is a standout from a cycle of very, very bad, silly films that may claim to take place in a “futuristic police state society” to trivialize that idea to do so and to have a dumb action romp.  Here, McTeigue makes an impressive debut showing he understands the depth, seriousness, necessity and implications of the material while not wallowing in being self-impressed like too many making such films.


He acting is top rate, including John Hurt (once the victim Winston Smith in the good-looking but problematically written 1984 film of George Orwell’s 1984) as the evil new Big Brother figure, Steven Fry, Rupert Smith, Sinéad Cusack, Ben Miles and Tim Pigott-Smith.  Production Design and Visual Effects are thick and dense, while the action sequences are some of the best since the Kill Bill films.  For those who have never read Orwell or are only tentatively aware of the issues the film will be even more dazzled and impressed.


The film did well on DVD and in theaters, but was not a Matrix-sized hit.  One thing no version of the film could do unless it was really bad was avoid its Britishness.  That is a factor to some extent of why it was not the bigger hit it deserved to be.  It is even more British than the impressive Children Of Men, another British police state tale that is much more raw with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine.  I liked that film as well, but this film is also a key Superhero genre work, something many (for interesting reasons) do not want to think about the films in such terms.  However, those roots are undeniable, going back to The Shadow and the earliest Batman.


The film also has even more going for it and that is the deeper conflict between the right of the individual to be free versus the power of the state gone wild, absolute and ruinous.  Constantly, there are references to life, art, ideas and questions about existence that are key to any serious film about the subject of a future police state.  Extremists on the Right (all the way to outright Fascists) love marginalizing these things under headings like “humanism” and as Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in particular demonstrates, there are no easy answers.  No other film about a police state in the cycle, even one as smart as Children Of Men has gone this far and been this bold in this respect, making it more worthy of such Science fiction films of the last golden period (1966 – 1984) than the current jokes that are the Action and Sci-Fi genre.


Maybe the film could have gone further in this direction, but it is a remarkable enough commercial film with more heart and soul than just about any Action, Science Fiction or fictional Political narrative film in the last 20 years.  Maybe Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys comes close, though it cannot escape the shadow of his Brazil. 


The 1080p digital High Definition image represents the last great work of the master Cinematographer Adrian Biddle, B.S.C., who began with small jobs on classics like the legendary James Bond production On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969, directed by the ingenious Peter Hunt) and continued to be part of the great team of British craftsmen that created so many classics in the 1970s and 1980s.  In 1986, an unhappy James Cameron dropped his Director Of Photography and hired Biddle to lens his classic Aliens.  He went on to shoot more classics like Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, as well as hits like Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride & the first two Steven Sommer’s Mummy films and cult hits like Ron Howard’s Willow, the Sylvester Stallone film Judge Dredd and the often brilliant Paul W.S. Anderson Sci-Fi/Horror epic Event Horizon.


Having seen this Super 35mm production in both 35mm and 70mm IMAX projection, I can tell you that this HD-DVD is very good at capturing what is an amazing piece of filmmaking even with the digital that is (for a change!!!) smartly and strategically where necessary and for effect in conjunction with the narrative.  The Matrix films have been criticized for using too much digital effects, though since the films often take place in cyberspace, which is more acceptable than most films that think they are landing the videogame-playing audience by adding digital all over the place.  Not so here.  Biddle’s work is amazing and creates a remarkable atmosphere and other-world look and feel we rarely see in films like this anymore.  The use of color, even in the darker set of colors used, never is totally drained and always has a haunting sense of warmth that makes the visuals as eerie as the tale itself.


The sound was not only in the usual three theatrical systems (Dolby, Sony Dynamic Digital Sound, DTS) but also in the Sonics-DDP system for IMAX presentation.  With that kind of superior, state of the art fidelity, Warner has wisely issued the HD-DVD with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and this film is among the first Warner films to use Sonics-DDP this year along with Ant Bully, the Poseidon remake and Superman Returns.  They are all also featuring Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes.  This mix has its moments and though it may not be as active as previous Dolby TrueHD champ Batman Begins, it is still rich, impressive and very much state of the art.  The original music by Dario Marianelli works well and along with terrific sound design worthy of The Matrix Trilogy, along with clever choices of Classical Music and classic songs.  We can’t wait to test this again when state-of-the-art Dolby TrueHD equipment really hits the market.  Regular and less-impressive standard Dolby 5.1 is also included.


Extras include "Freedom!  Forever! : Making V For Vendetta" as the cast and crew of reveal what it took to make the film, the original theatrical trailer, "Designing The Near Future" about the postmodern future design of the film, "Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot" featurette offers a history of the story of Guy Fawkes, "England Prevails: V For Vendetta & The New Wave In Comics" featurette covers the origins of the original V story while covering, Cat Power Montage – Cat Power song played under images of the film and the HD-DVD exclusive “Director’s Notebook: Reimagining A Cult Classic For The 21st Century” that you can watch via the In-Movie Experience function no other format offers.  That is all the extras form the standard DVD double set and more.  Add the superior sound and picture performance and except for film prints, especially IMAX prints that show more of the film frame than standard 35mm copies, there is no other way to enjoy V For Vendetta than this HD-DVD edition.  It will be a great demo for years to come and an enduring film beyond that.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com