Previous adaptations of Alan Moore's work have been, at best, mediocre, ranging from the abominable League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to the vapid, though stylish, From Hell. Had he seen the film, he might have wept at what was done to his John Constanstine.
I can't blame Moore for severing all ties with DC and wanting nothing more to do with them or their parent company, Warner Bros. They have repeatedly treated his work with an utter lack of dignity and respect which has done nothing but lead to lousy movies and an alienated fan base.
I daresay, however, that if Moore were to ever sneak a glimpse at the V for Vendetta adaptation, he might, for the briefest of instants, smile, and nod, and know that, finally, after all these years, someone understood. Someone got it. The spirit of Moore's original work shines through, brighter than any fans, let alone Moore himself, had any right to expect.
"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, serialized in the British magazine Warrior in the mid-1980s, was a rage against the policies of then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a glimpse into a bleak future where civil liberties have been curbed, willfully given up by a people frightened into obedience and submission by their government.
It was a powerful story then, and an important story now. One that is especially prescient of the world in which we live today.
The film adaptation of V is filled with the same political, revolutionary spirit as the comic. It isn't watered down or made safe for the kiddies. It's filled with violence, yes, but also ideas, which, as V states so eloquently, cannot be killed. This movie burns with a righteous anger toward those who would lie and deceive in the name of security and peace, but who truly desire nothing more than total power and control.
To write descriptively of the plot would be to spoil it, and I don't want to do that. I will say that it is a story of lies, and of truth, and the fine line separating the two. History, as they say, is written by the victors, but that doesn't make it true.
V is, depending on one's point of view, either a terrorist bent on chaos and anarchy, or a freedom fighter trying to reclaim his country for its people.
Hugo Weaving is fantastic as the main actor behind the Guy Fawkes mask of V, though he left much of the action scenes to stuntmen. When V is speaking with Natalie Portman's Evey, or Stephen Rea's Inspector Finch, that is Weaving, his distinctive voice muffled slightly by the mask.
It must have been difficult, I assume, to portray a character only through voice and body movement, with no facial expressions whatsoever. Regardless of mood or tone of voice, all we see is that stylized, smiling Fawkes mask, but you could almost see Weaving's face behind the mask as he talked, his voice acting is that good. It also doesn't hurt that he was in two huge trilogies in the past seven years, so fanboys everywhere know what he looks like.
Portman's performance is brilliant as well, as the daughter of activist parents who were taken from their home late one night, black hoods cinched over their heads. A rebel in spirit, if not in deeds, it isn't until her life is saved one night by the mysterious V that she begins to realize that she cannot merely sit around waiting and hoping for things to get better, damning the government under her breath. Actions speak louder than words.
In his directorial debut, James McTeigue, who formerly worked as first assistant director to both George Lucas and the Wachowski Brothers, seems to have picked up a thing or two from his previous gigs. He handled the material wonderfully, working from the Brothers' script. They're obviously great fans of Moore's work and put a lot of effort into getting this one right.
I'm sure you can watch and enjoy V as just another action flick, oblivious to the subtle and not-so-subtle politics of the story, but I think you'd be missing out on a deeper context. V is truly a story of its times, the original comic and, 20 years later, the film. The more things change, the more they stay the same.