V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta movie poster

 

For all the neg­a­tive buzz regard­ing Alan Moore’s total dis­avowal of the adap­ta­tion, I was sur­prised to find the film kept far closer to the book than I expected. Closer, in fact, than the two other trav­es­ties of Moore’s comics, League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men and From Hell. Per­haps not coin­ci­den­tally, it’s bet­ter than both, if by itself still not very good.

It’s impos­si­ble for me to imag­ine how I would have reacted had I not read the book sev­eral times, but I sus­pect I would have had very mixed feel­ings either way. When if comes to movies based on comics, it’s the pre­rog­a­tive of every fan­boy to obsess over “what they changed.” So let me point out a few changes I feel illus­trate how the film­mak­ers either mis­un­der­stood or delib­er­ately warped some key themes that make the book what it is.

First, Evey’s life (and the future Great Britain, for that mat­ter) as seen in the film is in a far less des­per­ate state than in the book. The book opens with her at the absolute end of hope, her par­ents dead and her­self alone, black­listed and unable to sur­vive. She makes a mis­guided and pathetic attempt to pros­ti­tute her­self, runs afoul of the cor­rupt police, and is “saved” (in more ways than one) by V. Her sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to V’s seduc­tion is much more plau­si­ble if she her­self is already a vic­tim of the state. In the film, she’s a rather happy per­son with a reg­u­lar job, and her encounter with V is moti­vated by a redun­dant invented char­ac­ter called Deitrich. Every theme Deitrich rep­re­sents is already cov­ered by the char­ac­ter Valerie (which is, inci­den­tally, lifted almost unal­tered from the book).

But per­haps the biggest devi­a­tion is the very nature of the fas­cist state Great Britain has become. In the book, it’s some­thing that just hap­pens; a form of order that arises out of the chaos fol­low­ing a nuclear world war. In the film, the great soci­etal dis­rup­tion is a con­spir­acy machi­nated by a cabal of shad­owy old white men, who then step in and profit from the recon­struc­tion. Of course, the film­mak­ers are obvi­ously reach­ing for an anal­ogy to the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion, Car­lyle Group, Hal­libur­ton, etc. While that may make the story of the film rel­e­vant to today, it obscures a more pow­er­ful point of the book: it’s far more scary when fas­cism arises out of the com­mon con­sent of the peo­ple, as it did with Nazi Germany.