I just watched V for Vendetta–I know, I’m a little slow in keeping up with popular culture–and thought it was a fairly daring movie, given the implications and thought generating subversiveness underlying its comic book violence and romance. It’s like Batman–the mysterious masked crusader with a sweet bachelor pad–except now the hero is a terrorist. The Watchowski brothers take conventions and stretch them to where they become disturbing enough to be questioned. The hero of the movie kills, lies, and blows up buildings in order to serve his purpose. By stringing together a series of parallels to current and past government/military excess, we become sympathetic to the cause of V, and thus, to the cause of violence.
This is where the genius of the film lies, I think. It draws us into the story and into the action–but we are confused, because we begin to question whether or not we should really be “rooting” for the protaganist of the film or not, or whether we should be rooting for anyone at all. Or whether we are even aware of what it is, exactly, that we are rooting for. Is it freedom from oppression that we cheer onward in action films? Or is it simply the urge to side with the side that wins, the urge to see some good old bloody action, the urge just for your basic need to be entertained, comforted, and reassured that all will turn out well?
However simplistic or conventionally executed, this film does raise some deeper questions. You have to ask yourself whether or not you really side with the protaganist of the film, who is never viewed as anything but a superhuman mask, and who is essentially a terrorist, even if a rather well-versed and literate one. Of course, he is terrorizing a corrupt government and its minions, and not innocent people, and so thus we can go along with it and enjoy him killing evil-doers. But there is always an element to the film where the scenes of “the people” awakening to their dire situations and cheering onward this fearless crusader seem rather shallow. The darker implications of the film, to me, is that even though the people apparently awaken at the end and remove their “masks,” it took the violent and perfectly coordinated and acted plans of a somewhat messianic individual to get them there. Same thing going on behind The Matrix movies as well. That extreme individualism thing. Where some special person is going to press the right buttons or whatever to change the universe. And of course, that individual is YOU, is the message, which is great, but really what comes out of it is that you had better be pretty damn good at karate and able to withstand multiple bullets from semi-automatics in order to do it.
In any case, I have to say that aside from some bickerings I have with the presentation, I did enjoy the political questioning and pointed subversiveness of this movie, from its parallels in the prison scenes to Abu Ghraib to the parallels drawn between the modern day political climate and the rise of Hitler. Like all good movies, the deeper questions and connections are left up to the viewer; the movie just provides the action and gloss to lay out the possibilities.