This blog post will have SPOILERS.
Also note that I will use the words “graphic novel” and “book” interchangeably.
V for Vendetta
It’s impossible for me to talk about V for Vendetta without also mentioning the movie based on the graphic novel. In a break with stereotypical comparisons between books and movies, I can say with absolute certainty that the V for Vendetta movie is far and away the best version of this story.
First of all, the movie has Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman.
I’m a huge fan of both actors (Hugo Weaving is Elrond and Mr. Anderson. ‘Nuff said. And Natalie Portman is...Natalie Portman. ‘Nuff said.) Their performances really defined the film.
Second, the book is full of Stupid Anarchy.
One of the biggest contrasts between the book and the film is the anarchic bent of the book. In the book, V’s infatuation with anarchy (and presumably Alan Moore’s) really annoys me. That's because I find any obsession with anarchy to be juvenile, naive, and angsty.
It’s all well and good to point out the corruption of a system and decide to overthrow it, but what are you going to put in its place? You can break things and provide no solution if you want - but all you've done is broken what's in place. Someone else will come along and put something else in its place. The vacuum won't be empty for long.
In the book, V overthrows a corrupt, totalitarian regime and puts...nothing in its place. He creates chaos and allows the people of England to make their own choices about the future.
V claims that the people should have the right to make their own choices, so he creates chaos and anarchy. He makes a clean slate.
But the last time England had a clean slate, they chose a totalitarian government. So they exercised their choice...didn’t they?
Oh. But V didn't like their choice last time. So he punched the reset button. And he left them with nothing—he just created another vacuum.
...and we’re to expect a different outcome this time? Is V going to help with the glorious new future? No, he's dead. He did leave Evey in his place though. That's good...right? (Not as could as it could be, because Natalie Portman is not Evey in the graphic novel).
Presumably, Evey is supposed to help with the rebuilding now that she’s taken over V’s identity as...er, V.
"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
That's probably the most memorable line in the movie. I don't recall reading that line in the book.
I might have missed it (let me know if I did), but if it was there, it obviously didn't make much of an impression. It certainly was not the main point of the book, while it was the main point of the movie.
The movie was very English and American in that respect: the people have the right (and, some philosophers would say, the duty) to overthrow a corrupt government that has ceased to represent its people.
The movie ends on a hopeful note: the people have spoken, the corrupt regime has been overthrown, and it is implied (from my point of view, at least) that a newer, better government will be put in its place.
I can't remember the book providing any good examples of leaders or authority figures. Probably because it's anarchic.
Good Scenes in the Book and Better Scenes in the Movie
There is a particularly good book-exclusive scene in which V roleplays with a statue of Lady Justice. V tells Justice that she has betrayed him (because she allowed the totalitarian regime to masquerade as justice). He adds that he has taken a new mistress: anarchy. Then V blows up the statue of Lady Justice. Ha ha! How do you like that breakup?
Aside from that memorable scene, which demonstrates V's flair for the dramatic, the best scenes in the graphic novel are also in the movie—and they’re better in the movie.
Case in point*: Evey’s moment where she stands in the rain - after discovering that “last inch” within herself - is one of the best parts of the entire story.
It's good (even great) in the book...but it’s a soul-elevating, tear-inducing moment in the movie. It's one of my favorite pieces of cinema. Put it up on the wall for those young impressionable students to say, "This Is How It's Done."
*Isn't that such a useful phrase?
I guess I can at least thank Alan Moore for writing the book so we would have the movie. Thanks, Alan. You're a great writer. Your characters are very well developed. You wrote a memorable story that thousands and thousands (millions even?) of people love.
But the anarchy is annoying.
Other Things That Annoyed Me About the Book:
a) Lots and lots of nudity. Lots. Didn’t want to see that.
2) V is a very well written character, but he “Wait and see...the answers will come...it will all be revealed” probably irritated me just as much as they annoyed Evey.\
d) The ending was unsatisfactory. Why did V let himself get shot by Finch?
I did receive a very good explanation for this from my friend Sam, who said that V understood that his purpose was fulfilled, since he was a killer and the time for killing had ended. As the new V, Evey’s role was to rebuild.
In that case, I would hope that Evey would have less of an obsession with anarchy.
Uno: Thanks Michael, for leading a great reading group.
Dos: If my country is in peril and I need a hero to lead my people into the bright uplands of freedom, I'll take the Founding Fathers over V any day.