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Script Review: V FOR VENDETTA, written by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski

Reviewed by Darwin Mayflower



NOTE: The screenplays we review are often in development and may experience many rewrites, some could end up being completely different than what is reviewed here. It is our hope that our reviews generate more interest in the film. Thank you.

Hi gang, Chris here. For my money, ASSASSINS, written by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski is perhaps their best accomplishment as writers. I know, how uncouth of me. But I think the writing in the 1994 draft I have, even then, is a foreshadowing of the ability to tell a story and action sequences that would germinate into THE MATRIX, a film I love, and a great script in my opinion. Darwin checks in with his thoughts on one of the Wachowski brothers latest scripts, V FOR VENDETTA. I think you'll be riveted by what SU's most talented reviewer has to say. Enjoy!

Ah, the Wachowski brothers. The most influential, for better or worse, directors of the latest movie trend.

What I love about THE MATRIX, that high-flying, pure-thrills effects flick the brothers made a few years ago, is that its probably the most derivative "bellwether" film ever made. The plot is taken from A SCANNER DARKLY author Philip K. Dicks novel UBIK (with a dash of James Cameron added for flavor). The shootouts are uncut John Woo. The gravity-defying, high-wire act is mainlined from Hong Kong action flicks new and old. The look is torn from the pages of comic books.

The Wachowski bros. took everything they loved and admired, whirled it around, and -- heres my favorite part -- got Warner Bros. to give them eighty million dollars to make it. As we all know, the film came out, made a bundle, caused a sensation, and has inspired every action film made to include a scene or two of people flying through the air like spirits.

(Heres a real shocker for you folks: the first American movie to shatter reality and have a person float through the air (in real life helped by wires) was none other than EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU. Directed by Woody Allen.)

After THE MATRIX the brothers sat down and wrote V FOR VENDETTA, an adaptation of Alan Moores "graphic novel."

V FOR VENDETTA is the umpteenth retelling of the Nazi regime. Lackluster dramatists have exploited the Holocaust for years now because its the easiest, most surefire way to present Evil. Whats happened is that all these movies that dont actually deal with the true events -- the horrifying slaughter of the Jews -- have begun to diminish the real story. Comic books and scripts like V FOR VENDETTA, that use the Holocaust and the ideas of Nazism for more conventional stories, almost cause a numbing to what really went on. And since just about everything to do with Evil in pop culture has some connection to the Nazis and Hitler nowadays -- from THE X-FILES to THE MARK -- it is losing its effect and lessening a tragedy.

V FOR VENDETTA, for all its exalted speeches against fascism and extolling of freedom and NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR-like story, is a script about a vigilante who roams the streets of London like a cross between Charlie Bronson in DEATH WISH and the Phantom of the Opera. A smiling mask hides his true identity and he goes only by V (the reasons for his one-letter name are numerous and confusing). V is sick of his despotic milieu. He lives in the year 2010 and all are watched, listened to, invaded. There is one leader and he rules unconditionally. Those not friendly to the Leader are burned in ovens. Anyone who speaks out against the government rule is similarly destroyed. Individuals do not exist. Art is dead, the past has been erased, the populace has been brainwashed into drones -- will someone free them and bring color back into their dusky lives?

When we meet V he is blowing up Big Ben. He "conducts" explosions throughout London as if handling a philharmonic. He has big plans, V does, and they include following in Guy Fawkes footsteps. V is our moral beacon and were supposed to follow him. But who is V? The mask hides more than his physiognomy: it disguises who V is beneath the transcendental killing skills. V speaks only in turgid epigrams. A section of the script is devoted to how V became who he is today, and we know hes a just man who is out for his fellow citizens, but beyond that...well...we know nothing about V. This is a similar situation I found in the Coens TO THE WHITE SEA. Without knowing our main character its impossible to invest ourselves emotionally. And since this is a slapdash, humdrum take on material thats been trampled again and again, theres just not much to offer here. All great movies, novels and plays have solid characters amid their stories. Whether they have to ground the film, carry the film, enliven the film or overshadow the film. Character Above All Else will forever be the key. No matter what kind of film youre making.

V hooks up early with a lost soul by the name of Evey. She is our on-again, off-again narrator. V first saves and then befriends this young girl without knowing her. He takes her into his secret lair and tells her his plans and treats her as if she were his daughter. Why does V do this? And why dont the Wachowskis let these two talk so we can get to know them better?

I guess the answer to that is that Alan Moores graphic novel had a lot of "cool stuff" the brothers wanted to cram into their script and there was no time. As it is the script is too fat and needs to be trimmed. At 146 pages, it is bloated and features too many themes that go nowhere. Considering the scrawniness of the story and the flights it takes to waste time, it makes me wonder why this wasnt in better shape.

Characters are bountiful and disposable. We meet a multitude of people who run sundry cogs in the government (Ear, Eye, etc.), but since most of these people dont figure in later on, why do we bother? The brothers might have wanted to distinguish certain characters from the mass, since a pivotal ingredient to the finale involves a person we hardly know.

The truth is there just isnt an interesting story to tell here. We open with V-as-vigilante (killing people who experimented on him back in his concentration camp days). We have the investigation of Who Is V? Then the requisite flashbacks to how V became V. A bizarre, hardly-explained Job-esque subplot featuring Evey. High jinks that go nowhere from the Leader. And then Vs final destruction of the Old Ways.

Not even the ungraspable wickedness of the Holocaust can bolster this sloppy tale. V isnt deep enough to get behind. We meet him as a blood-lusting man on a febrile trail of revenge. What true hero puts his old scores before his countrys? Eveys a flitting, overexcited teenager who has terrible, flamed dialogue. We never really see the people of London suffer (besides some flashbacks of people being herded). So what is there to care about? Should we forget the attempted amelioration (i.e., the references to fascism) and take this as a straight action flick? To do that doesnt really help because the script is tumid and boring. The best action you get is one-sided slaughter and a few buildings blowing up.

THE MATRIX was a "great" movie for one reason and one reason only: it is a purely fun ride. The Wachowskis are self-important filmmakers, so it might not have come off that way, but thats what it was: a big-dumb-fun thrill ride that kept you laughing and cheering and forgetting your life outside the theater.

V FOR VENDETTA is just the opposite: its lugubrious, flat, uninspired, disorganized and, much to my surprise, devoid of even brainless, trivial adventure.

Ive never read the graphic novel this script is based on. Keeping that in mind, Ill let the Wachowskis off the hook. And assume this is more of a transcript than their own work.

If the Wachowskis have one talent, its that they know how to lift you up and spin you around. This script feels more like getting stuffed into a box and left to suffocate. V FOR VENDETTA gives play to the worst instincts in the brothers. And I, for one, hope they reevaluate this script once the MATRIX sequels are shot and see its faults and move onto something else.

-- Darwin Mayflower.

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