Blowing up a national landmark to make a statement about terrorism. Unleashing a dangerous virus for political gain. No, I am not describing the latest news headlines. It’s the plot of “V for Vendetta,” the latest blockbuster action flick from the makers of the “Matrix” trilogy.
In the film, based on a graphic novel of the same name, “V” (played by Hugo Weaving) is an anti-hero living underground in a futuristic and totalitarian Great Britain. He has spent years plotting an elaborate plan of revenge against everyone who was once involved in a horrible scientific experiment in a prison camp where he was tortured. His plans take a detour, however, when a young woman, Evey (Natalie Portman), comes to his aid and he must return the favor. “V” begins to care for Evey, and she soon becomes inextricably involved in his crusade to rally the fearful masses from complacency to revolution against the military regime under which they live.
“Vendetta” wants to be an important movie about ideas–political, moral, and spiritual–and it certainly starts out that way. In the first 15 minutes, we are inundated with numerous not-so-subtle references to 9/11, the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and the potential legacy of the current Bush administration. The movie is also quick to take on religion, as spiritual books such as the Koran are banned in this Orwellian society. And while the government slogan, seen everywhere in the film, states, “Strength in Unity. Unity in Faith,” the slogan is not referring to faith in God but blind faith in a corrupt government. Even “V” himself doesn’t have much use for God, as he explains early on in the story: “Unlike God, I don’t leave things to chance.” (For more on the theory that this is a deliberately and completely an anti-Christian film, click here.)
And while all of the spectacular special effects and endless allegorical allusions to contemporary society pulled me in at first, by the film’s end “Vendetta” was an unsatisfying look at courage, justice, hate, and love. For the audience to care about “V” as a heroic figure, we need to see good in him that we do not see in the enemies he is fighting–but we don’t. “V” is as much of a monster as the people he destroys. There is no virtue in his vengeance and no interest in his own redemption.
During its two hours of murder and mayhem, “Vendetta” didn’t attempt to answer any of the significant questions it raised about life in a truly godless society, and it also didn’t give those questions the serious reflection they deserved.