Monday, May 22, 2006

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: Andy and Larry Wachowski
**Possible spoilers**

V for Vendetta is stylistically executed but is simplistic and flawed. While I don’t expect the answers to life’s big questions to be resolved by a comic book-based movie, when the movie in question purports to provide them, then I do want something. Alas, I left with a steak-less belly and sizzle-speckled specs.

Lead character V (Hugo Weaving) has suffered at the hands of an oppressive government and is out to secure freedom for the masses. The State’s draconian laws have suppressed art, speech, association, and sexuality under the linked guises of security and religion. “Heroine” Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) is the asker of questions and the executor of answers. The setting is near-future London where we hear about the civil wars in the United States (still the colonies, it seems). Old story, I know.

There were a number of forgivable problems that are given up to willing suspension of disbelief. The eventual posthumous success of Guy Fawkes’ blowing up of Parliament isn’t it. It has been argued that even if the historical saboteur/freedom fighter/terrorist had been successful, nothing would have changed; indeed, things might have gone much worse. The tragedy of 9/11 proves it. What V suggests (the destruction of a symbol to give revolution meaning) is what many terrorists claim; that the World Trade Towers were the symbol, the epitome of selfish, capitalist, Western arrogant hubris. While that may be true, what rose from the ashes was (and is) far more oppressive to far more people and dangerous to all bystanders—innocent or otherwise. The metaphor of “blowing up old institutions” is all very well and good, but what do you replace it with? What has the solidity and the foundation? One must build on something.

In the world of V for Vendetta, somehow a villain gained power. And meanwhile, people sat back and let it happen. Then someone told them it was wrong and they got up and followed the next person. What if both leaders they’re both wrong? Certainly the State was evil in the movie and ought to be overthrown. (Think a mix of Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, Burgess'/Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Ah, but the Brits do authoritarianism so well.) Then what?

There were hints of grey throughout; that perhaps there were a multitude of options other than the two put forth (authoritarianism versus anarchy). Perhaps we were to leave thinking about a third, forth, fifth answer. I’m just not convinced that it was put across successfully.

So is it worth a watch? Sure, I guess. This is James McTeigue’s directorial debut. He’s worked with the Wachowski brothers before, and this is their type of fare (see the Matrix series). There are some nice visual effects about three-quarters in, but don’t expect a lot. And we could have done with out the stupid love scene. V for Vendetta had a lot of potential, but predictably, failed to act on it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Book Review: A Dirty Job

Title: A Dirty Job
By Christopher Moore
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover: $32.95
(Reviewed from an advanced reading copy)

Have a box of Kleenex near you for A Dirty Job. Again, Christopher Moore engages your brain, your heart, and your funny bone. His research bolsters all this writing (Lamb, Fluke) and this is no exception. Employing myth in its traditional way, he attempts to understand one of the great mysteries. Moore’s life has also informed A Dirty Job, which makes reading his latest such a satisfying experience.

Book Review: Adverbs

By Daniel Handler
Published by HarperCollins
Hardcover $29.95
(Reviewed from an advanced reading copy)

Adverbs is Daniel Handler’s third book for adults. Under his better-known pen name, Lemony Snicket, he fooled me into thinking he was an English author. Adverbs changes that presumption. Handler’s style reminds one of Dave Eggers; its quirky and slightly off-putting. He forces you to pay attention to the moment, to understand the characters as they exist in each short story. Meanwhile, your brain recognizes them from a previous scenario. Engaging and neat for fans of words and structure.