A Look Back on V for Vendetta

The 2000s were a bit interesting when it came to comic book adaptations because it wasn’t just traditional superhero stories being adapted. You also had several titles being adapted from DC’s Vertigo line, an imprint designed to publish more mature and experimental stories not necessarily canon to the main DC universe. Most will probably focus on “Watchmen” and that is admittedly an important adaption that has its place in my own heart. But I think its more important o look back on the movie version of “V for Vendetta”. In case you are unaware, the original story was published in the mid-1980s and was written by Alan Moore. The general summary is that it takes place in Britain controlled by a fascist government and focuses on a mysterious vigilante known only as V who plans to take down the government through extreme measures. The story focuses on him but also follows other characters including a young woman named Evey who becomes an ally to V’s cause.

It should come as no surprise that Alan Moore isn’t a fan of the 2005 film adaptation. He has the same stance for all adaptations of his work. But we should look at the differences that have been pointed out between movie and comic because those differences make the movie arguably more interesting and make the movie well worth the watch.

The first major difference is the political themes. The comic was focused on a conflict between Fascism and Anarchy in response to the political figure Margaret Thatcher. But the movie made changes where it was more recognized as Neoconservatism versus Liberalism. Moroe himself pointed out that any mention of racism associated with his version of the government was seemingly removed entirely, the government in the movie version was defanged and the officials focused on were more caricatures rather than real people. All of these criticisms do have a large amount of truth to them. Beliefs regarding the government explicitly maintaining racial purity aren’t made verbally clear in the movie. But if you pay attention to some of the citizens the government chooses to target, it does become clear that those ideas are still being supported, if through a more visual method. The political figures we focus on are more straightforward evil as opposed to the fleshed-out versions from Moore’s writing. But that doesn’t mean they are unrealistic. If you are familiar with how some politicians in the United States have portrayed themselves and acted in recent years, it isn’t far-fetched to see that simple cartoon villainy can play out just as easily in the real world. And while the comic had them as more complex, they were still ultimately portrayed as evil at the end of the day. Different approaches to character presentation, but both versions are still undoubtfully evil and clear-cut villains. It will ultimately come down to personal preference on which one you prefer. As for the general political themes themselves, I would make the argument there is more overlap than you might think. While the ideologies on both sides may have changed in name, both Conservatism and Liberalism can still be associated with Fascism and Anarchy respectively. There are a lot of Conservative figures in the current American political field that flirt with more radical groups and beliefs that connect to Moore’s intentions. It can be argued that modern Conservatism can be seen as a stepping stone to Fascism depending on the policies and stances people chose to endorse and get behind. Modern Liberalism is also taking stances that can be viewed as supporting anarchy and chaotic extremes against the government as a lot of current beliefs have to deal with the complete dismantlement of institutions and organizations. While maybe neither side is shown in those lights in the movie itself, recent real-world events have shown that the movie’s versions of ideologies aren’t that removed from the original idea.

Another major critique to look at is the portrayal of V himself. The comic has him as a very morally ambiguous and radicalized figure. He is willing to kill anyone that gets in the way of his goals, regardless of whether or not they are a supporter of the government. The movie shows him as still committed to his cause of overthrowing the current system, but he isn’t as cold as he was within comic panels. Both versions of V are driven by beliefs and disgust of what he has seen happen to his country, but the movie also sees him as in touch to some degree with what’s left of his humanity. This can be seen in regards to how he approaches one of his targets early on in the movie but can be best examined with his relationship with his new ally Evey. Both versions of this character are used as representations of the complacent government that allowed the corrupt totalitarian government to take control. Comic Evey is a prostitute that simply tries to work around the restrictions and laws, focused solely on her survival. Movie Evey is presented as a middle-class woman who recognizes the corruption of the country but chooses to not challenge it. This is based on a fear that originated when her politically outspoken parents were mysteriously taken away and Evey herself fears of everything she has worked hard for is being taken from her. A mixture of noticeable differences but ultimately achieves the same intention, just from different viewpoints. It is up to V in both versions to form a connection with Evey so that she will choose between carrying on his work and beliefs.

This ultimately brings us to arguably the biggest difference, the end. Not the literal endings/third act of the stories, although both are significantly different in terms of how they are played out. I’m more focused on the message attached to the ending. Both stories point out that the general public is at fault for witnessing this government gradually coming to power and choosing to do nothing about it. But in regards to the movie, several smaller changes are made to make the public more directly connected to events playing out surrounding the main characters and showing that everyone needs to come together as a group and fight for change. This is also connected to the movie’s decision to show V with some humanity left within him. It gives a more emotional core to this version as opposed to the traditional cold approach one can expect from Moore’s work. The movie is trying to inspire the masses while the comic focuses on reaching out to an individual. While one can certainly make a difference, it’s the group that can achieve the most important difference.

I’m not trying to say one is inherently better than the other. My main goal is to argue that while differences were made, some of which are expected from a Hollywood production, the movie’s version is one I find remains just as strong and relevant today as it was when it came out. Maybe it holds up even better when looking at politics in recent years. And now, I invite you to share your own thoughts about “V for Vendetta”.

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I’ve never gotten around to reading the comics/graphic novel whatnot but I liked the movie. Not much else here lol I just wanted to say I thought it was good.

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