V for Vendetta is originally a 1989 Graphic Novel, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd published by Vertigo comics, a branch of DC. In 2006 the now classic was made in to a movie starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, with and awesome script penned by the Wachowskis to boot. Both works are considerably fantastic and have been regarded well in their communities. In this article, I will delve into what is great..and less great about each version. It should be noted that the film version received an R rating for strong violence, and language, and that Vertigo is DC’s vehicle for stories that deal with subject matter that is too heavy for passage by the comic’s code authority. V for Vendetta is recommended for mature 14 year-olds at youngest.
V for Vendetta, despite its origins, really isn’t a superhero movie; not in formula anyway. We don’t see V’s origin, not until midway through the story anyway. As a matter of fact, most of the events are seen through the point of view of Evey, a young girl who V rescues, and who I suppose is technically the story’s protagonist. Her perception of V and the mystery surrounding him is parallel to our’s. One thing the film has on the book is that it made it more obvious, more quickly, that V was in fact, a good guy. In the original, the reader is unsure, and this is sort of unsettling; not in a good way. The sooner the reader is assured that V is a hero, the sooner they can get on board with the story, and all it has to offer.
In both incarnations, V uses culture of the past as a form of protest to the oppressive futuristic regime. When he rescues Evey from the corrupt police force: the fingermen, he quotes Shakespeare’s Macbeth with a passage that Alan Moore supposedly decided upon by opening to a random page of an anthology. Random or not, it works. It is my opinion that Moore and Lloyd did this best. In the movie, it is certainly a great scene, but the book’s version is much more unique. There are no sound effects in the comic book version, and this being the first bout of action yet, it sets the tone for the story, especially in the book, with V’s rapid incapacitation of the two policemen.
V is an anarchist, and has a penchant for blowing things up — easily his most american quality — especially structures with symbolic meaning. His first demolition is that of the Old Bailey. This is such a momentous scene, both in novel, and in movie, and each is moving in its own way. Alan Moore’s version shows V delivering a monologue to the famous Justice Statue, like an old lover, and explaining that what he is about to do is a retaliation for her betrayal of his trust. In the Wachowski’s version however, V play’s conductor, as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture blares citywide through loudspeakers; just as he destroys something, making a statement against the established regime, he also imparts a musical gift to the people of London. A day later, the song is banned by Chancellor Adam Sutler.
The Wachowski’s introduction to the principal character is extremely effective; this is one of the few areas of the story, where Moore’s writing is so well outshone. V delivers a monologue explaining who he is and what he means to do using a total of 48 words that start with V. It is this written genius that elevates the movie above the graphic novel. Here’s the full monologue:
Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villian by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengence; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.
Moore’s character is not without his impressive and unique little quirks either. Interestingly, he wears a few different masks throughout the book. there is the famous Guy Fawkes mask, and even a Vaudeville style mask, for “putting on a show”. At the beginning of the second act he sings a song, at a piano, with music printed underneath each panel, you know, in case you want to sing along.
“So which is better?” you ask? My answer, is that I have none. In my opinion each version of the story tells it in its own unique way. I’d love to say that I love the original best. That the book is better, and nothing can ever compare. I’ve adopted this view regarding many other adaptations, and I just cannot seem to take up the same way of thinking in this case. It is undeniable truth that James McTiegue’s movie adds lots to the story, and to the character of V. I cannot however say that the movie is the superior of the two either; not only did the Graphic Novel spawn the character, and countless works inspired by it, but it also has a lot of superb storytelling elements that the Wachowskis — great writers though they are — would have done well to include in their screenplay. And so dear reader, my suggestion to you: experience both. Both are exceptional works of their respective art forms, and you will only gain from consuming them. The decision is yours.