Monday, March 20, 2006

V

"At some point you're going to have to tell the Man, 'Get your boot off my neck, motherfucker,'" Stokley Carmichael once said, back when "the Man" wasn't a joke in a telephone commercial.

The Latin to the upper right translates to, "By the power of Truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe," a quote from Goethe's Faust and used, at least in the book, in "V for Vendetta." Like most of the V references in the graphic novel, the quote has multi-layered meanings; five Vs (or V V) of course. It's also a reference to a man who, as the character V notes, knew all about making deals. Part of Alan Moore's theme, which may or may not have made its way over to the movie's script, is that making deals with the devil - whether for fortune, knowledge, or security - is always a dangerous thing.

I haven't seen the movie yet; life keeps getting in the way of my plans, as usual, but soon. It's interesting while I wait to watch the different hobby horses critics are mounting as they review the movie. The New Yorker, which is usually less shrill even when throwing brickbats, calls V "dunderheaded" by word 5 (an inadvertent coincidence, I'm sure) in the first sentence. That feat is even more notable when you consider words 1 through 3 are the movie's title.

I'm not quite sure what David Denby's problem is. He alternates between attacking Moore for extrapolating V's bleak future from Britain's Thatcher government of the `80s while praising George Orwell's 1984 for "relying on actual events and situations." It's not much of an argument for or against either book. While Moore obviously was no fan of Thatcherism, I remember nothing in his introduction to the graphic novel nor in V itself that argues he thought the future of then-Great Britain would become the world of V. What he was concerned about was that he could see the seeds of V in the world around him, just as Orwell could see the seeds of 1984 in the worlds of wartime Britain and Europe. And hell, anyone who can't see those seeds taking root in today's world isn't watching very closely.

Like Denby's, most of the critical attacks I've read on the movie center on V's terrorist act of sending a subway train filled with explosives on its way to destroy Parliament. Again, what Denby and the other reviewers stubbornly want to ignore in order to make their case is that in V's world, Parliament has been perverted, as has been Justice and the Law itself. Moore takes great pains to make that clear in the book. It's hard to believe that thought doesn't get carried over to the movie. But I'm not a New Yorker movie critic with an axe to grind.

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