“Remember, remember the fifth of November of gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” – V
V for Vendetta was initially a graphic novel that was adapted for the silver screen over twenty years after it was released. The motion picture was given a novelization around the time of its premiere. For the sake of this post, I will primarily be writing about the feature film and the novelization of it. The original material by Alan Moore and David Lloyd is a masterpiece and an excellent example of the medium being used to express ideologies. The movie, however, is like a good cover band. It has all the hit songs down but doesn’t have the benefit of experiencing the original thoughts and events that spawned those hits. In this example though, the cover band ends up literally changing the world while the original band’s frontman wants nothing to do with his creations.
The story of V for Vendetta is set in a not too distant future version of Great Britain. In which, freedom and democracy were given up willingly by a terrified populous to a government that became tyrannical with the power it received. A young woman named Evey becomes involved in a plot orchestrated by a mysterious masked man only known as V to start a revolution. V’s motivations are not entirely selfless. He has a dark past with many of his political targets and the lines between freedom fighter and terrorist start to quickly blur for Evey.
The harshest critic of the film V for Vendetta is probably it’s original author, Alan Moore. I can’t blame him. He has been screwed over countless times by comic publishers and movie studios. It had become standard practice for him at the point of this film’s release to request that his name be taken off of the movie, and usually only the artist would be credited. In the case of the novelization, Alan Moore’s close friend Steve Moore (no relation) wrote the novel for the film. The end result was a novel that I feel was true to his friend’s original work and tries to elevate the movie to its standards at the same time.
I’m not British. Some of the imagery of the film was lost on me. I recognized many of monuments and buildings that were destroyed by V in the film, but I knew nothing of the history of them unless it was expressly said in it. The film does explain who Guy Fawkes was, and what the gunpowder plot was about, to a world’s audience very well. The novelization does take many more opportunities to teach the history of the historic sites or the relevance of the music used in the story. The extra attention to detail help set the book apart from the motion picture.
The book also does a great job of giving the reader a deeper insight into the characters’ thoughts and reactions. The movie has some fantastic acting in it, but Moore goes in-depth with almost every leading protagonists. A scene that comes to my mind is when V knocks down his elaborate domino show, and at the end of it all, one lone domino was left standing. The scene in the movie has V completely silent using only his body language to try to express what he is thinking, but it can be ambiguous to the audience what exactly could be going through his head. The novel is not ambiguous at all, and it helped to give me a whole new appreciation for that scene.
The original material was made in the early 80’s at a terrifying period in British history. While the movie was “Americanize” to reflect more of the political strife of the film’s time, I still found it all very relevant to today’s politics eleven years after its release. The novelization explains how its government came to be this totalitarian state, and it really didn’t come off as farfetched as it probably should for my liking. Giving up liberties in exchange for safety isn’t anything new, but when you can turn on the news and see headlines that are close to this book’s fiction, it’s all is very frightening.
The movie really struck a chord with its audience that can still be felt today. Nowadays, the Guy Fawkes mask that V wears in the film is standard attire for various protesters and a symbol for many activists all over the world. Good science fiction should help people deal with, and process, the problems of the day. V for Vendetta does that in spades. Any version of this story is worth reading especially the novelization. The ideas in this tale will always live on because ideas are bulletproof.
Adapted by Steve Moore
Based on the screenplay by The Wachowskis
Story by the Original Author (Alan Moore) and David Lloyd
Original Publication Date: March 2006