While V For Vendetta certainly met with some backlash when it was released in theaters earlier this year, having now seen the film myself, I am shocked that it didn’t meet with even more opposition; especially from the White House. Of course, if the White House had come out against the film, it would not only have spurred greater ticket sales, but it also would have placed the government in the position of the film’s villain. To speak out against this film would be to be to speak out against basic American values.
Set in the near future, this film tells the story of V, a terrorist that rallies against an unjust government. He is something of a modern-day Che Guevara, except he bases himself on a 17th century activist named Guy Fawkes, who was foiled in an attempt to destroy the English Parliament. Among other acts of terror, V plans to succeed where Fawkes failed.
In the beginning of the film, V rescues a woman named Evey (played by Natalie Portman) from an attack by a group of crooked policemen. A short time later, he saves Evey again, and is forced to take her with him for her own protection.
So here’s the dilemma. On the one hand, the government and the national church are unbelievably crooked, bringing to mind an Orwellian future in frighteningly familiar clothing. On the other hand, the only possible savior from the progressive governmental system is a terrorist who promotes change through death and destruction. It is a complex paradox that is the source of some really fascinating philosophical discussions on right, wrong and what freedom really means. While the Wachowski Brothers (of Matrix fame) served as writers and producers on the film, the film is not quite as philosophical as that series, eschewing some of the long dialog-driven scenes for a bit more action. The result is a film that is fascinating and surprisingly important. The Wachowski’s have an uncanny knack for tricking the common film goer into thinking when they are under the impression that they are merely out for entertainment. Every film they make is layered, and this one is certainly no exception.
Apparently, Warner Brothers has chosen to take the Bose approach to this soundtrack. Bose Laboratories creates their unique audio quality by artificially boosting the high and low frequencies in the sound spectrum. While the result is seemingly impressive at first listen, serious audiophiles will tell you that the result is really not superior hardware that brings the existing audio to life, but it is a mixture of quality hardware and artificial manipulation of the source material.
Similarly, this disc seems to have an amazing audio presentation on first listen. The bass notes are powerful, and the highs are crisp. Once the dialog gets rolling, however, it becomes quite clear that the highs (and especially the lows) are simply too hot in the mix. This, coupled with all the hushed whispers and the fact that the male lead spends the entire film muttering complex dialog from behind a mask, makes for some truly challenging audio when the explosions start.
That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with the quality of the audio, mind you, it’s just the volume levels that are overpowering. If you leave the volume on a level that will allow you to easily hear all the dialog, you should be prepared to put both your speakers and your ears at risk.
The video quality is also hit-and-miss, though like the audio, it is far more hit than miss. Black levels are fantastic, which is crucial for a film that spends as much time in the dark as this one does. Furthermore, bright reds are often shown right next to deep blacks, and there is no bleed over. That alone is simply remarkable.
Unfortunately, there is a nagging problem with rain that I was really not expecting. It is not in every scene, but seemingly at random. Three or four pristine scenes will be followed by a couple shots with an annoying grain level. Not unnaturally overwhelming grain, but certainly very disproportionate to the scenes that precede it. It is the only thing that keeps this transfer from being perfect.
Both this version and the single-disc version share one extra in common; a featurette called “Freedom! Forever!: Making V for Vendetta“. While the extra’s 15-minute running time is perfectly acceptable here, I feel sorry for those that purchased the single-disc version and got this as the only extra. It is just what it sounds like, a brief look at the making of the film, including interviews with the cast and crew.
Disc two holds everything else. In addition to the film’s powerful theatrical trailer, the disc really gets started with “Designing the Near Future”, a featurette that runs close to 20-minutes, and looks at the wardrobe and set design challenges for making this frightening world come to life. “Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot” expands on the true story told at the beginning of the film, bringing further clarification to the historical account of Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt at parliamentary… “reorganization”.
The third and final featurette is called “England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics”. This is another 15-minute segment, this one focusing on the graphic novel on which the film was based. The extras wrap up with a glorified music video and a brilliant Easter egg of that hilarious Saturday Night Live skit of Natalie Portman rapping that made the rounds as a viral video on the internet several months ago.
What at one time was enough extras to fill a good standard definition disc is now the separate two-disc version. There’s nothing wrong with the extras that are here, I’m just saying that I wish this was the standard release, with a big 3-disc set to come later. Oh well, I am still pleased with what I have been given.
There have been tons of comic book movies over the past decade, but this is something truly unique. This is part action film, part intellectual film and part science fiction. It is a complex story that demands the viewer pay close attention and involve themselves personally. While the film is fantastic, the audio is downright annoying. It may be dynamic on basic audio setups, but the more impressive the speaker system is, the more of a bully the soundtrack becomes. Still, for fans of this film the 2-disc version is the way to go, as it adds a substantially increased number of quality extras that really help the viewer to delve deeper into the ideas contained herein.