V For Vendetta: Why the Film Doesn’t Stack Up

V for Vendetta, the graphic novel, is often regarded as one of the best graphic novels ever written, alongside Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. For good reason, too. It utilizes the graphic medium to great effect, delivering an engaging and shocking story with fascinating thematic implications. The film adaptation can not be held with such esteem. Before I spoil anything, if you haven’t read the book you should certainly do that before watching the film. (spoilers beyond this point)

For me, the most jarring change from the book to the film lies in V’s revolutionary speech. In the novel he uses an extended metaphor, talking to the people of England as if they were employees of a company, the human race. He then delivers a shocking ultimatum: take control of your own lives (as in, work to overthrow the fascists) or be “fired”. In the film, however, V does not give this unexpected twist. He touches on the idea that it was the peoples’ fault, but it ends up seeming more like a cliché speech of hope than the one that takes place in the novel. The beauty of V’s character is that he is not just a robin hood working for the benefit of the people. He’s something much more complex and interesting than that, and the film does away with a lot of that by foregoing this part of the speech.

There are, of course, bound to be changes between the source material and the adaptation due to what can be accomplished within the medium, but there were some other revisions besides the speech that I felt detracted from the story. For instance, Rosemary is completely omitted. She represents V’s influence on the population and the swaying of their spirits against the fascist government. She feels that the government has taken everything from her, and when she kills Susan V’s plan finally culminates. Without her, there is no such catharsis.

If you’ve read the novel and are interested to see how the adaptation compares, then by all means give it a try. It’s still a decent film, just a poor adaptation of a fantastic graphic novel.

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