For too long our culture has said, "If it feels good, do it." Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: "Let's roll." Let's roll a big fat joint America, and SMOKE IT. -- President George W. Bush
In the "New Deal" that has had Hollywood engaged in a pornographic submission to the whims of the Bush administration, Warner Brothers pulled V for Vendetta after the London tube bombings last summer. The film was to be relegated to the "loss" column in the annual shareholders report. More collateral damage in the War On Terror.
This is a film I had only the vaguest intention of seeing, until about a month and a half ago. A film that was deemed too dangerous to be released during the last Christmas season, when it would have been sold as a deranged blockbuster. Time displacement has a funny way of derailing irrelevance making its opposite transcendent.
Super Bowl Sunday was when V for Vendetta crossed my wires again. I'd written it off as another doomed Allan Moore bastardization made to capitalize on the omnipresent geek population that never tires of seeing remarkable comic fare cross over to the big screen. Toss in every fanboy's favorite jailbait from The Professional and you can count on at least covering your production costs. Mix in the Wachowski brothers' penchant for social critique and noirish elements, and a profit would be realized at least in the DVD market.
Yet there it was, the third commercial into the first quarter of Super Bowl XL. The audience of 90.7 million Americans, as well as the rest of the world, was watching an advertisement for a movie about a masked protagonist whose aim was to blow up Parliament. I tried to picture all those lard-assed, jelly-bellied, Coors-swilling golf addicts trying to wrap their brains around the visually seductive yet intellectually confusing trailer they had just seen. No Doritos wackiness. No Fed Ex guffaws. Not even the Diet Pepsi Machine rookie-of-the-year giggle. A fucking masked terrorist and his hot little bettie
getting off on blowing up government buildings. I really wish I'd had an EEG reading of neurological firings in those pathetic Republican cortices who share my obsession with the gridiron.
The sheer audacity of a single advertisement, so critically placed for maximum impact and exposure struck me as genius. It was PsyWarOps at its finest. If for only a second, culture jammers had cracked the mainline program. People would laugh about Ameriquest
and Hummer's comedy at the water cooler the next day. But lurking in the backs of their minds was the image of that mask and the earnest look of conversion in that girl's eyes. Only in the last two weeks has the full-press advertising campaign hit even the City's streets. I'm sure the suburban saturation has been more concentrated and correspondingly less elegant. Regardless, it was set perfectly to trigger the deep memory of Super Bowl excitement and dangerous curiosity planted way back in the first quarter of the ugliest Cinderella story to ever don cleats. Mask... Girl... Bombs...
And yet despite all this, I had only a casual curiosity until my daily media scans started to offer their reviews. When the worst thing the Christian Science Science Monitor had to say was "graphic," my antennae tingled. Yes, fellow gonzos, I took a dive into a place I have not been since "Ed Wood": I caught a pre-release showing. At an AMC multiplex, to boot.
At first I was a little put off by what I considered the kind of cheap, flat, unimaginative cinematography and editing that passes for dramatic with people who suck at the teats of American Idol and Sex in the City. Then came the too-much-too-soon introduction to V, the film's main character. Wondering if I'd arrived at the same flick gushed over all across the wires, I recalibrated my standards and reclined into my seat for another disappointing tour through an over-hyped could-have-been. Then came that scene with the pedophiliac deacon and Natalie Portman dressed as a twelve-year-old fetish tart. From there, things got decidedly more interesting.
What transpires all during the film is too much to cover here and I don't want to blow too many cool surprises. However, I will advise that you look carefully at the Prime Minister's pupils as he rails at his cabinet via video conference. The last time I looked into eyes like that, I was dealing with a Hell's Angel who was raging hardcore on enough speed to orbit a school bus full of Weight Watchers washouts. Is it a not-too-subtle suggestion that pharmaceutical manipulations of our highest elected leaders are dreadfully commonplace? After all, what can you really make out about a person's pupils when the camera projecting them to Their Fellow Countrymen is too far back to make out anything other than hair, eye brows, teeth, and a chin?
If you're looking for all the answers in V for Vendetta, save yourself the ten bucks and spend the money on another couple of drinks. The film's chock full of things that should be considered and discussed. Like how much of a popular showing it takes to override pitiful policies at crucial times, without violence and using the liberties we are all guaranteed as human beings. Laced among those thoughts and notions are several uncomfortable realities about our modern polity and the lowly value placed on easily marginalized human lives when power and profit are at stake. Don't get me wrong -- this is still a comic book movie with comic book action and a mysterious figure who just can't bear to lose his adopted face for even a kiss from his beloved... and who wears a cape. Why does it always have to be a cape?
This isn't going to be the film that jump-starts the hearts or repairs the spinal cords of Democratic politicians who have spent the last five and a half years in a soporific funk usually suffered by lightning strike victims. Nor is it going to spur copycats who go around bombing buildings so they can land hot chicks. As for those decrepit golfers, this will be the film their rebellious teenagers coo about for months to come. It ain't gonna' win any Oscars for anything and it certainly won't convert hardened Right-Wingnuts. But it will push peoples' buttons in ways that will rearrange their scales on some level.
Inasmuch, maybe it is the wrench the street fighting man needs to get the motor running. Now, if he can just get a grip on it...