xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

'V for Vendetta,' Guy Fawkes, James McTeigue, and 'The Raven'

The hackers group Anonymous wears Guy Fawkes masks --"stark white, with blushed pink cheeks, a wide grin and a thin black mustache and goatee," in the words of the New York Times' Nick Bilton -- whether they're demonstrating against Scientology or the (San Francisco) Bay Area Rapid Transit's stoppage of cell service to curtail a political protest.

"The mask resonates with the hackers," Bilton wrote in a deft piece for the Times' Business section, "because it was worn by a rogue anarchist challenging an authoritarian government in 'V for Vendetta,' the movie produced in 2006 by Warner Brothers."

Advertisement

Then Bilton connected the dots: "Time Warner, one of the largest media companies in the world and parent of Warner Brothers, owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask."

Noting that it's "the top-selling mask on Amazon.com, beating out masks of Batman, Harry Potter and Darth Vader," Bilton quoted Howard Beige, executive vice president of Rubie's Costume: ""We sell over 100,000 of these masks a year, and it's by far the best-selling mask that we sell. In comparison, we usually only sell 5,000 or so of our other masks."

Advertisement

And this Guy Fawkes mask is actually manufactured in Mexico or China.

Apart from pointing out the contradictions inherent in most political theater -- like anarchists lining the coffers of a huge corporation -- Bilson's story suggested the surprising staying-power of "V for Vendetta." This movie is seldom mentioned in round-ups of the best comic-book movies, but it was the rare graphic-novel adaptation that boasted mental energy as well as visceral force.

The Wachowski Brothers wrote the screenplay for "V for Vendetta" from the Alan Moore-David Lloyd comic-books series (Moore hated the script, Lloyd loved it). James McTeigue directed it (more on him later).

The Wachowskis' enemies are fear-mongering forces of repression. Their champions are men and women who've learned, like Kris Kristofferson, that "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."

No one knows that better than V (Hugo Weaving), their hero, the man behind the Guy Fawkes mask. He hides out in a lair filled with forbidden artworks. He listens to Julie London's aching, jazzy rendition of "Cry Me a River" on a swank stereo jukebox as his nubile young friend, prophetically named "Evey" (Natalie Portman), sleeps nearby.

You may think of "The Phantom of the Opera." But that's just one element of this heady melange. The Wachowskis quote directly from "Macbeth" and "Twelfth Night," too - and from Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" and (most prominently) Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo."

This movie successfully melds the glamour of old-fashioned swashbucklers, gothic fables and Monte Cristo-like revenge fantasies with punkish swagger and grunge.

And a lot of the credit goes to director McTeigue and his handling of the cast. At first it's jarring to hear V deliver virtuoso strings of alliteration based on the consonant "V." The smile on the mask is frozen, and his voice seems to come out of nowhere.

But Weaving does a phenomenal job of insinuating flippant Errol Flynn or Robert Donat attitude into mere recitation. By the end, you wish the script had given him even more verbal razzle-dazzle.

Portman grows from pallid naivete into a tragic beauty as V's sometimes reluctant ally. The savagely histrionic John Hurt as the state's Chancellor and the bilious-to-bursting Tim Pigott-Smith as its Gestapo (or "Finger") chief comprise a formidable two-man rogues' gallery.

Stephen Rea brings an air of wounded conscience to the crucial role of an intelligent police inspector. And Stephen Fry contributes his curdled sauciness and warmth to the role of a TV host who defies the authorities by burlesquing the Chancellor.

Baltimoreans will be hoping that McTeigue does just as well with the cast of his next movie: "The Raven."

Advertisement

This period-thriller pastiche about a serial-killer who uses motifs from Edgar Allan Poe's poems and stories, set in Baltimore during the writer's final days, stars John Cusack as Poe, with Alice Eve and Luke Evans. For my interview with the screenwriters of "The Raven," click here.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement