Verdict: V is for Very Good (and Visceral, Vibrant, Violent, Viewable, Vigorous, Visionary, Vivacious, Vivific, and especially Vizard)

All word games aside, the latest Wachowski brothers event is well worth watching. But it's not for everyone. V for Vendetta is not like The Matrix in most ways. Whereas The Matrix is an action film that happens to have some cool philosophical and cultural underpinings, V for Vendetta is an idea-film that happens to have some cool special effects at a few points. It's important to note this difference, because one might expect this movie to display the kind of state-of-the-art FX that boggled everyone's minds in The Matrix. With such an expectation, V for Vendetta would leave that person sadly disappointed. And at first, disappointment was my first reaction. I wanted the pre-summer extravaganza. I wanted the eye-popping visual effects. I wanted the gleeful abandon for a couple hours in a theater on a night before a Greek test.

What I got instead was an incredibly provocative film about concepts, ideas, possibilities, beliefs, prejudices, and society. What I got was a film that demands a second or third viewing just to soak up the richness of the narrative(s). What I got was well worth the money I paid and the time I spent to see it on a Sunday night.

I will not belabor this reflection with a pointless plot synopsis. Rather, I will give a hint of how this film connects to our present day Situation. Before I explain, the reviews have all noted the prominence of a plurality of allusions to historical events, works of literature, etc. This is all very true. The film most deeply evokes, in my opinion, the confluence of Orwell's 1984 and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. The film also recalls, quite intentionally, the era of Hitler's Third Reich and the centuries of various prejudices (regarding sex, race, sexual orientation, etc.).

That said, the theme this film brought to my attention most dramatically through these allusions and its own original elements is the tension between unity and difference. The characters in the film live in a totalitarian society in which the government controls media, lifestyle, thought, art, and culture in general. The government has imposed a false homogeneity and trained its citizens to believe that anything outside their bounds of "orthodoxy" is abnormal, and therefore dangerous. (The church does not escape the filmmakers' criticism; in fact, they get skewered rather harshly.) So from the start, the idea of unity is prominent -- and negative.

As the narrative progresses, "V" begins to enlighten the people of this future Great Britain about their actual diversity. The people are not happy with the imposed homogeneity of their government. Something inside them is waiting for physical expression and manifestation. "V"'s mission is to give the people the power to express themselves, the capacity to acknowledge their unique identities.

The theme of unity is brought back again by the end of the film when these people are, in their diversity, united together in a single cause. I will not spoil the final scenes here, but suffice it to say, the film offers a fascinating look at homogeneity and heterogeneity in their interrelations -- diversity and unity interconnected for the sake of a telos, a task that binds former strangers under the umbrella of a common mission. Even if the church is skewered, the concept of the church is not. In fact, this film lives and breathes on the possibility of instilling new life into outdated or corrupted models. If there is something wrong with the church as it is now, the film's perspective does not give up hope but rather views the initiative of the people as capable of giving it new life.

The film emphasizes aspects of diversity through mini-narratives or stories-within-stories which capture the history behind the present-day state of affairs. A central motif in the film's look at otherness is homosexuality, which plays a significant role in the movie. Regardless of one's political or religious views on the matter, one has to acknowledge the poignancy of the film's treatment of the matter. I, for one, find the use of this motif quite compelling and worthy of attention for reasons which others may not find so acceptable. Even so, homosexuality is undoubtedly the prejudice of our time, the issue which people cannot avoid. We are all confronted with this reality of otherness (from a heterosexual standpoint, of course). Even if someone disagrees with what is ostensibly the filmmaker's position, the film nevertheless portrays these matters with seriousness and care.

V for Vendetta is a good film; maybe, on some levels, even a great film. But what it does best is to instill a sense of purpose, a sense of mission, into the minds and hearts of its viewers. This film portrays a fictional, quasi-apocalyptic dystopia, and yet unlike the hopeless relinquishment of any mission at the end of Brave New World and 1984, this film manages to evoke a strong sense of possibility for the future. Perhaps it is a Bolshevistic perspective, an overly utopian answer to a dystopia -- some Christians might say overly postmillenialist. While that may be true, it is to the film's credit that they are able to portray a revolution without falling into mediocre sentimentality (except at the very end, unfortunately). The film does not give the impression that all will be well in the post-revolutionary era; its purpose is to instill hope, while refusing to confirm whether those hopes are ever realized. One assumes they are, but one can never be sure.

Regardless of the outcome this hope remains, and it is a living hope, one that sustains itself after the credits have rolled and the lights are back on. Some could call it naive, too youthful in its intensity, too inspired by a simple piece of Hollywood superficiality. But the poignant themes of the film are treated too well and too sympathetically for them to be written off so carelessly. There are moments of beauty in this film that surpass its flaws. In some ways, this movie is great in spite of itself and its creators. Go see it for its allusions and well crafted narrative. See it again for its thematic beauty and lyrical power.