WASHINGTON — Director James McTeigue and the Wachowskis’ 2006 politically-charged drama adapting Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s 1988 sequential art masterpiece debuts on ultra-high-definition right in the middle of a contentious presidential election in V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 133 minutes, $24.99).
V for Vendetta: The story
Set in a crushingly dystopian future where a second civil war and pandemic in the U.S. spreads across the planet, the film focuses on a totalitarian regime in England that has locked down the country and answers to the ominous High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt) and his Norsefire Party.
An anarchist vigilante codenamed “V” (Hugo Weaving) looks to resurrect the ghost of Guy Fawkes (a famed 17th century English radical) by not just wearing a familiar stylistic life mask in his honor but literally awakening citizens to their oppression through the assassination of party members and targeted bombings of government buildings.
V begins his attacks, but life is complicated after he saves Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) from the secret police, forces her to stay in his Shadow Gallery lair realizing that she could be useful in his revolution.
Action mixes in with an occasional stodgy police hunt of a protagonist that reminded me of a philosophical Dr. Phibes as V also sets forth a plan to exact revenge for his origins, expose a conspiracy and give citizens back the power.
Depending on what side of the fence you lie politically, “V for Vendetta” will satisfy and cause affirmative head-shaking by conspiracy theorists from either party as they compare America’s current climate that often blurs into this movie’s narrative.
4K in action:
“V for Vendetta” arrives on a 4K disc through a new digital scan from the film’s original camera negative, enhanced with high dynamic range tweaks.
Although that translates into a crisp visual presentation throughout, viewers are still left with a fairly color-muted offering due to not only the subject matter but trying to stay faithful to the original film source.
Details remain strong, but the results were not as dynamic as I would have hoped for, and maybe those were just false hopes after my selective memory had not seen the movie in more than a decade.
Moments that do shine included V blowing up the Old Bailey building to bursts of explosive colors and a fireworks finish, as well as the anti-hero in slow-motion jumping over a rooftop with a purplish-blue sky behind him as his stark white masks punctuate the evening glow.
Equally noticeable was raindrops slowly (“Matrix bullet time”) falling on Evey’s head at night, V’s deep red roses seen in his Shadow Gallery and second fireworks display to end the film.
On the 4K disc, viewers get new bonus content led by a 13-minute, sometimes rambling discussion between film producer/co-scriptwriter Lana Wachowski and Mr. McTeigue reflecting on their masterpiece.
Miss Wachowski waxes philosophically with little substance, and when the director can get a few words in, he offers some memories of the shoot as the pair look like a couple of friends meeting for a drink on a soundstage rather than offering serious insight.
Also new is 14 minutes of Miss Portman’s audition covering scenes in the Shadow Gallery and its kitchen as well as her character’s friend Deitrich’s townhome with comparisons to her on-screen performances.
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And a 23-minute vintage 2006 TV documentary covers a promotional overview of the movie’s production offering interviews with key cast and crew.
Now load the included Blu-ray copy of the film (exact to the 2008 release) to find the vintage crown jewel of the extras, a Director’s Notebook, presented as an in-movie experience.
Basically, lots of video boxes pop up over the film with insight often from Mr. McTeigue, Miss Portman and Mr. Weaving supplemented by production art, on-set footage, and special-effects deconstruction.
Always interesting and loaded with information, this type of extra is a rare event these days and sorely missed as home entertainment moves from disc-based to streaming services.
Also, best on the Blu-ray is another four featurettes (roughly an hour in total) covering the making of the film; the history of the Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot; comic book history and the art medium’s evolution; and a look at production design.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.