I'm sitting in my living room at around two in the morning. Earlier I saw the film V for Vendetta and I find myself stuck deciding if I liked it or if I thought it was horrible. My initial feeling was disappointment, as I expected a comic book movie with a lot of action-instead I got a story about a dictatorship and a supposed terrorist's attempt to take down the tyrannical state. There are several different ways to view this film and I have chosen to look at how this film strays from the average super hero structure, and reveals a film with something to say of the practice of nonviolence.
V as a Superhero
V follows the typical comic book structure of a hero: born of a traumatic event, doesn't fit in with society, and has extraordinary strength and intelligence. While V is proven to be strong and skilled with his knives, he is more like a mastermind villain. Meaning, he uses more strategy than sheer muscle power. In fact, his plan to bring the revolution does not come from the power of his blades but the depth of his thought out plan. This plan further leaves the general comic book structure because V's plan will only work through the power of numbers. The normal structure lets the hero take all the credit: the X-Men stop Magneto's plan to kill normal humans or Daredevil takes down King Pin on his own. But acknowledges that he and his actions are but mere symbols of something bigger.
Revenge or Justice
As the film progresses, it is clear that V is motivated by revenge. There is no need to kill anyone when he breaks into the broadcast network. From a prior seen, he shows that he can take down several characters without killing them, but here he kills them. This would prove more in line with his vengeance than a true call for justice. But the line between justice and revenge is later discovered. In the end, V acknowledges his own vengeance and realizes that his individual desire cannot decide the fate of this revolution, thus he tells Evey (Natalie Portman) that she must have the final say. This shows that the world of this film condemns the use of violence. By this I mean that in the fictional creation of this tyrannical London of the future, whatever forces run it (call them God or general morality) condemn V's use of violence as either selfish or excessive. What does work is V's original plan to unite the people with a common goal.
Symbolism & the Power of Numbers
What makes this film so interesting is the way in which the revolution comes. V finds a medium to reach everyone (his news broadcast). He plants the seed of revolution. He tells everyone to join together on a specific day (the fifth of November, the following year). The people come together and march against the soldiers of the tyrannical state, and they do so unarmed and ready to die. Thus, this film further leaves the commonly held ideas of the modern hero saving the day by him or herself. As the people stand against the soldiers, they all do so dressed in costumes to look just like V. This shows that V is not one man but everyone. No one person can bring about change, for true justice to come it must be a communal affair. This goes against modern individualism, which floods this culture, and is shown through the average film as well.
This film offers a powerful statement about bringing change in a nonviolent way. The vengeance that runs V actually takes away from his ultimate goal. This is emphasized by what Evey says to V (condemning his plot of revenge). The destruction of the parliament building could be seen as violent but it didn't kill anyone. It symbolized the fall of one government and the rise of a new era. In the end, the tyrannical leader Adam Sutler (John Hurt) is killed because of V's plot. While V's motives were revenge, this begs me to wonder about comparisons to Hitler. Even the pacifist Dietrich Bonhoeffer found joining an assassination plot against Hitler to be an exception to what he believed-though he would say that it was still a sin, but not doing it was a greater sin.
It would be easy for me to brush off this film but I can't. This may prove to be a tragic statement, but V for Vendetta may offer more insight into bringing change in a nonviolent way than most other films. At least the violence in this film is condemned as either selfish (used for revenge) or used to gain power (government murders and militant control). But the power of numbers to bring change is emphasized. This is what makes this movie so powerful. And this is why many of us won't appreciate it. In a culture of independent consumers who so desperately want to reach the "American Dream" alone, this movie shows us how dependent we are on each other. I acknowledge that there are holes in character development and the general plotline. Further, there was minimal action sequences-though this proved that the revolution would not come through the violence of a gun or knife, but through the strength of the population joining together against the powers that be. With this all said, I am willing to give this movie a little slack for its attempt to question the norms of the average Hollywood worldview.