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V for Vendetta was always a political lightning rod, but it has become never more timely for Americans than in the last four years, and so it is quite fitting that the beautiful new 4K Ultra HD disc was released on Election Day 2020 (Nov. 3rd) in America, as the film remains as powerful and poignant as ever.
When it was first released in theaters in 2006, it pushed a lot of hot buttons in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and watching it today brings up even more issues about how easily a cult of personality can become a dictatorship, and what freedom truly means.
The titular hero of the film, known only by the codename “V”, wears a slightly grinning Guy Fawkes mask when he takes over the government-run TV networks in a not-too-distant future version of England and urges the citizens to “Remember, remember the 5th of November,” when the real life Fawkes tried (and failed) to blow up Parliament. That historical event is remembered as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and for centuries there have been celebrations commemorating Fawkes’ doomed mission with parades and the burning of effigies made in Fawkes’ likeness.
V is a terrorist, but at the same time, he is a freedom fighter, a political superhero forged out of a corrupt and totalitarian government regime – one that’s efforts to silence objective media and entertainment look all too strikingly similar to a certain former U.S. President. Played by the great Hugo Weaving (The Matrix films, The Lord of the Rings films), V is easily the most eloquently verbal of all comic book heroes, and Weaving definitely has the perfect voice for him.
Much like how Michael Myers’ static, blank mask allows viewers to project various emotions onto it, so too V’s mask seems to change its expression in differing scenarios and lighting, though it does not. Avengers fans looking for a straight action film will likely be bored watching V for Vendetta, but then they are precisely missing the point that this is not that kind of comic book movie, nor was it ever that kind of comic book. The story deals with heavy themes, some timeless and some clearly more timely than others, and I’ve found that I actually enjoy it more with each re-watch. (I try to watch it every year on November 5th.)
Lana and Lilly Wachowski are visionary filmmakers and their eagerness to hand over the reigns of the Vendetta film adaptation to their friend and Matrix trilogy assistant director James McTeigue is commendable, as he delivers an amazing and unique feature directorial debut.
Natalie Portman is just marvelous (as always) as Evey, V’s eventual accomplice, who he saves from some nasty Secret Police men when they corner her in a dark alley after curfew. Her own character’s transformation from unassuming political bystander to a freedom fighter herself is a physically and emotionally harrowing journey that actually improves upon the source material, and Portman is more than up for the task.
V’s Guy Fawkes mask itself, of course, has taken on a life of its own since the film’s 2006 theatrical release, and it’s now more known as the face of the real world political activist group known as Anonymous, which again makes the film’s climax all the more transcendent.
This 4K presentation is from a new scan of the original camera negative, featuring a Dolby Atmos soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment, and this is a film that demands and rewards the best quality viewing options available.
This new release thankfully includes a few brand new bonus features, such as a 13-minute conversation with McTeigue and Lana Wachowski that was recorded in 2020, amid the global pandemic and worldwide political protests that echo much of what the film is all about, as both remark about how crazy it is how relevant the movie remains almost 15 years after its debut. McTeigue and Wachowski also reveal that the only part of the film that the studio (Warner Bros.) ever tried to cut out was, not any of the political aspects, but the story of Valerie, who was arrested and experimented on (as was V) for simply being gay, ironically trying to cut out “the heart” of the film, as Lana says.
Also new are Natalie Portman’s never-before-released audition tapes, featuring her conversations with V in his Shadow Gallery and his kitchen over breakfast, and at Dietrich’s town home, each of which is followed by the finished scenes as the appear in the final film. It all only underscores the astounding talent of Portman and her earliest understanding of how pivotal Evey is to the story, as she in many ways represents us, the audience.
There is also a new 24-minute featurette, “V for Vendetta Unmasked”, though it contains interviews and footage that was all previously released on the earlier Blu-ray, which is also included in the new 4K combo pack.
The Blu-ray disc includes additional bonus features, including a 17-minute featurette on “Designing the Near Future” (it takes place in the year 2027) world of the film, a 10-minute exploration of the true history of the real Guy Fawkes and what led to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a 14-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and the 14-minute “England Prevails” featurette that dives into the birth of graphic novels as we know them today and V for Vendetta‘s groundbreaking place in comic book history.
There is also a music video montage of scenes from the film set to a soundtrack song by Cat Power, and an absolutely hilarious must-see Saturday Night Live digital short that has Portman performing a very angry and extremely awesome rap song.
The original theatrical trailer and an in-movie experience round out the considerably robust special features included across the 4K and Blu-ray discs, and the combo pack also includes a Digital code.
The new cover art is badass, as well, with the outer slipcase featuring V and his sword with Evey’s face reflected on the metal blade, but when you slide it out, the actual case cover is that same image of Evey, only now in full view, which is being reflected onto the outer cover. You can see a photo of what I mean below, but it’s pretty great.
If you’ve forgotten the 5th of November and why it matters, or why the Wachowskis are the most ahead-of-their-time filmmakers of their generation, or why Natalie Portman is the best actor of her generation, I highly suggest you pick up this new 4K release to help you “Remember, remember…”
(Click image to enlarge.)
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