Release Date(s)2005 (November 3, 2020)
Studio(s)Silver Pictures/Anarchos Productions/Virtual Studios/DC Comics/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B+
In the not so distant future, the world is in chaos. The U.S. is embroiled in a second Civil War and Europe has been ravaged by the St. Mary’s Virus pandemic. Amid the fear and panic, the United Kingdom has become a police and surveillance state, led by the fascist High Chancellor Adam Sutler (John Hurt). But one man—the masked and mysterious “V” (Hugo Weaving)—attempts to fight back, recreating the historical Gunpowder Plot to snap the British people out of their complacency. He begins his efforts by destroying the Old Bailey on Guy Fawkes Night. But before he sets off his pyrotechnics, V saves a young woman, Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), from being raped by Sutler’s secret police. A few days later, V hijacks the signal of the British Television Network (the official state propaganda service) to convince the people to rise up with him on the next November 5th. While there, he encounters Evey again. She saves his life but is knocked unconscious by the police, so he whisks her to the safety of his hidden underground lair. But now, V has a problem: He can’t risk detection by letting her go free. Thus stuck with one another, the pair slowly comes to know and understand each other. And neither will ever be the same again.
Based on the 1980s DC graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, written and produced by The Wachowskis, and directed by their longtime first assistant director, James McTeigue, V for Vendetta was a film ahead of its time. Even during its theatrical release in the shadow of 9/11, its depiction of the rise of fascism in a modern democracy seemed far-fetched and remote. But given the global events and political landscape of 2020, its themes are now much harder to ignore. Yet this is not a film that tells you what you’re supposed to think. Instead, it serves as a cautionary tale, forcing you to consider its implications for yourself. Meanwhile, its story never fails to be interesting, its direction is taut, Adrian Biddle’s cinematography is dynamic and compelling, and the performances are excellent across the board. In addition to the leads, the ensemble here includes Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Stephen Fry (The Hobbit), Rupert Graves (Sherlock), Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan), and Guy Henry (Rogue One).
V for Vendetta was shot on 35 mm photochemical film in Super 35 format using Arriflex cameras and Cooke S4 lenses. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.35:1 “scope” aspect ratio for its theatrical release. But this is no mere upsample. For its presentation on Ultra HD, Warner has gone back to the original camera negative and re-scanned it in native 4K to create a new DI. While the VFX are no doubt upsampled from 2K, there aren’t as many of them as you might think (and they’re typically shrouded in atmospherics—nighttime fog, smoke, and the like). The result was then graded for high dynamic range (only HDR10 is included). The 4K image is fantastic, with abundant detail in evidence—certainly more than is apparent in the HD presentation. Colors are bolder and more varied than those found on the previous Blu-ray. The expanded contrast deepens (but never crushes) the shadows while giving brighter imagery (like flame and V’s alabaster Guy Fawkes mask) added brilliance and shine. The film’s photochemical grain structure remains intact, is light overall, and appears natural. Much of this film takes place in the dark or in dimly-lit spaces, and detail and texture never suffers. What’s more, the video data rate averages around 80 Mbps, so the image has plenty of room to breathe. Any way you look at it, this is a great remaster.
Audio is present in a new English Dolby Atmos mix that’s 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible. The soundstage is medium-wide and highly immersive, with wonderful dynamics and a strong foundation of bass. The mix offers plenty of sonic bluster, but dazzles in quiet moments with subtle atmospheric cues that linger in the air. Dialogue is clear and spread across the forward portion of the stage. The height channels give tremendous lift to not just explosions and music, but also the High Chancellor’s large screen political harangues. Dario Marianelli’s score is full of bombast and epic orchestration, rich with strident percussion and haunting choral vocals, all of it presented with lovely fidelity. The Atmos provides a perfect sonic match for the visuals. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio in 2.0 Dolby Digital, along with 2.0 Dolby Digital in Spanish, and 5.1 Dolby Digital in Quebec French, French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Czech, Polish Voice-Over, and Thai. Optional subtitles are included in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, German for the Hearing Impaired, French, Italian for the Deaf, Castilian Spanish, Dutch, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Latin Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and Thai.
Warner’s 4K UHD disc includes the following special features:
- James McTeigue & Lana Wachowski in Conversation (HD – 13:18)
- Natalie Portman’s Audition (HD – 14:06)
- V for Vendetta Unmasked (HD – 23:28)
All three of these extras are new to disc. The In Conversation piece appears to be newly-produced, while the other two seem to be leftovers from the production of the 2008 Blu-ray release. And they’re quite good. The package also includes that same Blu-ray (the film is not re-mastered from the new 4K scan), a disc that adds the following content (most of it in SD, carried over from the original DVD release):
- In-Movie Experience – Director’s Notebook: Reimagining a Cult Classic for the 21st Century (HD – 132:24)
- Designing the Near Future (SD – 17:15)
- Remember, Remember: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot (SD – 10:18)
- Freedom! Forever!: Making V for Vendetta (SD – 15:57)
- England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics (SD – 14:40)
- Natalie Portman SNL Rap (SD – 2:34)
- Cat Power Montage (SD – 2:02)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:24)
- Soundtrack Info (HD – :15)
It’s a nice package of material that preserves existing content while adding some new items too. There’s also a Digital code on a paper insert in the packaging.
V for Vendetta is a subversive film to be sure, and one that I didn’t fully appreciate upon its initial release. It felt too on-the-nose, too heavy-handed. It seemed, in short, silly. But watching it again in the middle of a pandemic—with white supremacy on the rise and protestors marching in the streets—has been a different experience altogether, one made all the better by the superb quality of UHD. V for Vendetta is worth a second look and Warner’s new 4K release is highly recommended.
- Bill Hunt