Now that the V for Vendetta movie is officially underway, I want to make the following disclaimer: this script may not be the script being used for production. I have had this script for several years now, since 2000 or 2001 (it's been so long I honestly can't remember). I have no idea if this script underwent revisions before being approved and because the movie had been in development for so long I have not looked to see if other drafts exist. Though I treat this script as the final product, please bear in mind that what I am reviewing is almost certainly a work in progress.

If you are aware of a Wachowski draft that differs from the version reviewed here (as post-dates mine) please feel free to contact me at as I would be extremely interested in it.

However out of date this script may be, it does provide us with a clear understanding of the direction the Wachowski's were/are taking their adaptation. The fact that The Matrix wore its comicbook influences on its celluloid sleeve caused many fans of the comic to presume the Wachowski's would be extremely "faithful" to the source text. At first glance the fans would be right. In fact, much of the dialogue is lifted from the comic directly. Most of the classic scenes are in the script: V's Macbeth-quoting introduction, V's talk with Lilliman about transubstantiation and his confrontation with Deliah, Evey's torture, her discovery of Valerie's letter and her own transformation, V's NTV broadcast; the script is extremely close to the comic. It even finds a way for Susan's fascism monologue to be used, and the creates a prologue to explain the Guy Fawkes connection.

On the surface, it's the script comicbook fans are praying for. It treats the source material reverently, stealing almost all the good bits straight from the comic. It's chock full of action-sequence-goodness. It tries to extol the ideas of anarchy and individualism. So why, then, does it all go wrong?

The problem is that, while on the surface the script appears to be a faithful adaptation of the story, the truth is it veers away from the story in very critical areas. Though the main plot is identical, many important character arcs are sacrificed, while other minor characters are given more prominence without adding anything of value to the story.

Though the script runs a hefty 146 pages, it is little more than a collection of scenes that are very flashy and stylish and memorable, but of very little substance. Characters become caricatures of themselves: Yes, Rose Almond is around, but she does not assassinate Susan. Without her downward spiral, she serves no point to the story other than to show what a mean, nasty man Derek is, though this is clearly shown elsewhere. Susan becomes a bombastic blowhard who has none of the authority or imposing stature to give him credibility as Leader. Finch, for all his pangs of conscious, simply runs like a rat in a maze; his empathy with V, his struggle to come to terms with himself, has the consistency of milksop.

Meanwhile, relatively minor characters like Derek Almond and Helen Heyer get a tremendous amount of screen time. But the script does nothing with them. Almond is a sadistic bastard, Helen is a conniving, manipulative woman. They're stock characters and they repeat themselves in every scene they're in. Why devote so much time to them? Are the Wachowski's afraid the Nazi-like government and the cruel Leader aren't enough reason to root for V? Did they feel the story needed to have gratuitous sex scenes to keep people interested?

Unlike the Henkin script, which went out of its way to show how the people of Vendetta lived, the populace is almost invisible in the Wachowski script, a strange irony given that V's mission to is free the people from tyranny. This is a critical error. Like the comic, the V of this script is a non-entity; he is more of a MacGuffin than a character, which puts the burden of audience identification on the rest of the cast. But as I said before, most of the characters lack the depth to pull that off. If the main characters lack any weight, and the audience doesn't even get to see the very people V is fighting for, then what is there for anyone to care about?

Worst of all, the ideological struggle that provides the comic's spine, is shoehorned into place and comes across as shallow. V rambles about freedom, Susan preaches fascism, but the dialogue sounds trite and forced, a dumbed-down version of the sincerity these themes are given in the comic. The one exception is Valerie's letter. Quoting Moore's dialogue verbatim, it remains a powerful story and will be quite an effective piece of film. Unfortunately, in context of the rest of the movie, it still doesn't work. Because you aren't emotionally connected to the characters or the cast, Valerie's letter, however poignant, seems horribly out of place and loses much of its impact. Without any serious presentation of the philosophical arguments of Vendetta all that remains is pretension, hardly a quality that would endear audiences to the story.

There is a scathing review of this script at Screenwriter's Utopia. Towards the end of the review, the reviewer makes the assumption that the faults of the Wachowski script are the result of the source material. But the truth is it's just the opposite. Where the Wachowski's deviate from the comic is where the script is weakest. The Wachowski's had already gone half the distance in putting the best of Vendetta into their script. Had they committed themselves to completing that task, their script would have been immensely stronger--though, admittedly, probably twice as long and hardly suitable for a major Hollywood picture. As is, the script is adequate for a standard Hollywood action movie, and if you like V for Vendetta for its violence then you'll be quite satisfied. But if you're looking for an adaptation that successfully translates the themes and philosophies of the comic onto the silver screen, I'm afraid you'll only be disappointed.