(parts of this message were originally posted as comments at The Washington Note, reposted here for the convenience of friends):
Alan Moore wrote "V for Vendetta" years ago when he was in a fit of disgust at Margaret Thatcher's England: "It's mean and damp and I don't like it here anymore," I seem to remember from the introduction.
As literary fantasy, I've always been a fan of the book. Moore and the artist David Lloyd are up front about borrowing from 1984, then stirring in elements of Batman and The Shadow (if they were fond of quoting from the Oxford Book of English Verse).
The premise is simple, and doesn't pretend to be Lord Acton: what if one of those 'disappeared' people survived the government camps and came looking for the government that put him there? For me, the most important part of the story comes when the girl Evey, about to be taken "out behind the chemical buildings and shot", discovers a contraband note left by a nameless prisoner for whoever might find it in this time of plague. In the note Moore tries to sum up his definition of simple humanity and humane conduct in the face of despair.
Moore has since apologized for the violent cynicism in pop culture inspired by "V" and "Watchmen", and I'll happily recommend his later work for any readers without prejudices. At this stage in his career he seems capable of writing almost any genre, from Mad-style humor to occult esoterica to police procedurals.
This is the only time Moore has sued to have his name removed from a film's credits. Since he HAS taken screen credit as the source material for some of the most execable movies in living memory, that says something about how he feels about the Wachowskis.
Funny thing is, this is already shaping up to be the most successful movie ever made from a Moore book, and will probably greenlight "Watchmen" and lots of other adaptations.
Moore apologized in an interview for what the Watchmen did to comics, calling it a "very bad mood" that created a genre. I loved "Watchmen", but Jesus Christ, it has led to vile excrement like Marvel Zombies, Sin City and the Ultimates, where we're treated to the Wasp being beaten by her husband, Nick Fury a tool for the powers that be, and the Hulk devouring his opponent. Gore and easy cynicism sells, so comics' creators have gone for the gruesome without any moral or social responisbility of any kind, as if they were emotionally trapped at sixteen. This is NOT what Raymond Chandler had in mind when he lauded Dashiell Hammet for throwing crime "back into the streets where it belongs", and created his own hero: "down these mean streets a man must walk who is not himself mean."
Back to the ironies: The New Yorker hated the "V" film as terrorist pornography, and yet the film is resonating with audiences that want a big explosion and a 'kill all the bad guys' resolution. Like most of the noir cynicism in pop culture, there is no need to act once your naievete is shattered; go back to sleep walking your way through a life of selfish consumerism. You can't do anything, Jake; it's Chinatown.
One more irony, for now: watching this film might be the only time Americans think about what it really means to put a black bag over someone's head and declare them a friendless enemy of the state. I originally hated the casting of Natalie Portman instead of a British rose, but now I'm not so sure. Like many a murder, it only seems to matter if it happens to a pretty white girl. Instead of wearing what Harlan Ellison called "the fan sneer", we might recommend the film as an entry point to political awareness for all and sundry.