Back when “V for Vendetta” opened, there was some mystery as to who the film’s true auteur was. Graphic novelist Alan Moore had put distance between himself and the project, writer-producers the Wachowski Brothers garnered much of the critics’ credit and many fans suspected director James McTeigue (who’d served as first assisant director on the “Matrix” trilogy) of being their puppet. Early DVD releases were nearly as unforthcoming on the subject as V’s Guy Fawkes mask. Now comes a Blu-ray edition with a fancy “Director’s Notebook” feature, suggesting both the potential and limitations of Warner’s “In Movie Experience” enhanced viewing option.
The “IME” feature takes advantage of Blu-ray’s ability to display bonus clips in synch with the main attraction, allowing the disc’s producers to superimpose video interviews and B-roll over the film itself. Just imagine what creative Blu-ray producers could do with such technology: Compare frames from the graphic novel to corresponding shots in the movie, sample early production sketches or highlight before-and-after effects shots.
Still feeling their way around on “V for Vendetta,” the team has assembled a second-rate, semivisual commentary in which talking heads pop up to obscure parts of the frame throughout. Because the interviewees (including McTeigue, a close-cropped Natalie Portman and a full-bearded Hugo Weaving) are responding to canned questions rather than the film itself, their insights don’t always match up with the image, and the supplemental material falls silent for long stretches where the editors simply couldn’t find corresponding answers. (Still, they do provide interesting perspective on the film’s controversial terrorist-as-hero premise).
But good luck trying to follow the film in this mode: Flip on the subtitles, and the disc provides a transcript of the IME soundtrack instead of the movie. Future Blu-ray producers would do well to take notes from a number of creative DVD releases, such as “Swingers” and “Goonies,” which pushed the commentary format in standard def. On hi-def, Guillermo del Toro’s enhanced visual commentary on “Pan’s Labyrinth” sets the bar.
What the “V for Vendetta” IME track does make clear is that McTeigue does deserve credit for the film’s goth-future look and feel. The notoriously commentary-shy Wachowskis are nowhere to be seen or heard, while McTeigue puts many of his creative decisions in context. And a bonus nugget pops up during the film’s tipping-point scene, featuring a brief interview with Robin Weijers, the domino pro responsible for pulling off V’s cascading trademark.