Friday, November 28, 2008

"Don't judge a book by its movie"

So says the marquee in front of a bookstore on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. And it's true, so true.

I watched a bunch of movie trailers online yesterday and I can say with all certainty that I will not be going to see Coraline. Why do film makers think they have to exaggerate everything? If a scene is exciting and intense in a book why is it not possible to reproduce that intensity on screen without overblowing it? A battle scene does not have to be twenty minutes long and keep going until every item in the vicinity has been either smashed, blown up, or used as a weapon. Writers work really hard to create great scenes in their books. Some even succeed. ;-) And yet film makers don't seem to trust that what they've been given is better than something new. 

I liked a lot about the movie of Stardust. But the opening scene was dumb, and the big overblown neverending battle scene at the end wrecked the whole thing for me. Robert De Niro was hilarious, but why did Yvaine call Tristan (and he's Tristran in the book) him "a moron"? That did not work. So many parts of the book they could have followed but didn't. And though I liked a lot about it I was really disappointed with Stardust.

I was talking the other day about A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was told a while ago that it had been made into a movie, too. When I told my daughter so she said immediately, "I don't want to see it!" I understand what she means, because I feel the same way. My imagination has created such a vivid picture of what that story looks and feels like that I don't want to wreck it by seeing someone else's interpretation. I was pretty cautious about Lord of the Rings, too, but Peter Jackson et al took such pains to maintain the integrity of the story and I loved it. (I had great difficulty with the changes to the Two Towers, with Frodo being taken to Gondor by Faramir and all, but when I watched the discussion about it in the extended version their reasoning made sense).

Now Coraline is a book I read out loud to my kids in a single afternoon. I had asked them several times if they'd like me to read it to them and they said, "No." So one day as they played on the livingroom floor with their trains and whatever else, I sat on the couch and just started reading to them. They kept playing. They were listening, though. Soon they stopped playing and kept listening. And not long after that they were up on the couch with me, listening and rapt. If I tried to stop they said, "Keep reading!"

It took several hours, but we read the entire book.

And now the movie is coming out. The trailer shows that it is computer generated animation, which is fine. [Upon further reading I have learned it is 3D stop motion. That's fine too] I think it would be better live action, but that's ok. No, the trouble I can see right away is that it's a lot more colourful than the way I see the story. Added to that it looks like they've taken the story completely away from its dark simplicity, that spine-tingling fear of all those things kids are afraid of. From the trailer, it looks like they've turned it into a big spectacular extravaganza. I don't know... I found the book downright eerie, and the movie does not look that way at all. I can just see them overblowing everything, the way filmmakers tend to do these days.

Henry Selick has an alternate vision of the story from mine. Oh well. Enjoy everyone. I will stay home and keep my vision of it to myself. 

Or maybe I'll watch it, but with only one eye...

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