Tag Archives: cinematic adaptation

Book Review: Sold Accomplishes Much

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I purchased Patricia McCormick’s award-winning book, Sold, for Hillary Homzie’s Giving Voice to the Voiceless class, and while I did not end up completing the course due to time and financial restraints, I kept the books. This one for its free verse form and unexpected topic piqued my curiosity. Sold follows Lakshmi from her village in the Nepalese Himalayans across the border into Indian, where she is sold to a brothel. Ultimately, Lakshmi escapes the brothel with the help of an American.

Before I get too in depth into the structure and storytelling, there is one quibble that stands above the rest. This story is incomplete—for me. I read the last page and turned it to look for the next only to find a page of acknowledgements. Lakshmi runs to an American man who has brought with him policemen to help him help Lakshmi out of the brothel. We do not see Lakshmi leave. We have no guarantee that she safely arrives at the safe and clean sanctuary. Especially in a book that has been warning us of the wickedness of American men, I needed to see more. I needed to have Lakshmi truly safe before the story ends.

Now, there are reasons—that I can see—for ending the story mid-story. It leaves Lakshmi in peril like so many women still are in peril, and it leaves the reader to finish the story, to do what he or she can do to help these women.

But as a reader, as a human, I still wanted more closure in this tale, for this woman.  I would have liked to have seen her Ama with a tin roof.

This interview posted on McCormick’s website actually addresses a lot of my other concerns with the book. Why have an American man rescuing this Nepali woman? Why tell the story in free verse?

McCormick says that she chose an American hero because her primary audience is American, and she wanted her audience to see themselves as able to make a difference to these women. She admits though that given the opportunity, she would make her heroes the local Indian men and women. I notice too that for the upcoming film (release date March 2015), produced by Emma Thompson and directed by Jeffery Brown, a Caucasian woman rescues Lakshmi—or so it seems from the trailer.

The story is told in vignettes (which take the form of free verse) because McCormick found it too “daunting” to tell all of Lakshmi’s story. She liked the fractured format and she thought that the white space would encourage pause and reflection in her readers.

Poetry is rarely marketed for teens, although several authors, notably Ellen Hopkins, have enjoyed success with stories told in verse for teens. Hopkins like McCormick in this novel, tackles big social issues in her books: drug usage, prostitution, and mental illness. I’m not familiar with enough teen books in verse to comment on the correlation between verse and tackling social issues.

I think that—apart from ending her story too soon—McCormick told her story well. The form did not make for a confusing narrative, and I think—for me—the brevity of the poem scene helped make this book more accessible. This is a difficult subject, a heartbreaking subject, and one that can be difficult to read about. Because the encounters with Lakshmi’s horrors were brief, they were endurable, and for being endurable, the book made an apt vessel for McCormick’s message of social awareness. Within that form–a mere 263 pages of poetry, so not a great time commitment–McCormick is able to create well-rounded and vivid characters—as much as most prose novelists. McCormick too is able to create a full sense of place.  I think this book is well worth the time to read it.

****

McCormick, Patricia.  Sold.  New York: Hyperion-Disney, 2008.  First published 2006.

This review is not endorsed by Patricia McCormick, Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, or Disney Book Group.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Reviews: A Few More Morals and Misadventures From Berk

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The lesson of How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, the fourth book of Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series, is that fate can be altered and your own luck can be made by you—which is interestingly contrasted with the prophecies scattered throughout these plots and the patrilineal monarchy of the Viking tribe of which the book’s hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, is a part.  Hiccup will (unless something happens to him) become chief of the Hairy Hooligans.  If Hiccup does not survive to take up the chieftaincy, his cousin, Snotface Snotlout, will take his place. I’m interested to see if, as the series, progresses, Cowell plays with this newly introduced concept of creating luck and altering fate against the seemingly fixed destiny of her hero, whom the reader from the beginning knows will become a famous Viking hero, the series being written as a set of his memoirs, and the elder Hiccup telling “this story as if it happened to somebody else, because the boy [he] once was is so distant to [him] now, that he might as well be a stranger” (Prologue, How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale).

Probably the star here is the ludicrous ideas of a medieval culture that believed that the world was flat.  Hiccup seeks the vegetable-that-no-one-dares-name, a potato, a strange probably imaginary plant from the mythical land of America.  Yet, only a potato can counteract the deadly poison of the Venomous Vorpent, and Hiccup needs that cure badly.

The book does teach readers to stand up for, protect, and cling to friends, which ordinarily I would think to be a incontestably good lesson, but Hiccup clings to Fishlegs against his father’s command.  While children need to learn whom to befriend and whom they should not, and parents can misjudge children, parents often have a good sense about whether or not their children’s friends are positive or negative influences, and I’m not sure that teaching children to flout their parents’ judgment is ideal—however flawed Stoick the Vast’s judgments have proved in the past—and they have proved to be quite poor, and I would have Hiccup cling to Fishlegs, especially in lieu of his father’s suggestion that Hiccup befriend his bullying cousin, Snotlout.

****

Before I could finish a review of How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse, I went ahead and listened to the audiobook, read by David Tennant, of the fifth book in the series, How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale, so now I can answer some of the questions that I was posing in the review of book 4.

As yet, Cowell has done little with book 4’s lesson about the opportunity to change fate, other than to remind that readers that it’s never too late to do something heroic.  I suppose the primary moral of this tale is best summed up by Stoick the Vast: “WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER!” (69).  The primary quest of How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale is one to stop a volcano from exploding and hatching a flock of rare and particularly vicious Exterminator Dragons.

How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale sees the return of Hiccup’s arch-enemy, Alvin the Treacherous, still not dead, and it introduces a very Harry Potter-like element to Hiccup’s and Alvin’s conflict (with Alvin having created his own worst enemy in Hiccup, and yes, I fear that concept was used by Rowling first).  We also learn more about Hiccup’s mother, a very shadowy woman, mentioned previously really only by name and as possessing an “extra-strong, heavy-duty bra” (How to Train Your Dragon 169).  She still does not make much of an appearance and seems to be a rather absent parent, being too busy questing to be at home with her family, but her back story and Stoick’s is delved into.

Cowell plays with the western fairy tale/hero story clichés, having riders on white and black dragons.

This is the first of her books where dragons are ridden.  Still no Night Furies, but Hiccup now has a lame Windwalker, too young yet to fly, but he will carry Hiccup along the ground.  Could this be the inspiration for the half-tailed Toothless of Dreamworks’?  Hiccup’s Windwalker is illustrated more darkly than other dragons, so I’m supposing that he is black.  The Windwalker as yet has no name.

The illustrations are particularly emotive.  I after listening to the audiobook, opened the book that I had and looked at the illustrations.

I especially enjoyed David Tennant singing with the many voices of the Vikings in this book.

****1/2

Cowell, Cressida.  How To Train Your Dragon, Book 4: How To Cheat a Dragon’s Curse.  2006.  New York: Little, Brown-Hachette, 2010.

Cowell, Cressida.  How To Train Your Dragon, Book  5: How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale.  2007.  New York: Little, Brown-Hachette, 2010.

Cowell, Cressida.  How to Train Your Dragon, Book 5: How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale.  Narr. David Tennant.  Hodder Children’s Audio: 2007.  Audio recording.

This review is not endorsed by Cressida Cowell, David Tennant, Hodder Children’s Audio, or Little, Brown, and Company, part of Hachette Book Group.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: City of Bones Shatters Illusions It Should Not Have

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Major spoilers for the movie and for the book series.  Do NOT read if you don’t want spoilers.

I have enjoyed even loved some very loosely adapted films (How to Train Your Dragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, even The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian).  In fact, sometimes the looser adaptations make better movies, I’ve come to realize, but sadly, Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not one of these instances.

Really, I have two major problems with the adaptation’s plot:

1)   Simon, if you want to have him bitten now, cannot then be okay with sunlight before drinking the blood of a Shadowhunter.

Vampires don’t just become Daylighters, and if you plan on a second movie, I want a thorough explanation of how hanging him in a shaft of sunlight (where was that sunlight coming from since it was still dark outside?) made him into a Daylighter, this being a conscious attempt by the vampires of New York to create such a creature.

Simon’s Daylighting without having drunk Shadowhunter blood I might have been able to rant about and let go (as I do with Chris Columbus’ and Craig Titley’s decision to make Hades the villain of The Lightning Thief), however:

2)   Having Jace recognize Valentine as the man who raised him is what creates the tension in the climax.

The screenwriter, Jessica Postigo, attempted to avoid the lengthy explanation of Valentine assuming Michael Wayland’s identity and then later faking Michael’s death by placing a memory block upon Jace like the one that Magnus creates for Clary and giving Jace one solid memory of his father that he shared with both Clary and the audience prior (though it was not mentioned that this was his only memory of his father, and perhaps it should have been).  She then has Valentine be able to show him that memory through some sort of spell.  I understand wanting to avoid that lengthy dialogue and can even thank her for the attempt, however, that proof was not enough for me to believe that Valentine was Jace’s father, and I was surprised that it was enough for Jace.

If a shared memory is how you want to have Jace come to realize that Valentine is his “father,” rather than having him recognize Valentine on sight, then that memory needs to be shown from two perspectives, or at least needs to be shown from Valentine’s in this later instance, not from a third or omniscient perspective, because as it is filmed the memory seems to be neither of theirs but rather the memory of a third person, watching, and the claim that Valentine is Jace’s father and the man who gave him the falcon is nullified.  (This quibble reminds me of this lesson by rufftoon in storyboarding.)

Also having Hodge suggest that Valentine lie to both Clary and Jace, telling both that he is their father implies that neither are his children when in fact, according to the series, Clary is Valentine’s legitimate daughter and Jace was raised by Valentine, and again, to suggest otherwise destroys the conflict and tension of the story.

One more, broader quibble:  Emphasizing Jace’s ability to play the piano (though I like the Bach as a Shadowhunter idea) only serves to draw a connection between him and Edward Cullen.  The original fans of Cassandre Cla(i)re were not Twihards (fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga).  The original fans were Potterheads, The Mortal Instruments being an evolution of a Harry Potter fanfiction series.  Twihards and Potterheads are in something of a fandom war.1  By taking our series (I am a Potterhead without being a Twihard) and trying to pander it to the Twihards, you perhaps win the Twihards to your movie but at the expense of a large, invested, and committed group.  Those who were or are Twihards may be ready now to be introduced to The Mortal Instruments, but we, the Potterheads, loved it first.2

Also, it needs to be mentioned—particularly for parents deciding whether to take their children—that the violence in this movie is graphic and realistic.  Imitating a Killing Curse causes no physical hurt; smashing someone’s face with a frying pan or a fridge door can cause some real damage.  I was rather impressed actually by Zwart’s refusal to shy from the violence that surrounds the lives of Shadowhunters if I grew a bit tired of extended battle sequences that were mostly too busy and too fast to follow.

The farther back I step and the more I analyze the adaptation, the more forgiving I become, but I was not a pleased fan at 2:30 AM on August 21, and I really did dislike that the novel’s internal conflict seemed to be shunted aside:

Jace tightened his grip on the angel blade.  “I can–“

“No, you can’t.”  Valentine reached out, through the Portal, and seized Jace’s wrist in his hand, dragging it forward until the tip of the seraph blade touched his chest.  Where Jace’s hand and wrist passed through the Portal, they seemed to shimmer as if they had been cast in water.  “Do it, then,” said Valentine.  “Drive the blade in.  Three inches–maybe four.”  He jerked the blade forward, the dagger’s tip slicing the fabric of his shirt.  A red circle like a poppy bloomed just over his heart.  Jace, with a gasp, yanked his arm free and staggered back.

“As I thought,” said Valentine.  “Too softhearted.” (464)

That is heart-wrenching, tells us a great deal about Jace, proves that Valentine knows Jace very well, and shows us a touch of Valentine’s insanity more so than Valentine battering Jace aside as Jace attempts to get near enough to break his pentagram.

1 There are of course Potterheads who are also Twihards and vice versa.

2 Cassandra Clare is not universally beloved by Potterheads, but she is one of us.  I am unsure whether she is also a Twihard.

**

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.  Dir. Harald Zwart.  Constantin, Don Carmody, Unique Features.  2013.

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book 1: City of Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2007.

This review is not endorsed by Constantin Film Produktion, Don Carmody Productions, Unique Features, Harald Zwart, Jessica Postigo, anyone involved in the making of the film, Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster, or Margaret K. McElderry Books.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Book Review: Hiccup’s World Expands in How To Speak Dragonese

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Here there be some spoilers.

I began the third in Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series, How To Speak Dragonese, by listening to the audio recording read by David Tennant.  Halfway through that, I stumbled upon a hardcover copy of the book at my local used bookstore.  I couldn’t leave it there.  I began the book again, enjoying the visual and textural stimulation with which the audio recording could not provide me.  When I had caught up to myself, I passed myself, and I finished the print copy before finishing the audio copy (and have yet to finish the audio and may not).

Though I enjoy the voices with which Tennant reads these stories, they worked against Cowell in this tale, alerting me to one of the plot twists too early.  I was unable in rereading to tell if I’d have guessed the twist at the same point without Tennant’s voice acting.

Visually, I appreciate very much Cowell’s use of formatting as well as her illustrations.  Always, the Viking’s Norse has been distinguished from Dragonese by its font, but now these are distinguished by their fonts again from Latin, and the nanodragon Ziggerastica’s Dragonese distinguished from all of these by its smaller font size.

This time Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III has to battle Roman legionaries hoping to cause trouble among the local Viking tribes, particularly Hiccup’s Hairy Hooligans and the Bog-Burglars.  The Bog-Burglars are a tribe of female warriors led by Big-Boobied Bertha (yeah, you read that correctly).  It’s really nice to finally be introduced by Cowell to some female characters.  No Astrid, but now we have Camicazi, Big-Boobied Bertha’s daughter and heir to the Bog-Burglars.  Camicazi is a small girl and spunky (to say the least).  She considers herself a master escaper and unlike Hiccup and Fishlegs does not sit waiting for a rescue but acts to better her situation.  She convinces Hiccup and Fishlegs to help her with her first escape attempt, but Hiccup and Fishlegs give up after the first failure—and while this might be amounted to wisdom and common sense as Camicazi’s escape plans become more and more absurd and her punishments become more severe, culminating in several days in solitary confinement, the Vikings won’t escape the Romans by passively waiting, and these characters demonstrate a nice reversal of the too long stereotypically gendered passivity and action.

It is, however, eventually Hiccup’s wits and his ability to talk to dragons that save the trio and Toothless—and Camicazi’s wits and boldness when Hiccup’s getaway boat sinks.

This is definitely a tale that lauds “the little guy,” making it especially tailored to its middle grade readers.

I did not like this book as well as I liked the previous two, but I very much enjoyed Cowell’s representation of the Romans, which while twisted to fit her dragon-filled alternate history, really captures the nastier aspects of the Romans that I didn’t learn about till much later in my life.  In middle school, for example, no one told me about the Romans’ habit of making themselves vomit so that they could eat more.

This was perhaps also the most inward of the two books, partially because of the passivity of the protagonists previously mentioned and their confinement, but also because it deals more with Hiccup’s fears that his father might not think him a worthy heir (a theme from the cinematic adaptation How To Train Your Dragon) more than the others have done.

It should also be noted that this is probably the first of the books that really relies on its predecessor; here the books become books in a series and not a book series.

****

Cowell, Cressida.  How To Train Your Dragon, Book 3: How To Speak Dragonese.  New York: Little, Brown-Hachette, 2005.

Cowell, Cressida.  How to Train Your Dragon, Book 3: How to Speak Dragonese.  2005.  Narr. David Tennant.  Audio recording.  Hodder Children’s Audio: 2005.

This review is not endorsed by Cressida Cowell, David Tennant, Hodder Children’s Audio, or Little, Brown, and Company, part of Hachette Book Group.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: Hiccup’s Adventures Continue in How to Be a Pirate

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I’ve been feeling ill these past few days and several weeks ago a friend had been listening to the How to Train Your Dragon series on audio and recommending them to me.  I remembered this recommendation one night when I didn’t want to watch anymore TV and didn’t feel as if I had the focus to want to read but wanted a story to distract me.  Having already read How to Train Your Dragon, the first in the series of “memoirs” by the Viking hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, I found an audiobook of the second in the series, How to Be a Pirate.  Cressida Cowell’s books are read by David Tennant in his natural Scottish accent.  Having David Tennant read to me a book filled with humor and adventure in voices such as my parents never managed was a true blessing while I was miserable.

A great fan of the film done by DreamWorks, in my mind the main characters are even more fleshy than those illustrations offered by Cowell in the prequel to this story—and Hiccup is a brunette rather than a redhead, though Toothless’ film incarnation and book illustration I am able to separate, remembering that when I am reading or listening to the book, Toothless is a green Common or Garden dragon about the size of small kitten.  I did not for these familiar characters mind the absence of Cowell’s illustrations necessitated by the audiobook format.  But for new characters—in particular Alvin the Poor-but-Honest-Farmer, who is the catalyst of the adventure—I was surprised to find myself missing the sketchy illustrations by Cowell (though when I found her illustration of the man, I preferred the image of Alvin that my mind had cooked up).

I worried that the series might be one of those the adventures of which became repetitive.  Two books in, I can’t fault the series for that.  This second book was different enough from the first to be just as interesting and just as funny—if not more so.  I think Tennant’s voice acting may have added to the humor of the book.  Certainly, he made the sarcasm in Hiccup’s tone more palpable.

This second book continues Hiccup’s challenge to be accepted as Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans.  He combats bullies and Viking ideals, to which he does not conform.  Hiccup again leads the Hairy Hooligans, but not in the obvious ways that he does in How to Train Your Dragon.  There, Hiccup won the Hooligans’ admiration through action.  Here, he won my admiration through inaction.  He shows that he is not only clever and brave but wise, [SPOILER] foregoing glory and riches for to protect his people from a danger they cannot see and from a danger that they desire and covet. [END SPOILER]

This is still technically a boys’ book, even more devoid than the last of a female presence, the only female figures being a dragon or two, but even while I recognize Cowell’s intended audience, I still object that I am a woman and I enjoyed the book.  (Categorizing books into boys’ and girls’ requires pigeonholing and often involves adherence to a should-be-dead system of bias and prejudice whereby girls must become housewives and child-bearers and boys can be adventures and heroes.)

****

Cowell, Cressida.  How to Train Your Dragon, Book 2: How to Be a Pirate.  2004.  Narr. David Tennant.  Audio recording.  Hodder Children’s Audio: 2004.

This review is not endorsed by Cressida Cowell, David Tennant, Hodder Children’s Audio, or the original print publisher, Little, Brown, and Company, part of Hachette Book Group.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book and Film Review: Warm Bodies is Deliciously Meaty

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Click to visit the publisher's site for links to order, synopsis, starred rating, and preview.

Beware spoilers.

Reading Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies, I realized just how many escapist, donuts-for-dinner books I’ve been reading.  After all those donuts, it felt great to sit down to a real meat-and-potatoes dinner, the type of book that begs literary analysis of a classroom level—which Warm Bodies did despite being a zombie romance made recently into a motion picture.

Warm Bodies is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but also combines elements of “Beauty and the Beast” and of course the zombie apocalypse/post-apocalypse genre.  I saw the film before I read the book.  The Romeo and Juliet storyline did not fully register—though it did niggle—in my mind in the film till “the balcony scene.”  In the film, the balcony scene was subtly done, with camera angles echoing other, truer Romeo and Juliet adaptations mostly, though Julie echoes Juliet’s “if they do see thee, they will murder thee” (2.2.70) sentiment.  Marion’s book was a bit more blunt about the connection it wanted the reader to draw from this scene, where Julie uses a tape recorder to soliloquize to and wonders aloud what R is, what zombies are: “isn’t ‘zombie’ just a silly name we came up with for a state of being we don’t understand?  What’s in a name, right?” (127).  In this scene, I preferred the film to the book, but I wonder if that would still be the case had I not seen the movie already and already connected the story to Romeo and Juliet.

The film catered to its medium—as it should have done.  The plot was simplified, though it still asked the questions of “what is living?”, “what is death?” and all that must come up when a zombie begins to think about itself and its place in the pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse world.

Prior to this story, I’d not seen any zombie films or read any zombie fiction, but I know enough about the genre to recognize that Marion has done something different with the zombie concept.  R is a zombie who questions himself and questions the structured zombie society of which he is a part.  Where the Boneys in the film were eaters of everything with a heartbeat, creatures of chaos and destruction, in the book they were priests more than anything else.  In Marion’s book they led the zombie church, preformed weddings, and reminded the undead about the dangers of the Living, a force for structure.

Yet ultimately, the Boneys are the enemy of both mediums.  Unable to return from the undead as R and the Fleshies are, they seek to destroy R and Julie and their hope and love for the threat that they pose to the new world order that the Boneys have created among the zombie hives.

I could not say that either medium presented the better story.  The humor of the film gave the action/adventure/zombie apocalypse a romantic comedy tone.  The mix of the genres was very appealing.  The book asked more of the deeper questions with more force than the film did and was more tragic ultimately than the film, though both ended with hope.  The book ventures more deeply into the effects of a zombpocalypse on humanity and on individuals and more dramatically portrays how the Living can be made dead by fear.

*****

for the book

Marion, Isaac.  Warm Bodies.  New York: Emily Bestler/Atria-Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Warm Bodies.  Dir. Jonathan Levine.  Summit, Make Movies, Mandeville.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Isaac Marion, Emily Bestler Books, Atria Paperback, or Simon & Schuster, Inc or Summit Entertainment, Make Movies, or Mandeville Films.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Well Titled, Jackson)

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Click to visit the official site, for soundbites, showtimes, information, videos, stills, games, and more.

Spoilers ahoy!

There’s no one quite like Peter Jackson to portray the melee of battle.  Nor is there anyone quite like Howard Shore to compose catchy themes of great heroic timbre.  (Though I actually think that “The Lonely Mountain” could make a great lullaby—though a lullaby of disaster and vengeance, but those exist and are often sung to infant heroes.)

Jackson adds much of the fantastical history and mythology to the first installment, An Unexpected Journey, of his adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, giving viewers a greater understanding of the dwarves’ history, and particularly that of Thorin and the line of Durin, and also introducing viewers to Radagast the Brown and the Necromancer.  He draws heavily from appendices material from The Lord of the Rings, material from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (a weighty and difficult book to read, written with the tone of history tome), and sentences mentioned in passing and as throwaway facts of adventures not shared by Bilbo Baggins.  Yes, Jackson expands the story, but it’s almost entirely canon.

In expanding and adapting the tale, Jackson puts weight and draws connections where Tolkien does not—at least as clearly.  In Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo saves the dwarves by his cunning and by his stealth but never draws sword to stand up to a great orc king (in fact, no such orc king enters into Bilbo’s tale); he really only ever enters combat in desperate self-defense, and then I can remember him doing it but once.  Bilbo has gone from trickster in Tolkien to late-blooming hero in Jackson’s version.  Further, the dwarves quest in Tolkien reads primarily as one to recover “long-forgotten gold,” but Jackson puts greater emphasis on the return to the homeland (fitting for our time; there are parallels between this and so many cultures in our world that could be drawn, while a gold-lust we think of as primarily a bad thing in this modern era—and in fact, Jackson does highlight the greed of Thror as a sickness and as his doom).  To loyalty and friendship, Jackson adds (towards the end of this first film) to Bilbo’s motivations for remaining one of the company of Thorin Oakenshield shared love of home and hearth and the belief that everyone deserves these basic comforts.  This shifted emphasis will lend the quest more legitimacy and epic proportion.  Certainly it will generate more sympathy for the dwarves.

Jackson is working himself towards a strict divergence of plotlines, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this in later films.  Gandalf eventually leaves the company of Thorin to combat the Necromancer in the south of Mirkwood.  There will be too epic battles at least: that at which the Necromancer is put into remission and the Battle of the Five Armies on the slopes of the Lonely Mountain.

For all these altercations, it’s difficult to say whether reading or rereading the book really prepares you for the tale.  Parents should be advised that the movie is be more harrowing and darker than the book.

As ever, the scenery constructed by Weta Workshop is stunning, the Lonely Mountain carved in the manner of the tomb of Ramses II.

In sum, this is an enjoyable movie that exceeded my somewhat lukewarm expectations and high anticipation.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Dir. Peter Jackson.  Warner Bros, New Line, MGM, WingNut, 3Foot7.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), WingNut Films, 3Foot7, Peter Jackson, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: A Game of Shadows of the Canon

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I am not a Sherlockian, but I have read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective, and one of my dear friends is surely a Sherlockian.  Seeing the movie the first time, I squeed in the theater to recognize lines from the stories in the script of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  These lines made the film seem to me to be a good adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, though (I’ve checked with my Sherlockian friend) the film’s plot has nothing to do with anything that Conan Doyle ever conceived.  The film’s is certainly an exciting plot, but outside of the realm of Conan Doyle’s original works, where, yes, Sherlock is an internationally renowned detective and a drug-addict and boxer as this film series has portrayed, [SPOILER] but not perhaps the bullet-dodging hero who delayed World War I, any more perhaps than Moriarty is an international arms dealer. [END SPOILER]  Perhaps one of the greatest differences between Conan Doyle’s original characters and Ritchie’s interpretations of them is that in Conan Doyle’s stories Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game, the goal of which is to outwit the other, while in Ritchie’s movie, [SPOILER] Moriarty is motivated by desire for power and wealth, and Holmes is motivated to save the world from Moriarty and avert world war; he does not as is said at his funeral “play the game for the game’s sake.” [END SPOILER]

I saw the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film but once and that last year, but to my remembrance, this sequel focuses more on the characters and their relationships to one another than did the first film, which was more focused on the mystery to be solved.  The “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, which, believe it or not, is canon, is greatly played up in A Game of Shadows.  The enmity and similarities between Holmes and Moriarty are fantastically rendered on film and in the script.  Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are all interesting by themselves, but to see them all together on film is fascinating.

Tension is kept reasonably high through the film, with exciting exploits, gun battles, daring escapes, and a cross-countries race against time.

Because Holmes knows his opponent, which is not unheard of in Conan Doyle’s original stories, there seems to be less mystery in A Game of Shadows, but the mystery to be solved—what is Moriarty’s plot—is still the driving force of the movie’s plot.  The film gives you all of the puzzle pieces and then lets you tag along as Sherlock puts all of those pieces together.

Now, I’ve said a lot without actually giving any opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was exciting.  The unexpected lines, delivery, and actions made it humorous.  It was at times touching in the way that only “bromances” really can be.  The film was intellectually stimulating while still satisfying that desire (that is not purely masculine) for explosions, high-speed chases, and adrenaline.

What I most disliked was the feeling that I was missing several years of Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship.  I ought to rewatch the 2009 film because my Sherlockian friend tells me that I’ve forgotten the romantic subplot between Watson and Mary, and remembering that, I might have felt less of a gap and enjoyed it still more.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Dir. Guy Ritchie.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  2011.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros., Guy Ritchie, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor anyone connected with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Film Review: The Hunger Games: “Thank you for your consideration”

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Minor series spoilers.

I’ve just returned from seeing the much-touted cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which was highly influenced by Suzanne Collins herself in her roles as co-screenwriter and co-producer (I applaud her victory on that count).  You might remember that I wasn’t a huge fan of the book itself.  I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that I wasn’t head-over-heels for the film either.

The film cleared up Katniss’ gender easily (reading the book, her first person voice was masculine enough to greatly confuse me, really, till I turned to the back and saw that she was given the feminine pronoun), and I enjoyed its insight into life outside the arena, in the Game room, President Snow’s garden, Districts 12 and 11….  These insights deepen the plot by showing the causes and effects of Katniss’ actions in the arena, about which Katniss might speculate in the book but of which she knows nothing for certain.  As someone who I think ships the (I believe, but remember I haven’t read the second or third books yet) star-crossed pairing of Katniss/Gale, the scenes of Gale’s reactions to Katniss and Peeta’s budding though potentially pretended relationship were particularly heart-rending.

Almost all around, this is a well-acted film.  The characters were easy to feel for (or hate as appropriate), and little interaction was required to express their feelings for one another.  Especially skilled were Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, Liam Hemsworth as Gale, and Amandla Stenberg as Rue.

What this movie failed to express—or failed to express as clearly as the book does was Katniss’ and Peeta’s reactions to being pawns in the Hunger Games.  The focus seemed to be on the excitement and peril of the Games and less on the problem with the government that the Games exposes.  This, I think, is mostly the fault of the medium.  Katniss’ voice is a close one in the novel.  Her inner monologue is absent from the movie.  Peeta’s anti-government feelings, though, might have been played up more on film.

Much, really, overall might have been better explained, such as mockingjays’ and tracker jackers’ historical importance and the symbolism of three upheld fingers.

I’d be interested to hear opinions from those who haven’t read the books.  Was the story clear?  What did you or didn’t you understand?

I can see though where fans of the books would come away quite satisfied.  The movie’s plot adheres quite closely to the book’s (so far as I recall), so fans of the series will grumble about errors more quietly than, say, Tolkienites or Potter-heads tended to after seeing their films.

I almost think though, for all this and all my previous grumbles, that I prefer the book to the movie because it more strongly comes across as a political struggle, and I enjoy a strong focus on politics in my plots.

It maybe should be mentioned that, while I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, I’ve read a few spoilers.  I’m not actually sure that I felt that The Hunger Games book did emphasize political struggle as strongly as I’d have liked; I think I’ve imposed a stronger emphasis on those stirrings of political dissent post-spoiler than I originally read in Katniss’ grumbles.

My film rating?

***

The Hunger Games.  Dir. Gary Ross.  Lionsgate.  2012.

This review is not endorsed by Lionsgate, Gary Ross, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor Suzanne Collins or Scholastic. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.