Tag Archives: adaptation

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m genuinely unsure what to make of the 6th Harry Potter movie. It took its time and worked hard to include what was necessary, unlike some of the previous films. Lots of backstory was ditched, but it kept the important bits. And they did a great job with the character interactions. Every cylinder fired really well[1], honestly, except for the parts that dealt with the central storyline and mystery. The Half-Blood Prince’s identity scarcely registered as a mystery in the first place, despite so many revealed reasons as to why it might be troubling. Voldemort’s secret was mostly an afterthought, though I suppose it being the main focus of two more movies will make up for that. And the climatic scene felt, well, rushed.

But what I can’t decide is how it would have looked to a newcomer. Were the scenes unsatisfying because the script and the direction weren’t quite up to it? Or because I was able to choose the pacing in the book, and the movie simply didn’t live up to my preferences? You’ll have to ask someone who came at these from a different direction, I guess, because I’ve got nothing to go by here, except what I’ve already said. On the bright side, it was pretty good in itself, just not as satisfying as I had hoped. Alan Rickman, as usual, is the tops. Oh, and speaking of bright sides, I think I recommend an afternoon or evening viewing. It’s a very dark film, visually, and emerging into the bright of summer would be… disorienting, at best.

[1] Okay, Daniel Radcliffe is simply not keeping up with the emerging talent of his co-stars. Pity.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Summer arrived at last. Technically, it arrived in the form of a horrendous downpour that was among the worst I’ve experienced from the driver’s seat. But the important thing is, I and my companions got to the theater in time, so none of that matters. What does matter is having seen the Wolverine movie, and having it work pretty well. Explosions: check. Pathos: check. A few new mutants, both familiar (to me, that is) and un-: check. Matches current movie series continuity: check. Matches current Marvel continuity: well, okay, that part not so much, although it could be that it matches some Ultimate continuity I have not yet exposed. However, I do not care that it didn’t, because all the other parts were done pretty well.

In the end, it was a nice little summer comic book movie, better than some that have been released over the past decade; and I have no driving need for more. Though if they want to give me a simultaneously hysterical and horrific riff on the Superman origin story while they’re at it, I am willing to laugh and cringe appropriately, and with a song in my heart. Well, y’know, sort of. Maybe less so during the cringe?

Watchmen (2009)

So my normal Mondays involve some beer, some bar food, and some zombie slaughter. It is a pretty sweet deal, y’know? This Monday had its differences, though, in that I skipped the beer and food alike in favor of a brief, ultimately successful struggle to get the media company to honor the passes they had sent out for a sneak preview of Watchmen. (Okay, technically, we relied upon the kindness of strangers. But the important part is, everybody had a seat!)

So I watched it for something like two hours and forty-five minutes, and I’ve spent the subsequent day or so trying to figure out what I can possibly say about it, that I haven’t already said. The layouts and scenery shift constantly between starkly beautiful and grimily seedy with almost dizzying regularity, as a perfect counterpoint to the characters and their actions and motivations and essential, almost unstoppable humanity.[1] It’s a highly political and moral tale set at the height of communist paranoia in an alternate, superhero-laden 1985, and the thing is, I really don’t want to say any more than that because it’s worth coming to fresh.

But if you’re one of the people who didn’t come fresh, because you’ve already read Alan Moore’s original book from which this movie was drawn, I’ll say this much more: it is very probably the most faithful and effective adaptation of a literary work I have ever seen.[2] Got anything going on Friday or maybe Saturday? At least, anything you can’t cancel? Because, go see this.

[1] I might be gushing. But the story and the characters really are that good.
[2] And I was pretty happy with almost all of Peter Jackson’s choices on the Lord of the Rings movies.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Big movie of the weekend, I hear, and yet mostly unpopular with the literary set of which I am aware. Yep, it’s November, which means it’s time for Harry Potter to go back to school. (Except for that time he went back to school in July. British people are weird; I think it’s because of all the fog.)

Note: Expect spoilers for the books below, as well as for previous movies. Well, and maybe for this movie, depending upon your perspective.

As the books get longer, the movies get longer; nevertheless, more and more of the books is disappearing. Harry faces the dangers of a magical tournament between Hogwarts and other wizarding schools around Europe while plagued by dreams of Voldemort’s return to power. Also: adolescence! Anyhow, it was pretty good for what it was. It kept the core plot elements, sacrificed a number of unnecessary elements (freedom for house elves, Percy is a prat, some guy is in hock to the goblins), and then sacrificed several wholly relevant plot elements (the second half of the Rita Skeeter plotline where the wizarding community loses its crush on the Boy Who Lived, Harry’s growing relationship with his uncle Sirius, a reasonable explanation of what happened in the climactic moment). But that’s okay in a way; as long as those elements are established solidly in the fifth movie when they would be coming to fruition, then it could still work out. Of course, that book is longer still than the current one, so it hardly seems fair to try to cram in info from an earlier book too. Luckily, this is not my problem.

In short? Decent movie, pretty to watch, and the edits are all the more painful for coming so near to being masterful and then falling short of it. I’m missing all the actual wizard-learning as well, but that is disappearing from the books too, so, y’know. Below the cut, my one big (and unmistakably spoilerish) complaint with the film adaptation.
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Doom

You know, I think we may be experiencing a video game movie renaissance. I remember a long stretch of the 80s and 90s — okay, basically since there were movies based on games — when they were universally terrible, the low watermark by which modern movies were measured. Whereas, these days it seems like every video game movie I see can easily hold its head level with the mediocre genre fare being made that does not happen to be based on lines of code.

Case in point: Doom, loosely based in look on the third game of that series, in atmosphere on Alien, in plot on a freshman Ethics class, and in casting on Full Metal Jacket. You know how I mean. We’ve got the fear of God guy, the creepy coward guy, the strong silent black guy, the wisecracking black guy, the naively raw new guy, the, um, Asian guy (well, I never said it was a perfect mapping; or that I’ve seen Full Metal Jacket, for that matter). Plus our main characters: Hero-with-a-troubled-past guy, Scientist-who-shares-a-mysteriously-link-with-the-hero,-and-is-also-hot chick, and Sergeant The Rock.

So, you take all these guys, put them on Mars with some guns and some insufficiently hellspawned demons, and you’ve got the spam on a space station classic of 2005. Gallons more blood than I’ve seen in any new horror movie in several years, a massive body count, all kinds of scenery chewing courtesy of the gradually zombifying science board of Mars, a rolling head, a more gratuitous than usual breast, and enough vomit to recall the days when the audience would get sick in droves. You know, because of how shocking and violent the movie was. (This one isn’t, you understand; it just had a lot of vomit, is all. Space sickness. Spi- but I digress.)

Revenge of the Sith

I heard that the novelization of Revenge of the Sith fills in a lot of empty spaces left by the already high (if contrary to form) quality of the movie. There’s no question that Anakin seemed to fall easily, despite that I could get a handle on what wheels in his head were spinning. Plus, I could never quite get a handle on the very end, with Palpatine’s lie and Vader’s acquiescense, post- Force tantrum. And the part where I think Sidious was Plagueis’ apprentice who learned the secret of influencing midichlorians to maintain or create life, and how it indicated that he might have been the architect of Anakin’s conception in the first place. (Sadly, that last bit remains a mystery.)

So, the book. Found it on the cheap a few months ago, read it this week, somewhat faster than intended, but these things happen. At every point, Stover fills in crucial gaps in dialogue, stuff that I remember wishing the movie had been padded with in its original form, lines that would have made the movie maybe ten minutes longer all told while providing just the right depth to take away the choppiness that was the only real flaw. Even better, he has a gift for jumping into each character’s head and taking a mental snapshot for the reader. The best sections of the book begin and end with ‘This is how it feel to be Anakin Skywalker, right now.’

To sum up: as much as I was happy with Lucas for finally recapturing the spirit of Star Wars completely, it is my sad duty to report that the many people who have created bits and pieces of his universe since the 1990s are still, on the whole, more to be trusted with the creation than he is himself. But so be it. At least someone is doing this stuff.

Fantastic Four (2005)

MV5BMTM1NTIwNjM4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDc2NjgyMQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_The bias here is that I had no real interest in the Fantastic Four as a kid; that is, no comics to read, and the shows were always pretty dumb in a way that other superhero cartoons were not. So, when they announced that it was this year’s Marvel summer movie, I was primarily annoyed at having to wait an extra year for the new X-Men.

So, yeah, it was pretty good. I’m thinking it occupies a previously unknown second tier of quality between the really good stuff (summer movies for the last 5 years other than the Hulk) and the truly dismal stuff (non-summer movies; think Daredevil). I’m not all excited at the idea of a possible sequel, but I’m definitely glad I got to see this. There’s something fundamentally pleasing about a team of people that don’t always get along, but they get it together at crunch time; I think it is because you look forward to the consequences of when they finally fail to get it together at crunch time. Also, the whole thing with the angst over being public faces instead of secret identities, that’s one of those cool things that you almost never get to see, and it opens a lot of previously closed doors.

Okay, maybe I am kind of looking forward to a sequel, a little bit. I despair for them suggesting a numbered sequel scheme, though. Because, seriously? Don’t.

Zero Hour (Resident Evil)

So far, there are seven books in the Resident Evil series; of those, five of them are based on entries in the videogame series of the same name. The most recent, Zero Hour, is a prequel in much the same way that the game Resident Evil Zero was. Well, ha ha, that’s an understatement, since it’s not only a novelization of that game, but also the most by-the-numbers novelization of the whole series.

Credit where it’s due, the author has taken on a somewhat herculean task here. It’s hard to write the book of a game whose main focuses (after shooting zombies, I mean) are holding onto ammunition and solving crazy spy puzzles, without devolving into ridiculous parody. Somehow, she manages to take it all seriously, in part by paradoxically keeping the characters aware of the farce of it all. There are things you accept in a game that nobody would in real life, and the ability to roll their eyes at having to light the lamps in the right order to release the gate is exactly the same kind of ability that keeps them sane in the face of bio-engineered hordes thirsty for their blood. And, y’know, their juicy, delicious brains.

On the downside, like I said, this is the least good adaptation. Sure, the characters are allowed to get out of some fights in a way that the game characters are not, and sure, they laugh at the craziness, but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember ever reading a quite so faithful account of what weapons and ammo are picked up when, and how close they are to running out. But, other than how badly that grates, it’s a perfectly serviceable book of its type, and as in other entries in the series, she adds touches here and there that make the book hers outside the confines of the games. Still, if you don’t just absolutely adore the whole Umbrella-verse, there’s no point to picking it (or any of the others) up.