Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Movie Adaptations


If you've listen to our podcast review, or even watched at the cinema, Ridley Scott's new film The Counseler, you'll realise that it is a very laboured retelling of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name. Adapted by McCarthy himself, the film soliloquies disturbing tales, but it all becomes mired by the mumbles of the actors. I've not read the book myself, but I'll give you a run down of the good, the bad and the ugly of movie adaptations (of books I've read).

The Good - A Clockwork Orange

This iconic film by film god Stanly Kubrick had many criticisms at the time of it's release in 1971. A little bit too much of the old ultraviolence, the protagonist Alex committing rape while singing old MGM musicals, and the novella's author, Anthony Burgess, called the movie "badly flawed". One of the major differences between the book and the film is the omission of the 21st chapter, where Alex redeems himself. Interestingly, Burgess was persuaded to omit this chapter for the American edition of the book (the one of which Kubrick read), because they felt that it would be more realistic and more appealing to the Americans (so what are they saying, Americans like violence without consequence?). 

The book and film are at once quite similar and vastly different at the same time. What works well is that they play up masterfully to their mediums. The movie, looks stunning and modern even to today's standard, the violence is still shocking, the acting amazing, and the soundtrack is mesmerising. The book, written entirely from the view point of Alex and written in the 'nadsat' slang that he speaks, is engrossing and detailed, and, of course, you get the 21st chapter.

The lesson from A Clockwork Orange is that adaptations don't always have to follow so strictly to the source, it essentially has to work for its chosen medium. And the good thing is that watching the film will not ruin the experience of reading the book (or visa versa). 


The Bad - World War Z

It's one thing to not use a chapter you didn't even know existed, it's another thing all together to completely ignore the whole book. World War Z by Max Brooks is an intelligent and layered book about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse that is more reminiscent of World at War than Night of the Living Dead. Detailing the tales of survivors from around the world, including stories from the army and Japanese nerds, an adaptation of this book would be political, horrifying, and epic. 

Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment won the bidding war for the rights to the book. After multiple redrafts and a bloated production made it one of the most expensive films ever, the film opened to some quite glaring negative reviews. Why? Because IT IS NOTHING LIKE THE BOOK. I mean, the only similarity between this and the book is the fact it has zombies in it. None of the politics that where in the books were included, because they thought it might make the film a bit sombre. And to add insult to injury, it was only a 15 rating. It really is quite a sad horrible mess, but if you want to see the film after reading the book, you won't be disappointed. They are nothing alike.


The Ugly - The Golden Compass

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Harry Potter books and films, The Golden Compass ended up being an $180 million disaster for New Line Cinema. Based on the Northern Light trilogy by Philip Pullman, this film is a victim in an inadequate director (by his own admission) and major savage editing to the film late in production that caused many of the controversial Catholic-bating bits of the book to be cut out. 

This really could of been a very good film. The books are extremely impressive and imaginative, and Lyra, the protagonist, is a brave and smart as she is a little bitch. It always depresses me that a book that confronts the audience with difficult themes then gets turned into a completely patronising film, and this is what this film unfortunately does. There where reasons why people liked the books, and it wasn't just the fluffy animals. 

What was intended to be a trilogy of films never happened, and it is sad to think that this wonderful story will probably never reach a mass audience because film companies are too scared to plough vast amounts of money into dodgy territory. I suppose you should all go out and read the books then.

Listen to our review of The Counselor below or subscibe through iTunes (don't forget to leave a five star review! :)).

Layla

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