Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hollywood, Why Do You Bother?

I've just been to see The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, and found it very disappointing. It's one of those movies where they've tried really hard but it hasn't worked. The warning signs were in the first few minutes, where we are shown various things to ensure we know this is an American family in the depths of England (this is not in the book) - the flashing around of iPods and mobile phones was weird, and they're not seen again. The main actor has been to the Daniel Radcliffe School of Acting (show all emotion with wide eyes and slightly open mouth), and he's fourteen. In the book, Will is eleven, and that age is significant.

There are other things I won't go into - suffice to say that the movie felt insubstantial, and tried to make up for it with special effects and scary music. Instead of recreating the feel of ancient England's steady encroachment on the present, the movie seems to try to stay in 2007 and then jump suddenly into sets that look like leftovers from a 1950s horror movie. I remember the books as having depth and real creepy suspense. In the book The Dark is Rising, for example, there is another character called the Walker, who appears as a dirty old tramp. He creates tension for Will right from the beginning. He's not in the movie. I'm now going to go back and read the books again - I'd resisted until I'd seen the movie - and am starting with the first one, Over Sea, Under Stone, which has entirely different characters.

It's strange how a book can affect you so strongly, and then the movie is so shallow. I thought the same about The Bridge to Terabithia, that the fantasy element they introduced wasn't necessary. Maybe there are just some books that will never translate to the screen and evoke the same emotion that you have when you read them. It's something I talk about with writer friends now and then - is it better to have read the book first or seen the movie first? Because I hate knowing the ending, I prefer to read the book because then all the anticipation is still there. If I see the movie later, it doesn't bother me so much to know how it ends if the journey is interesting.

I only re-read books when I've forgotten how they end! Or if I am looking at something in particular, such as dialogue or setting. I rarely watch a movie more than once, unless I've forgotten how that ends too. But I know a couple of people who, once they've read the first few chapters of a book, will read the ending before they continue. Maybe that's why I love poetry - it's not about the ending. And I can read a poem many times and see more things in it each time. My husband says that's why he watches movies several times, because he sees new things. Just as we all like different kinds of books and movies, we also seem to get different experiences from them.

1 comment:

Tracey said...

I'd rather see the film first for a couple of reasons: one, I'm not visual, and can't make pictures in my head, so the film can provide me with pictures; two, I'll always get more out of the book, if it's a good book, but I'll never get more out of the film.