Friday, February 7, 2014

Movies, Films, Adaptations

So, a few weeks ago my friend Jeff Grubb used an interesting way to differentiate between movies, films, and adaptations. I forget his exact words, but it went something like this:

--A movie gets enjoyed 
--A film gets watched 
--An adaptation gets analyzed 

Of course, these categories often overlap. Among things Janice and I have gone to lately, I'd put down THOR: THE DARK WORLD as a movie -- entertaining fun, so long as you don't make the mistake of trying to take it seriously. Which is easy enough, given that I'd say no synapses fired at any point during the making of this film. But you cd also look at it as an adaptation, given that it's based on the Marvel comics character.

THE BUTLER is clearly intended to be a film, self-conscious awards-bait where all the emphasis is on character and contentious issues and the weight of historical events. Too bad its earnestness made it come off as drab and depressing; I cdn't help comparing it with the old tv miniseries of three black servants' lifelong service at the White House (whose name I forget) did a better job.

An example of a really good adaptation would be THE HUNGER GAMES, where the original author of the books it's based on served as one of the three screen writers, as well as one of the producers (giving her economic clout). It's not a point-by-point transfer from book to screen, but an extremely faithful adaptation that re-creates the same story in a new medium.

Contrast this with the recent JACK RYAN movie, SHADOW RECRUIT, where the project was a year into development when it first occurred to them to make it a Jack Ryan movie. So, far from being an adaptation of one of Clancy's novels, the whole idea of its being an adaptation is just an add-on.

So far as the adaptations I care the most about, I'd say the HOBBIT trilogy so far has produced mixed results.  The first movie, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, is both an adaptation and an action movie, in roughly equal parts. For the second movie, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, there's a  shift to heavy emphasis on action movie -- and a good one at that, but I'd have rather they have more adaptation, not less. Thus the best moments, for me, are the remaining bits of adaptation: Bilbo left behind by barrels, Bilbo w. Smaug, Bilbo's butterflies moment, et al. Now to wait to see which way the third and final movie leans. If the LORD OF THE RINGS film trilogy is any guide to go by, the first film will be both the best and the most faithful, the second will depart most widely from the source material, and the third will fall somewhere between the two. In the case of the LotR middle film, the wide departures from the original hurt the story but the film as a whole was redeemed by outstanding performances by Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, and the ever-amazing Andy Serkis. That hasn't been the case with the middle HOBBIT movie -- which means that even more is riding on the third and final film to pull the whole thing together. Come this December we'll know; for now, here's hoping.

current audiobook: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Rbt A. Heinlein
current reading: HEIR APPARENT, a life of Edward VIIth.


David Bratman said...

December? It was announced some time ago that the third movie would be released on July 18, only 7 months after the second. When was this changed? Is it because Jackson has to complete the Appendices? (obscure Tolkien joke)

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi David
Yes, the release date changed a few months ago.
The official release date is given on IMDB as December 17th.
Given how effects-heavy these movies are, and how complicated they are to assemble, I'd been surprised they thought they cd get the third one out half a year early, and unsurprised when this turned out not to be the case. Especially when I'm sure they'll be putting out an Extended Edition of the second film (which I think is on the cusp of leaving the theatres) in the meantime.