The Insurgents Go Factionless

It is always hard to be objective when a literary story is adapted for the big screen. Fans long for certain scenes or are unhappy with certain casting and these opinions can skew a movie. Insurgent is just the next in a long line of adaptations that leave book readers wanting a little more.

download (1)The second entry in the Divergent trilogy comes to life with great force and action. Tris and the other refugees have fled Dauntless and have taken shelter in neighboring factions. Tris, Four and Peter take respite in Amity but peace does not last long as Eric sniffs the fugitives out. The two must meet up with their friends hiding in Candor, but along the way they cross path with the factionless and find out the hidden truth about their leader. Tris must keep fighting in order to cross paths with Jeannie and take her out.

As a book reader, (SPOILERS) there are aspects from the books that I really miss. I feel like these cuts impact the story in negative ways. Viewers do not get the truth about Amity and what is really going on there. Amity seems to be a central theme of reduced material. In fact, in the books, Tris’ defining moment as Amity is when she keeps Tori from killing Jeannie; a more poignant reaction that=n movie portrays.

Removing myself from the material, it is easy to see how this movie would entertain its core audience. The action is candor-insurgentcontinuous and keeps viewers on their toes. But critically, the story fails at real emotion. Tris’ emotions are presented in stereotypical scenes and are very one dimensional. By focusing solely on the action, the character development falls flat.

I also missed Ellie Goulding’s music and vocals. Goulding’s music was used as Tris’ inner dialogue in Divergent and made the emotional aspects of the scenes multidimensional. It truly added a lot to the first movie. Instead, the music is insipid and uninspired. (Forgive my Ellie Goulding bias those that know me.)

Insurgent is thrilling and fun for audience though book fans may be disappointed. While these are not the Hunger Games, these Factions are just as dangerous.

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Fifty Shades of Hell No

It is a difficult task to write about 50 Shades of Grey with any objectivity. I am not a fan of the books (I thought the first was horribly written and stopped there), and I have some issues with the content (no, not the sex). But it is fair to say that the movie is better written than the book. That does not mean the movie is good (it’s horrible), but at least it is better than the book.

Since this started as a Twilight fan fiction, you know the plot already. Virginal girl in Washington falls for a strange man who is way out of her league. He takes a strange attraction too her and claims he’s no good for her because of his secret. But instead of being a vampire, he’s a sadist with a “Red Room of Pain.” He takes her through sexual discovery by dominating her in every way. It’s a love story.

The movie thankful does not feature narration by Anastasia “Ana” Steele. Instead, the movie keeps the trite dialogue while more fluidly transitioning from one scene to another. “Goddess” is used only one time, and the “Oh My God”s are kept at a minimum. But there is no way to hide the Twilight parallels in almost every scene. I can just see E.L. James’ lawyer going over the content with a fine tip comb. “O.K., the rescue from the bicycle is different enough from the Tyler’s car but José has to be a different minority.” I would rather have watched Twilight.

fifty-shades-of-grey-movieDakota Johnson makes a good Bella-excuse me-Ana, but Jamie Dornan is horribly miscast as the titular Grey. He is good-looking and has a nice body, but he is not a good fit for the character. The reasons are two-fold. The first is that he looks like a young Colin Firth and that doesn’t go with the Christian Grey persona at all; it’s actually kind of terrifying to think of Firth in this role. The second is that his accent is terrible. If he had a voice acting coach, no other actor needs to hire them. The only good thing about Dornan being in it is that means Charlie Hunnam got out (Thank Goddess!).

There is one good thing about the film: it manages to give Ana more power than she did in the book. My friends tell me everything happened the same way in the book, but the book was so poorly written that it was hard to interpret any nuisances. When Ana goes to the conference room to negotiate the contract in the film, she is confident and forth coming. The movie makes it more apparent there is more of a balance between the two (only ever so slightly though).

While its claim to fame is nudity and sex, it’s the movie’s ability to transcend the book that is its positive aspect. The movie is truly horrible but it’s better than its book counterpart. That is a rare success for any movie.

By the Book: Horns

Joe Hill is an amazing writer weaving unique tales of the macabre.  Through his various novels and comics, Hill has made a name for himself outside of being Stephen King’s son. It is no surprise that his materials have been made into a movie. The adaption of his novel Horns hit theater for Halloween but lacked the intricacies of the novel.

horns-book-coverThe movie follows the same basic premise. Ig’s girlfriend is killed and he is the prime suspect of her murder. The evidence neither clears nor condemns him but he must deal with a town that persecutes him anyway. One drunk, emotional night, Ig wakes up not remembering what he did the night before but finds horns growing on his head. These horns have the ability to make people tell him their darkness secrets, bringing out the devil inside them. The story follows Ig as he adapts to his new talent and as well as solves the mystery of his girlfriend’s murder.

The movie is enjoyable but never reaches its full potential. Unfortunately, Keith Bunin, the screen writer, decided that lots of changes needed to be made to Hill’s tale. The problems start immediately as the movie opens with gushy platitudes and fuzzy emotions that would never appear in Hill’s work. This continues to be a flaw throughout the film, each change softening the edges too far. And it’s not just the additions that hurt the film. Bunin chooses to cut vital information that leave major plot holes. Spoiler: the movie never explains how the horns came about.

Ironically, as most of the changes of the book are the movie’s down fall, the best scene actually does not take place in the book. horns_ver5_xxlgThe movie is at its height when Ig uses his powers to make paparazzi battle themselves to Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Personal Jesus.” This scene manages to define the theme the movie is trying (but never manages) to portray: revenge, though sweet, causes our downfall.

Daniel Radcliffe is the perfect Ig brining to life the description of the character from the book, and the character is pretty spot on. But most of the other characters are warped. Juno Temple’s Merrin is a travesty of the original character and I know the book version would have a few choice derogative terms for her portrayal. She’s not the only one changed. The brother becomes more melodramatic and the true villain is skewed from the start of the film. The characters needed none of these changes, and it detracts from the tale that Hill was actually trying to tell.

The movie is enjoyable if you haven’t read the book but I would never suggest it to you. Instead I would send you straight to the bookstore or library. Horns is a dish best severed in paper format.

By the Book: The Maze Runner

Very rarely does a movie adaptation do the book justice. For every Hunger Games there is a Mortal Instruments. Luckily, The Maze Runner does well translating the literary onto the big screen.

the_maze_runner_book_cover_01Thomas awakens in a moving elevator not knowing who he is or where he is. He is introduced to a group of boys named The Gladers, the inhabitants of a lush valley. But beyond the valley is The Maze, a dangerous puzzle that the boys try each day trying to figure out how to solve and escape captivity. Thomas is just the many is a long line of boys who are sent to this world not knowing their purpose. But then suddenly things change when girl is dropped off along with a note saying she will be the last. Suddenly, the game seems even more dire.

The movie makes minimal changes, usually to facilitate the movie’s action. The biggest change is the complete removal of Thomas and Teresa’s telepathic link. In fact, Teresa herself is mostly down played.  In the book she is unconscious when she arrives. In fact, she talks to Thomas telepathically and tells him that her appearance has triggered “The Ending.”  This is the first of many clues that she and Thomas are not only linked but that they have something to do with what is happening to these boys. The two make use of their telepathy many times throughout the series, so it will be interesting to see how this deletion changes the aspects of the other movies.

The movie is a beautiful representation of The Glade and The Maze. It looks exactly as I hadMV5BMjUyNTA3MTAyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTEyMTkyMjE@__V1_SX640_SY720_ envisioned it except for The Maze walls. Due to filming limitations, you can see the ends of the massive walls but this allows for gorgeous Ariel shots of not just The Maze but the boys’ habitat in relation to The Maze. The production team manages to make the whole area beautiful yet unsettling.

The casting fits perfectly. The group of boys in the book has a wide variety of nationalities, ethnicities and ages, and the movies portray this well. No character is white washed and except for two of the actors, everyone is a relative unknown. This helps when casting an isolated, post-apocalyptic movie. It seems more real when Tom Cruise isn’t being reborn every five minutes. My favorites include Patricia Clarkson and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Love Actually, Game of Thrones). Clarkson is perfect as the tester who makes a short but impactful appearance about the boys’ origins, and Brodie-Sangster is perfect as Newt, a fan favorite. He balances the aspects of being a leader as well as a scared teen boy well.

The Maze Runner made almost all of its $34 million budget its first week, and the sequels have been ordered. In fact, another Game of Throne actor (Aiden Gillen) is set to join. Here’s hoping the sequels will be as true to their book origins as this one was.

 

 

How Season 4 of Game of Thrones Season 4 is Angering Book Fans

Game of Thrones brought TV viewers into a rich world book lover had known for ages. As most adaptations, the show changes things to entertain book and TV audiences.  In the case of GoT, the changes have been minimal. But the creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have consulted with author George R.R. Martin (the show will end way before the books ever will) and know what Martin plans to happen.  Evidence of that is popping up in Season 4 as the TV show is starting to give spoilers to book readers.

Taking some liberties with the material is good for the show and to keep book readers on the toes. This is valuable to a point. A Song of Ice and Fire is MASSIVE. There is so much going on those things often have to be cut out or condensed to tell and meaningful story. But it becomes a problem when you add material that did not happen in the books. For example, the story with the return to Craster’s keep. These events did not happen inGoT-S4E4 the books and the writers created a new villain as if there were not a plethora of villains in the text. While giving time to the wildlings as they terrorizes Mole Town can really give a more rounded look for these characters, it doesn’t help to draw out certain stories of over characters (here’s looking at you Bran).

The TV show is pooling things for book readers and this s angering fans of the books. It is known that the creators know where the general story is going and to hint at it, but to outright say “so and so killed Jon Aryan” is news to the reader, a reader who has read through thousands and thousands of pages and, in two seconds, the mystery is solved.  The television viewers are lucky; all is resolves for them and the book fans have become annoyed when their loyalty is not rewarded. Yes, the book and TV readers are somewhat of even footing when it comes to The Others, but should they be?

It also seems that the writers are inherently changing our characters. Jamie’s rape scene never happens. In fact, book readers are so angry at Cerci’s treatment of Jaime, that when he finally (spoiler) breaks away from her, fans cheered. I wish I knew the logic behind this change and why they decided that Jaime is suddenly a rapist (this up there with the logic behind everyone’s love of Stannis). There is a flip side to this. TV’s Margeary is much more innocent and isn’t conniving until her grandmother gets ahold her. In fact, in the show, she is completely innocent in Joffery’s murder helping some fans to appreciate her better.

Season 4 has deviated from the books the most. Previous ones just moved the plot along quicker or consolidated some characters for cast budgeting. But as they reach their end came, they veer further away from the story fans know and love. Will this pay off? The book fans may say no but the TV fans are saying yes.

By The Book: Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game has been surrounded by controversy. The book was rallied against for its support of violence and the movie was boycotted because Orson Scott Card is anti-homosexual. These controversies take away from a deep and provocative story that looks at politics, the military, and our future.Ender's_game_cover_ISBN_0312932081

The book is an in-depth look at the future after an alien war with the Buggers. Earth came together to create an army that will fight the future of the alien threat: training young children who use their intuition and lack of biases to fight these life forms. The book details Ender’s rise to military fame and his emotional breakdown from the stresses place on him. The book became keystone reading for several military groups, and the Ender franchise took off. The movie follows the same plot changing minor points.

Even though director/writer Gavin Hood only makes minimal changes, he manages to alter the tone and change the purpose behind certain plot points. Part of this comes from the fact that the movie isn’t able to get into Ender’s head like it did in the books and Hood often fails in portraying it in the storyline.  For example, Ender’s inner struggle with being a leader and the advanced pace of his training is downplayed and his explosion at the end of the movie seems out of place. In fact, the movie makes it seem like Bonzo’s death is the only reason he quit before he enters Command School.

To centralize the story, characters are given more screen time. Petra’s role in Ender’s life is increased and given more importance than in the book. And while it incorporated more of Bean, it change the characters time line as well as down played how smart, arrogant the character actually is. The movie demonizes the bad guys while making the good guys perfect saints. And none of the children are young enough. While this might be practical for filming, it really takes the enormity of the original story away.

tumblr_mk8d1vkdYW1rri3f0o1_1280This leads to the biggest issue with the movie. No one should have worked about anti-homosexual themes or any other political commentary. The movie is actually overly PC. Characters have changed to reflecting minority and women’s roles which in interesting because the books actually have more variety of ethnicities and gender than the movie did. There is no reference to the Bugger War; everyone just calls them Formics. This small change loses a lot of what Card was saying about humans and outsiders. Using slang for enemies is typical and part of the criticism included in the original novel. Though we see it start to change in Ender’s Shadow (chronologically parallel but written some time after the original), this is a reflection of how PC was adapting into the world and it has now completely enticed the movie.

The biggest change was the removal of politics from the film. Oh, you say, but there was so much politics with Graff and the military! That is nothing compared to the Ender Saga of books. Enders siblings are very important player in the world. Their actions and political dialogues change how regular people see the world and it sons reaches to the government. Their actions actually decide Ender’s fate. But you won’t see much of Peter or Valentine as Hood morphs the ending to come to a staggering halt instead of following into another tale.

Ender’s Game is a great science fiction movie.  The special effects are beautiful and the Battle Room lives up to expectations. Asa Buttersfield does well as the boy genius Ender, and Harrison Ford is great as Graff. But like most adaptations it can’t hit the depth and thought provocation of the novel.

Divergent: On the Screen and By the Book

On the Screen

 

Divergent is actually a pretty good movie. It’s much better than the YA adaptions Beautiful Creatures and City of Bones. Though it doesn’t live up to the caliber of The Hunger Games, it has its strengths in its own rights. As far as being a good adaptation, the movie does pretty well till it spins out of control in the end changing the last confrontation significantly.

Divergent, like many Young Adult based plot, takes place in a dystopian future. To keep the peace the population is divided into five factions each one elevating one characteristic above any other. Tris was born in Abnegation and must focus on other’s needs before her own. But citizens aren’t forced to stay in their birth faction. As their coming of age ritual, each teenager goes through an assessment where they find out what faction they should be but they are free to choose any of the five. Tris’ results are mixed which is rare and dangerous as it challenges the fragile peace set up by the leaders. Tris chooses a new life where she has to prove she can be dauntless instead of homeless while stumbling into a government conspiracy that will threaten her home faction as well as the whole city.

Divergent is fast paced, keeping viewers engaged in the action. Neither the viewers nor Tris have time to adjust to the dark Dauntless compound. Training begins immediately and romance blooms. The movie is mainly focused on the action with the romance sprinkled in ensuring the relationship between Tris and Four does not over power the story.

Four is played marvelously by Theo James. It is he and Kate Winslet who give the most powerful performances leaving the rest of the cast to be perfectly acceptable but not strong. Before seeing the movies, I had read lots of reviews touting how wonderful James was, but I thought no one could live up to that hype. Though at first glance readers will think he’s not Four, as soon as he opens his mouth, we are convinced. James manages to easily blend the emotional complexity Four manifests. His fearlessness, his kindness, his intelligence all blend together making Four easily fit in a variety of factions. Winslet, on the other hand, is smart and shrewd making Jeanine Mathews, the Euridite’s leader, inherently conniving. From the first time she interacts with Tris, the viewer knows something is not right with this woman. Winslet’s performance lacks innocence and you would never confuse her for raise to fame character Rose.

The movie is thrilling and the music is perfect. Ellie Goulding’s haunting chords match perfectly with what is going through Tris’ head putting icing on the cake. But how does it stake up as adaptation to the book? Keep reading below the pictures for By the Book and spoilers abound.

By the Book

As with most adaptations, there are some casting issues. Jai Courtney’s casting as Eric is horrific and the costume and make-up department don’t even attempt to make him look like the book Eric. (Besides why do people keep thinking he can act?) Shailene Woodley did well with Tris but she isn’t the Tris I saw in my head. My Tris was am ordinary person. She wasn’t glamorous but she had a spirit that emanated from her at every turn. Part of the problem isn’t Woodley’s fault. In an effort to simplify a very complex book, the script cuts down on Tris’ emotional struggles. She doesn’t just choose Dauntless because she thinks the enemy won’t find her. It’s about who she is and the conflict she feels within herself and with leaving her loved ones. This takes the edge off Tris making her character relatable. We all struggle to find ourselves.

The movie falls for one of the fatal mistakes made by City of Boones: emotional and complex issues are so minimized that they should have been left out because they don’t make since. It City of Bone sit was the fact Alec is gay; for Divergent its Al’s suicide. The movie spends about four minutes on his story. As non-dauntless is under lots of pressure to not become factionless, but his plight only comes out with the attack on Tris. The movie implies that he killed himself just because of the attack. But that isn’t the case. Al is an example of breaking under the stress and how not everyone can break out of their faction. But the movie never gets this thoughtful or reflective.

On the flip side the movie makes changes that make no sense. These span from minuscule facts (they drink the elixir in the school instead of getting a shot) to major plot points. As a reader the ending was atrocious. To give Winselt more screen time, the final confrontation comes between Matthews, Tris and Four. Eric is summarily dismissed before ever reaching the Dauntless compound. Tris must attack Matthews with wit and violence creating a whole new scenario that will unbalance the relationship that the two had in further books.

Until the end, the adaptation isn’t bad but fans come out with a bad taste in their mouths–especially since the majority of the film was well done and entertaining.

 

By The Book: Catching Fire

Catching_FireCatching Fire is the best installment in The Hunger Games series. The book is essentially two different stories. The first is rich in theme and looks at the very real consequences of the first novel. The second part takes Katniss back into the arena and this time she has to make friends.

The second film opens with Katniss hunting on the day the Victory Tour starts. But even here, Katniss does not feel safe and an intimate encounter with Gale just makes her life more difficult. She leaves for the Tour with instructions from Snow: convince me you and Peeta are in love or your loved ones will die. But Katniss cannot end a revolution that has already begun. To try and put out the fire, Snow announcing the special requirement for the Quarter Quell: only previous Hunger Game victors will compete. Katniss is going back in the arena.

The movie minimizes the events in District 12 in order to spend the most time with the arena and training. Gale has a shining moment, but the depth of his involvement in the revolution is underplayed. Any traces of “cousin” are removed. Pivotal moments, including Plutarch’s watch and Katniss meeting the escapes and escaping the electric fence are gone.  There is no flurry of wedding dresses or preparation. While Gale’s most important scene is intact and Katniss’ love for him truly shown, the whole experience seems rushed. The book takes time to deal with the themes of revolution, causality, love, and family. The movie just manages to make Katniss scared while not truly seeing the desolation the District comes under.

But the Quarter Quell is spot on. The Games is the most faithfully adapted from any of the books so far, following the catchingfirekatnissevents pretty much to the letter. This is when the movie is the best: putting the action of the arena onto the screen. Each of the traps in the arena come alive with great care and detail to attention. The obstacles are as scary to the view as the characters. The biggest change in the arena? Peeta can swim.

What really makes this adaptation shine is the casting. For once, the casting is well done and the character truly comes alive. Jena Malone as Johanna Mason is perfect. Malone gives the perfect edginess to the character. At first glance Sam Claflin doesn’t seem like Finnick but when he turns Finnick’s arrogance into charm and brings to life the struggle with emotional depth that theta the character keeps hidden behind that facade. The rest of the candidates, also, look like I had imagined them.

The producers of the movies decided to split Mockingjay as two movies. I argue that Catching Fire should have the one spilt. Not only does it contain two different stories but the themes with in these stories are very different and seem like different novella in and of them. The starting of the revolution would not have been so rushed and the emotions could truly play out. This would lend easily to two self-contained movies, ending with the announcement of the Quarter Quell.

Of course as a movie, Catching Fire is amazing and the whole production pretty well captures the books. But this one would never have been split in two: you can’t keep the audience from their violence. Like the Capital, we want The Games.

By The Book

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The modern YA craze that started with Harry Potter and Twilight isn’t slowing down. Studios are pushing forward making movies of the most popular young adult fare. But for every The Hunger Games there is a Beautiful Creatures.  The movies can’t always live up to the original material. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is one such film.

The-Mortal-Instruments-City-of-Bones-Book-CoverThe City of Bones follows Clary an ordinary human with an ordinary life. But when she sees gorgeous and dangerous Jace, her life changes forever. Jace is a Shadow Hunter, a group of human who have angel ancestry and fight demons who wish to do harm the human realm. Clary is one of the few people who can see the Shadow Hunters, and she joins Jace one their journey in an effort to unlock a secret past and a part of herself she is never known.

The book looks at the coming of age story through a magical lens. Instead of teenage angst, the books focuses on Clary as she learns that she is a demon hunter and possesses the talent to wield magic and take out the unwanted of the supernatural world. Learning about her true self is a perfect allegory for teenage life without being overly depressing. She must deal with learning her true talents, learns her mother isn’t perfect, and falls in love-all typical teenage life events. The script takes no time with these ideas. Even the most complex ideas, like sexuality, are pared down into a few lines and then forgotten leaving the movie without any emotion. Either the ideas should have been explored in greater time or left out completely.

Another huge difference between the book and the movie is that the film depicts all the characters one dimensional. Isabelle is always uptight and bitchy, Alec is cowardly, and Simon is Nerdy, and so on. By downplaying the emotional material from the books the characters are not able to be fully formed. And many of their roles are down played. Magnus Bane is truly the source from which Clary was able to train her powers; he gets about five minutes of The_Mortal_Instruments_-_City_of_Bones_Posterscree n time and is only responsible for her lack of memory. Plus, the casting director didn’t bother to read the descriptions of some of the characters when casting it. Isabelle is described as gorgeous, raven haired with brown eyes so dark they seem black, and tall-taller than most of the boys. Her actress is none of these.   While Jamie Campbell Bower was the perfect Jace, the other characters were miscast. Lily Collins and Lena Headey both lacked any drive or used any skill to portray their characters (that surprises me of Headey). The only change worth making was the local palm reader: it is never a mistake to cast CCH Pounder in anything.

The most unusual thing about the movie version of the books, it that is spoils the rest of the saga for anyone who hasn’t read past City of Bones. While most fans have read the saga, some viewers like me are just getting into the series. You learn in the film the Star Wars like twist has even another twist later in the series. As a reader, this will make my experience with the books less enjoyable. But, honestly, if you’ve the movie you will be discouraged from reading the book.

This is the saddest things when movies based on books are badly done; people are less likely to pick up the book. This is a shame because the book is better 99 percent of the time.

By The Book: The Host

Andrew Niccol’s adaptation of The Host is very faithful to Stephenie Meyer’s book. But the film fails to capture the philosophical and moral complications detailed in the book.

eng-the-hostThe story follows a Host and a Soul on post-apocalyptic Earth. The Souls, an alien race who take over the natives of war-torn planets, live to make every world peaceful for their hosts. Earth’s humans are very dangerous to themselves and their planets so the Souls have some trouble subduing all the humans. Melanie is a particularly difficult being to conquer as she is part of a rebel human resistance. The Soul Wanderer is placed inside Melanie to mollify her and find out where the human are living.

Wanderer finds it hard to subjugate Melanie. She is still there inside the Host’s body nagging at her with every move she makes. Wanderer begins to sympathize with Melanie, and the two start a quest to find Melanie’s brother and boyfriend. But the Souls are not giving up, and a particularly singular minded Seeker chases after them.

By luck, Melanie and Wanderer are able to make it to the desert hideout of the humans. Wanderer is given shelter even though the humans do not trust her. Melanie’s boyfriend and brother are found, but the story does not simply end there. Wandered, now called Wanda empathizes with her human captors and falls in love while in the caverns.

The changes made to the movie are minimal. Some back stories, such as Kyle and Jodi’s, are left out leaving you to question the motivations of some characters, but the movie leaves little time for much more than Wanda and Melanie’s story.

xthe-host-movie-poster-pagespeed-ic-zyypkhl6cdThe problem with The Host as a film is that somehow all nuisances lost. The movie makes everything black and white. There is some discussion as to how one body can love too men but it mainly glossed over in stark kisses and slaps. The movie losing the internal dialogue between Wanda and Melanie. The movie features Melanie as a disembodied voice but Wanda talks aloud to herself. This is done for ease of understanding but the inner turmoil is too a minimum and Wanda seems to collapse under Melanie’s influence which is absolutely not the case. The book features two souls at war finding peace between themselves, their morals, their loves, and their loyalty.

It is hard to suggest what could have made this better. I want to fall back on an old excuse; it’s not a book you can translate. It’s not Twilight; there is depth and character development that was missing from the vampire saga. This is Meyer’s best work. But this is not Niccols.