August 15, 2009

Doing It By The Book

I hereby pronounce 2009 the year of baffling and unnecessary book-to-film adaptations.

Exhibit A, of course, is this month's The Time Travel(l)er's Wife, a juggernaut of schmaltzery, if the trailer is anything to go by, adapted from Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 best seller. The book's charm (and don't get me wrong, it is charming) lay in its taking a premise that, if we're being honest, is a little hokey — and then developing that premise into a hefty doorstop of a novel with intelligence, restraint, and emotional complexity. Somehow I doubt that much more than the hokiness made it into the 107-minute movie — though I suppose stranger things starring Rachel McAdams have happened.

Speaking of Rachel McAdams, let's talk about Exhibit B: Sherlock Holmes. As near as I can tell from the trailer, McAdams's role in this movie is a corset-wearing assassin of some sort (from the well-known Conan Doyle story Sherlock Holmes and the Corset-Wearing Assassin), while Holmes and Watson are given "dynamic" new life by Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, respectively. In all fairness, this ain't exactly an adaptation of any particular Holmes story — it's more like a slapstick buddy action comedy that has had Holmes shoehorned into it. Indeed, if I were the cynical type, I'd suggest that this most recent Holmes film started life as a draft of Lethal Weapon 5, which the studio then decided to re-work after Mel Gibson went completely fucking nuts.

In Exhibit C we see another kooky premise that was pulled off in prose but can surely only suffer in its Hollywoodisation: The Lovely Bones, in which our narrator is a fourteen-year-old girl who was brutally raped and murdered and now, in ghost form, watches over her family. In this movie, relative newcomer Saoirse Ronan reprises the role of Patrick Swayze while Demi Moore is played by Mark Wahlberg, and in between all that director Peter Jackson shows us a heaven that looks suspiciously like Middle Earth.

Then there are exhibits D, E and F — The Road, Alice In Wonderland, and Where The Wild Things Are — of which only the latter I can even begin to get excited about. But what really got me started on this rant to begin with is Exhibit G: Dorian Gray.

I'm not altogether convinced that adapting The Picture of Dorian Gray for the screen is an awful idea (though I do wonder how they've handled that thirty page chapter in the middle that describes in great detail all the nice fabrics he owns) — but certainly it didn't need the same treatment that poor Conan Doyle got and, alas!, this is not your grandmother's Dorian Gray: this is Dorian Gray the action-horror movie. Admittedly the horror comes mostly from Colin Firth's facial hair, but still, I'm fairly sure the phrase "I could tell you but I'd have to kill you" isn't a Wilde original. Oh well.

Yeah, Saturday night!

1 comment:

Claire said...

Damn that Dorian trailer looks beautiful. I hope they don't fuck it up with terrible action movie dialogue. :(

Time Traveler's Wife movie is an abomination so great I am pretending it doesn't exist.

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