Vampires shouldn’t have stubble…and other movie bites

PhotobucketI turned in my final draft the day before Thanksgiving.
It. Is. Done.

I’ve been enjoying some R&R over the last few days and even went to see two new movies: Twilight and Australia. Maybe I was just full up on being critical of story because of my own work, but I really enjoyed both flicks. I’ll share some of my thoughts about them here–then let you in on some exciting novel-adaptation news.

My daughter has long been a Twilight fan and finally twisted both of my arms and got me to read the series. I was as curious as she about how well the book would be translated to film, especially after the early panning began. We arrived at the theater with low expectations. The meager budget was evident in a lack of special effects, and the producers really could’ve learned a thing or two by studying some Spiderman flicks (the scene involving Edward climbing a tree has become a family joke).

But.

What made Twilight such a compelling book for teen girls, IMO, was the hero. Edward Cullen is a vampire who craves one girl’s blood above all else. Edward won’t kill Bella, though, because he’s a “vegetarian” who feasts only on the blood of forest animals. He’s also a gentleman out of another era who’s as painfully protective of Bella as he is self aware (“You should stay away from me,” “We shouldn’t be friends,” “What if I’m the bad guy?”). The key is in the conflict: boy who doesn’t want to be bad and who forces himself to resist the dark and supernatural instinct to kill. And who succeeds because he’s that strong and noble–and because he loves Bella. What teen girl can resist that, I ask you? Bella’s madly in love with him, too.

The producers stayed true to who author Stephanie Meyer wanted Edward to be, and that’s why everyone will go back to see film two–and, yes, there will be a second film. Following their first blockbuster weekend, during which they earned out the cost of the film and made nearly a $20 million profit, Summit Entertainment announced that New Moon would go into production in March.

They may not up their production standards, either. This from a CNN article:

After the grueling production, (film director, Catherine) Hardwicke now wants to make sure the studio shows her the money to properly tackle “New Moon'”s tricky plot line — which includes location shooting in Rome and several characters who must realistically morph from teenage boys into werewolves. 

Summit’s (president of production, Erik) Feig has nothing but praise for Hardwicke, but he maintains that the sequel doesn’t necessarily demand a bigger budget. ”I don’t think there was anything excessively lavish about “Twilight,” and yet the world was fully realized,” he says. ”We’ll do exactly the same thing with New Moon.” Still, the studio might want to throw more money at the universally trashed special effect that was supposed to make Pattinson sparkle magically in the sunlight but left him looking merely sweaty. ”People make realistic CGI dragons, so you wouldn’t think making people sparkle would be that hard,” says Meyer.

Honestly, since the only thing they really HAVE to nail with these films is character, chemistry and to stay as true to the book as possible, they probably don’t have to invest bucket loads more money into the films. At the very least, though, I hope they upgrade Edward’s sweaty looking skin to something resembling diamonds and get rid of the stubble that was visible in several scenes. Vampires shouldn’t have stubble.

Has the movie made an impact on book sales? Yes. Take a look at the latest list of bestselling downloads for the Kindle:
1. Twilight – Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)
2. New Moon – Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)
3. Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown)

Kath and I saw Australia with some other writer buds this past weekend. My expectations were higher for this film, though I knew little other than it was a love story set during WWII in Australia. In the end, I enjoyed it very much–and not just because of Hugh Jackman. The film had a lot going for it: epic scope, a style that felt like a throwback to a different era (think Gone with the Wind), great actors, sweeping panoramic views and a high-end production with just enough Baz Luhrmann wacky thrown into the pot to make me happy. The musical score was to DIE for–as transporting as anything visual; it was the music that brought a tear or two to my eyes.

PhotobucketAustralia had been billed as a romantic film, and while it was, I found that the more poignant love story wasn’t between an English woman and a roving Aussie rover, but between that English woman and a half-caste Aboriginal child. Twelve-year-old Brandon Walters made the movie with his authentic interpretation of Nullah–a gifted boy who stands between two worlds, white and aboriginal, pragmatic and supernatural. At the beginning of the movie, Nullah is being taught how to “sing” by his Aboriginal grandfather, King George. Beautiful things happen when Nullah sings. Said director Baz Luhrmann, “In Aboriginal culture, law and wisdom and story is passed not by the written word but by singing. Singing is a huge part of Aboriginal culture, and Brandon’s character, Nullah, is a magical, special singer. There’s even a sequence in the film where…King George, the Aboriginal elder, (sings) characters across land, almost like GPS.”

In a story that sometimes felt calculable–with a clear hero, heroine and villan–Nullah and King George stood for the unpredictable. What could they do, what were their limitations? Would Nullah be caught by those who wanted to send him away because of the “creamy” color of his skin, to become one other face of the so-called lost generation of children who were half-caste? Would he die? Would he stay with the English woman, or would he go away with his grandfather?

I’ve read some of the criticisms of this film: that the villain (played by David Wenham of Faramir fame) was too stock bad guy; that the romance was predictable; that the movie had too many false endings and was overlong (more echoes of Lord of the Rings). That the movie, maybe, didn’t know what it wanted to be. War story? Love story? Racial drama? Rite-of-passage story? I would disagree with these critics; I think it did know what it wanted to be–a big, fat epic tale. A true entertainment. That’s exactly what it is.

Okay, the movie news!

This appeared on Broadway World just a few days ago:

IMDB.com is reporting that director Baz Luhrmann has been sized to direct the feature film adaption of the Broadway hit WICKED. Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book for the musical is said to write the screenplay as well. Variety recently reported that the film was in its early development stages, and clearly the next step has been reached. No schedule for filming or production has been officially announced.

I think this is a PERFECT match of content and director. I hope Baz gives Wicked a Moulin Rouge treatment.

Next: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Guillermo Del Toro have begun scripting for The Hobbit. Filming is slated to begin in 2010 and last for over a year (do we expect anything less of Jackson and Walsh at this point?). The first of the two films will be released in December of 2011, and the second will follow one year later in December of 2012.

Kate Dicamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux will be released on December 12th of this year.

Neil Gaiman’s highly anticipated Coraline will be released February 6, 2009.

Finally a hazy update on Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. The film has been officially rated PG-13 “For thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality. Release Date: Tba 2009” It’s the TBA that kills me here. This film is continually pushed back. Maybe it has a genetic disorder and can’t find its place in time. Go figure.

Did anyone see movies over the holiday weekend? What did you see? What did you think of it? Any writerly notes you’d like to share?

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About Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed in 2006. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Library Journal and BookRiot. Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, sold to Random House in a two-book deal in 2008, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books, and was a Target Breakout Book. She's never been published with a lit magazine, but LOST's Carlton Cuse liked her Twitter haiku best and that made her pretty happy.

Comments

  1. says

    Aaah, losing my mind over Baz Lurhmann doing WICKED. He’ll make it wicked effing great, imo! Happy to hear that Hobbit is finally grinding on. I’m really sad to hear that TTW has been pushed back again, but maybe the delay will be for the best.

    Brandon Walters carried Australia. The “lost generation” thread and his incredible performace made the film so worthwhile. I’m still haunted by some of the images and music. As Therese says, don’t expect much new ground in the love story, but Nullah’s story was gripping.

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  2. Thea says

    I cannot allow Hugh Jackman to be dismissed as merely the ‘hero’ – the soapy chest bath scene (sigh) reminds me I am still alive!! Australia was a crickey good time, and I just loved the mystical side of it. I highly recommend!!

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  3. Cathy J says

    I didn’t get to see either movie yet (my friend went without me), so I really enjoyed your review of each of them. I cannot wait to see them both. Thank you very much.

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  4. says

    LOL: “This film is continually pushed back. Maybe it has a genetic disorder and can’t find its place in time. Go figure.”

    Thanks for the recaps on these films, both of which I really want to see!

    I didn’t see anything this weekend, so unfortunately I don’t have much to contribute. And sadly I JUST yesterday canceled my Netflix (starving artist has to cut costs) so the last film I’ll be watching courtesy of the little red envelope is The Coca-Cola Kid, per my mom’s insistence.

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  5. says

    Kath, I totally agree. Perfect match!

    Thea, thanks so much. It’s a big relief!

    Cathy J, what a bad friend. Go see the movie anyway! :-)

    Kristan, bummer about Netflix, but starving artists must do what they must. I’ve had an old Donald Sutherland movie sitting here in its red envelope for about two months now. With the editing finally behind me, I’ll be able to get to it and move on to something new; hubby has requested Flash Gordon! I’ve never heard of the Coca-Cola Kid…I’ll have to look it up.

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  6. says

    Hi!

    I’ve been lurking for months. I forgot how I found you, though.

    Anyway, I thought I’d de-lurk to say that I liked your take on the Twilight movie (the gentleman from another era is what REALLY made me nod my head). I’m glad your daughter finally twisted your arm hard enough to read the books and go see the movie. I’m crazy about the Twilight world and do the jiggy anytime someone feels like screaming OME (oh my Edward).

    I’m also a big Hugh Jackman fan. I remember reading the AUSTRALIA movie review in a fancy magazine and feeling intrigued about Nullah. (I love the photo of him holding the baby kangaroo.)

    Now I really have to go see AUSTRALIA.

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  7. says

    Welcome, Unhinged Andi! Great name! You’ll fall in lurve with Nullah. Hugh, naturally, isn’t hard on the eyes.

    Julie, you’ve intrigued me about TBitSP. I’ll have to check this on Netflix. I saw a movie several months back that was so dark and sad yet wonderful; it’s really stuck with me. It’s too late for me to look it up now, but I will try try try to remember to do that tomorrow and post the name here, if anyone’s interested.

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  8. kay says

    I was wondering why Edward’s glittering didn’t seem all that glittery. I’ve seen Twilight 2 times now, and the first time, I kept waiting for the effect to kick in. You’re right it did look like sweat.I wasn’t aware of the small budget they were working with. I also didn’t like all of the music they used to take the place of conversation between Bella and Edward. I’m like um Stephenie Meyer wrote a super long book, you couldn’t find anything to put in those scenes? One musical moment I understand, but 3 or 4? Other than that, I loved the movie. Edward is super hot. lol.

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  9. says

    I’m still waiting for twilight movie came out in Portugal (it’s tomorrow) and like you I will go with low expectations. The movie will be bad for me if I don’t feel that “click” between Edward and Bella.

    Last movies seen:

    In the theaters: (I don’t know when they had been released in USA but they are now in Portugal)
    * “Body of Lies” – I liked but it’s not my kind of movie (it’s political, have war and terrorism). But my husband loved it. Leonardo DiCaprio it’s great.
    * “Burn after reading”– So, so bad… I wanted to leave the theater in the middle of the movie but I never had done it in my life, so I stayed till the end hoping the movie would get better. It didn’t. (However “Babel” was worse)

    At home:

    “Wall-E” – Wonderful surprise. I love it!
    “Spiderwick” – It really surprised me! I loved the movie so much that now I have to read the books :)

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  10. says

    Kay, I read a few other articles about the producer being pretty upset about the lack of moola she had for this movie. She’d planned lots of other special effects. (That doesn’t explain the lack of dialogue, though.) Since New Moon has less Edward, they may have to do something to compensate!

    Claudia, come back after you see it and let us know how you liked the movie! I’d been reluctant to see Wall-E, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it. I’ll have to add it to my growing movie list!

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  11. says

    I really loved your review of Twilight. I must say, every time I hear someone comment on the apparent flop that is the meadow/sparkle-scene, I cringe. That was one of the moments I was most looking forward to. **sigh**
    I hate it that Australia seems to be one of the last places to be getting the movie.
    Not fair! I want to see Alice… (I love Alice.)

    Oh, my, I just saw ‘Australia’ last night, with a girl-friend. Omg, rover… XD
    **Rover pours water over self.**
    Woman behind us: “Oh yeeaahh… *That’s* nice…”
    **grins and leans over**
    Pat: “Jaime, can I have *that* for Christmas???” **puppy dog eyes**

    I originally thought ‘Nullah’ was a girl, when I saw him in the previews. I absolutely loved his character. So innocent, but at the same time, so observant and smart.
    His singing voice was… Haunting for me.
    And I decided wholeheartedly that I would use a concept I formed from, and whilst, watching the movie, in a story.
    I loved it. And if I hear someone else bag Nicole, I swear I’ll go nuts at them.

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  12. says

    Welcome, Patrick! Alice is a fun presence in the movie, though I wish there’d been more of her…then again, maybe she wasn’t a huge presence in book one either. Jasper is hilarious, because he’s clearly having trouble being around the warm humans; he always looks one pounce away from breaking his vegetarian vow.

    Re: Australia, I hear you about the singing. The first thing I did after the movie was hop on Amazon to see if the soundtrack was available. Not. Very disappointed, but I’ll keep looking for it. Everyone in the theater giggled and heated up a degree or two over Drover. :-) And I love Nicole, so you won’t hear any panning here. I wonder if Baz will find a place for her in Wicked? Hmm…

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  13. says

    Hi Therese!

    I went to see the movie last weekend and I liked cause it was better than I imagined. In a scale from 1-10, I’ll give it a 7. My husband gave it a 5 cause he felt that some scenes were to slow.
    I have to hear him say several times: “This scene seams to be make by the son of Manoel de Oliveira”
    * Note: Miguel de Oliveira – famous Portuguese director that can film very very slow scenes – example: you stare at a tree for 5 minutes in a film. -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manoel_de_Oliveira

    But talking about twilight, what I didn’t like:
    Edward’s makeup
    I don’t remember seeing Bella smilling. I’ve always imagined that she would smile a lot when being with Edward in the room
    I imagined Edward shinning more in the sun, more like when the sun touches the water and sparkles.

    Overall I thought it was a ok adaptation, they try to be true with the book. But there’s nothing like reading it!

    Ah! You must see Wall-E. My husband didn’t want to see it in the theaters either cause he thought it was more for small children (and we love too see animations movies), but after seeing he said it’s fantastic. It’s amazing how they can make a movie where the main caracther only says: “Wall-E” and “EVA”, and turns out so good!

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  14. says

    ClaudiaV, I’m so happy to hear that the movie exceeded your expectations. It was the same for me. I think there’s so much bad press out there right now that it’s almost impossible for us not to be surprised with the things the producers did right. :-)

    I agree with you that Edward could’ve looked a little more, er, spectacular. But it probably would’ve required special effects, and they just didn’t invest the moola.

    Wall-E: My hubby took our two kids to see it, and he loved the movie (so did they). I’ll see it at some point!

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  15. says

    Therese,
    Love your comments on Twilight movie and have to agree about the Spiderman comment and the “glittering”. I was laughing out loud in the theatre, (had some angry teens shoot me looks!)
    And I agree with Kay about the music piped over the non-conversation between Edward and Bella. In fact, I think their conversation(s) would have been pitvitol in making their love more genuine. I just didn’t buy it. Though, Robert Pattinson is beautiful, and I’m still a Meyer fan, so I’ll be back for more.
    And Wall-E is a huge hit in my household. My 4-yr-old wants everything Wall-E and Eva for Christmas!

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