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).
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.
Australia 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?