Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Little Poetic License, I Suppose

The other night the kids and I watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I have to admit, I'm not much of a movie watcher, and I got bored and wandered off to clean the dishes or something. Part of the problem may have been that it wasn't much like the Alice in Wonderland I remember from my youth. There were the basic characters, but the plot seemed entirely different. My son (who has read both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) said the movie is Burton's take on what could have happened - in other words, a sequel that was never written.

This is not anything new. I remember hating Melissa Gilbert when I was a kid because of what that TV show did to the Little House book series, LOL. And as a student of literature and communication, I understand that a movie director is producing a different work than the original book, and that the director has a certain degree of poetic license to produce his/her work.  A faithful adaptation of a novel doesn't always satisfy; the first Harry Potter movie seemed a little too self-conscious about sticking close to the book, in my opinion. With a long book, a director simply has to leave some things out - who wants to sit for more than three hours watching a movie? (Well, I take that back - my husband has been known to sit and watch all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in one sitting - the extended versions).

Sometimes, the director does a great job capturing the "soul" of the book, even if there are significant changes from the book. The Lord of the Rings series is the best example. Although Shelob was in the second book, it made narrative sense to put her in the third movie. My husband and son were upset because there was no funeral for Dumbledore at the end of the Half-Blood Prince movie. I'm suspending judgment on that, thinking that may be the place where the first half of the last Harry Potter movie will start. If so, I think that's a reasonable use of poetic license.

What I do have a problem with are movies that give only lip service to the original work. One clear example is Stuart Little. Ugh, I hate that movie! There's very little in that movie that comes from the book. In fact, it almost seems like the people who produced this movie weren't all that interested in the story in the book; all they wanted was the character, the mouse who lived with a human family. And even with that, they significantly changed Stuart's character from a dapper mouse in a tiny suit (see Garth Williams' rendition above) to a more casual "skater" mouse.

So what? So, my daughter sees no need to read Stuart Little; she's "seen the movie, Mom!" 

We're going to nip that attitude in the bud...she saw an ad for the Beezus and Ramona movie and asked to go see it. I said, "You have to read the book first." Next thing I know, there she is, curled up on the couch reading it. Yes.....

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