movies: December 2004 Archives


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Thanks, all, for the good wishes. Tonight, in celebration of the departure of the alien in my belly, I hunkered down for a little screening--tonight was the first half of the SciFi Channel's Legend of Earthsea, a four-hour versioning of Ursula K. LeGuin's classic novels.

When I say classic here, I mean it. Wizard of Earthsea was published a month before I was, and along with Narnia, Shannara, and Middle-Earth, Earthsea was one of the lands I cut my geek teeth on way back when. I've since bought new copies of the books, but I still have the ones I bought back in the late 70s, frail as they are now. So it's no exaggeration to say that they occupy a pretty soft spot in the swirling mythologies of my fandom. That in itself was almost reason enough to pass on the movie version, but I held out hope. From time to time SciFi does a nice enough job with shows. About a month ago, I read about LeGuin's own reaction to the movie, where she writes:

I've tried very hard to keep from saying anything at all about this production, being well aware that movies must differ in many ways from the books they're based on, and feeling that I really had no business talking about it, since I was not included in planning it and was given no part in discussions or decisions.

Uh-oh. And then there's this in response to the director's claim that the movie is a "very, very" faithful treatment:

I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien "intended..." would people think they'd been "very, very honest to the books"?

Yeah. Not so encouraging. And still, still I was hoping that maybe there was enough redeeming value to warrant watching it. Well, so much for that hope. I won't be watching the second half tomorrow, and I'm a little sorry that I caught the first.

Of course, changes had to be made, for the sake of its movieness. A year or two can pass in a chapter of Wizard, but movies don't have that luxury. And the gradual unfolding of scale that happens in every great fantasy novel? Again, a luxury that movies can't afford. And so, instead of a coming-of-age story about a young man who's constantly trying to catch his wisdom up with his power, we have visions of Kristin Kreuk, prophecies, conquerors, teen rebellions, and a suspiciously Potteresque Island of Wizards (complete with Draco Malfoy Jasper of Eolg), mixed together with a few nifty special effects, some pretty atrocious dialogue, and a perfect example of a movie that's quite faithful to an apparently random assortment of details from the book while violating its spirit, plot, and intelligence repeatedly.

Oh, and did I mention that every single time one character left another, we heard pseudo-Enya, pseudo-Celtic, muzak-y Uillean pipe and pennywhistle. I mean, every single time. It worked in LOTR just fine, but it's stupid and utterly cliched here. Ugh.

I can't go on, at least not in this vein. The NYT review just about captures the level of dislike that I felt by the end of part 1 tonight. Keep in mind, though, if you will--every time Martel implies (or outright says) that the movie is derivative--that the books themselves predate everything that the movie is deriving from. And there is some saving grace in the fact that Borders is one of the sponsors--maybe some of the people who watch it, if they're able to make it far enough through to see the ad, will go buy the books instead.

As for me, I've already got them. And I'll spend an hour or two tonight wiping the disappointment from my short-term memory. Ask me in a couple of days, and I'll spin an entry here about how Earthsea prepared me for a career in rhetoric. Really.

That is all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the movies category from December 2004.

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