Sunday, April 10, 2005

Keep It the Same ... Just Different ...

Eric at Fire Ant Gazette, one of the 'renaissance men' of the Tall City blogosphere recently posted on another of the many topics upon which he dwells with more than the usual level of insight ... popular films. He had just finished seeing 'Sahara,' and was sharing his impressions with us, as well as a cyber-thumb-up for the film itself.

BTW, the nature of Eric's work allows him to take off early in the afternoons on weekdays, and attend the discounted matinees ... which leaves him extra money for popcorn, the lucky son-of-a-gun!

Anyway, in the exchange of comments following Eric's original post, a number of us were looking forward to a pair of films coming out later this year, each based upon a well-known book - The War of the Worlds, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I honestly don't know if I'm looking forward to the movies or not. I'm a great fan of both H.G. Wells and Douglas Adams, and both of the works listed above are permanent fixtures on my bookshelf. But what might Hollywood do with a pair of stories that have been favorites of mine for such a loooong time?

If the trailers and images on the WOTW official website are any indicator,
Spielberg's 2005 film will draw inspiration and direction from Byron Haskins' 1953 film, as it does from Wells' 1898 book. One significant point ... in the new film, will the Martians be absolutely unbeatable by anything 'Man' can bring to bear upon them? In the 1953 film, they were completely impervious to even an atomic bomb. This was a significant point of deviation from the novel, where the British armed forces scored small, isolated victories over the Martian tripods. One of the most exciting scenes in the novel occurs when the HMS Invincible rushes in to save boats full of refugees, and takes on three Martian tripods in a bitter, deadly engagement off England's coast.

And while these victories don't change the outcome of the war, they do add moments of drama, even suspense, to the narrative. And I can't help but think they also represented some social commentary on Wells' part. Remember, this was the 1890s. One of the more remarkable points of Wells' story was that he took British society/culture of the period, and turned it upside-down, placing it in the unfortunate position of so many other cultures worldwide that had engaged in a WOTW of their own as they resisted conquest by British imperialist forces ... moments of victory, but an inevitable defeat in the end.

Sometimes, I'm a stickler for how well the film stays with the book from which it's adapted. But, sometimes, I'm not. I'm consistently inconsistent in that respect. I'm also consistently inconsistent on whether or not I enjoy the film adaptation. I'm a great fan of "The Natural," even though it turned Bernard Malamud's novel upside-down and inside-out. On the other hand, I've stopped going to see films adapted from Tom Clancey's novels (except for the first, "Hunt for Red October") primarily because of what screenwriters have done to his stories.

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