World Teasing

I don’t know if you all have heard or not, but the first teaser for Star Wars came out. You very well might have missed it, since it received only slightly less fanfare than the moon landing. It was 88 seconds long, showed exactly jack about the movie, and it has been examined in more detail than DNA. Reactions ranged from over-the-top excitement to over-the-top rage. Strike that, those were the only two reactions.

Blasphemy! Or, not what you imagined.

I like Star Wars as much as the next person, and am pretty firmly in the ‘excited’ camp, but I have often said I like the idea of Star Wars considerably more than Star Wars itself. Up until about a week ago, the best thing about an Episode VII trailer was that it didn’t exist. Everything we knew about it was open, paint splattered in patterns of our own making on the blank canvas of non-existence. Then, in 88 seconds, everything we imagined it to be was removed and cold reality took shape.

And that’s why the idea of Star Wars is so great. The world building is incredibly well done, but what it does best is world tease. In the original trilogy, we never saw massive population centers. The moon of Yavin, Tatooine, Hoth- those were place no one in the galaxy went. Even Cloud City, for all its romance, is a mining outpost. Yet we got glimpses, ideas of what the rest of the universe was like, and we play in it like the giant sandbox it is.

The oft-cursed prequels made that sandbox a little smaller. They made us look at the population centers and what a galaxy with more than a couple Jedi was like, and none of them were in hiding. The next trilogy will do the same- until now, what happened after the Ewok party was all in our heads, and a few mediocre books.

Bummer, right? We want it, but we don’t, and none of us were hired to write or direct, so it will be the vision of another.

But this rant really isn’t about Star Wars. It’s about what the glory of science fiction really is. You can build an awesome world and tell an awesome story, but is that it? I think the best ones are the ones that invite new stories, the stories that are never committed to paper. That when a reader puts the book down, they wonder what wasn’t told.

Sometimes, the idea of a thing is better.


The Book was Better

With the release of The Great Gatsby movie and my list of Five Good Film Adaptions, which I will be avoiding like the plague, I got to thinking why can’t they make a good film adaption of most books? It can’t be THAT hard, right? Let’s examine what could help:

Adapt a Crappy Book: I mentioned the Maltese Falcon, and Sierra Godfrey chimed in with the Godfather, movies that eclipsed the book they were based on (Casablanca, too). There is far less pressure in adapting a book that is not widely read and loved. Everyone has read Lord of the Rings and The Great Gatsby, so they will have their vision of what it should be, whereas that mental competition can be avoided nearly entirely but making a movie out of a book fewer people have read.

Adapt a Simple Book. Books with a simple plot are easier to covert to a film format. A deep book will end up with a lot that doesn’t make it into the film, whereas one with a simpler plot will be able to stay truer to the book. The Harry Potter series is incredibly popular for this reason, as are other ‘young adult’ (read: simple) books- they don’t have to be chopped down too much. Similarly, comic books/graphic novels do well, especially since most of the visuals are already there.

Try Not to Screw It Up: This is probably the simplest piece of advice, but filmmakers keep insist on screwing things up like what the hell was up with Liv Tyler as Arwen? Who thought ANY of that was a good idea? Sorry to rant, but her ‘performance’ has been medically proven to cause cancer (although in the interest of fairness and objectivity, I should point out that I made that up). If you ARE going to make a movie based on a book, stick to the source material and don’t get cute, especially if it’s a well-known book (The Chronicles of Narnia aced this).

Maybe Don’t Try: How often do you see a trailer and just groan? All the time, right? I do every time I see The Great Gatsby trailer. Maybe it’s great, I don’t see how it can or will be, though, and I’m not spending $10 to find out. Obviously, it will still make millions and I can’t really blame them for that, but for crying out loud… can we just not make the movie and save us all some aggravation?


The Five Best Film Adaptions

With the release of The Great Gatsby, which looks terrible, and all the hullabaloo around Ender’s Game, I got to thinking about what good film adaptions there are. Here’s my list:

  • Casino Royale (2006). I hate the old James Bond movies. Too funny to be taken seriously, to serious to laugh at and never really good enough to forgive the torrid middle ground. With the rights to Casino Royale opening up, Bond was finally done right. The plot is well executed, and the performances are fantastic.
  • via Think Geek

    via Think Geek

    Murder on the Orient Express (1974). For as much as I love a good detective story, I am not the worlds largest Agatha Christie fan. But, boy oh boy, put Lauren Bacall AND Ingrid Bergman, my only two celebrity crushes EVER and I don’t care how old they are in this, in the same film, base it on the Lindbergh kidnapping and I’m all in. Masterful performances and twists as dark as Hitchock make for one of my favorite films of all time.

  • The Maltese Falcon. While we’re on the subject of women Bogart and I both love, let’s talk Bogie himself. In truth, the inclusion of the Maltese Falcon feels like cheating (I defy you to find me one person who read Hammett’s novel before seeing the movie. I further defy you to find me ten who have read it at all). That doesn’t mean it’s not based on the book, and we can call it a fair adaption if it far eclipses the book itself, yes?
  • Out of Africa. This is included for several reasons, not the least of which is that this movie contains some of the all-time great pieces of dialogue. In case it’s not obvious, Denys Finch Hatton is one of my greatest heroes, although we differ in two ways. Redford’s performance is outstanding, as is Streep, with Pollack directing. This film, more than any other on the list, captures the emotion, feeling and story of the book- which was all true. A rare feat.
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Perhaps the best thing about this was that it didn’t try to hard. It borrowed from other books in the series (The Far Side of the World being the seventh) for some fantastic moments while avoiding pulling in too much made it very watchable and concise, and I want more dammit. The natural chemistry of Lucky Jack (Crow) and the doctor (Bettany), so central to the novels, comes across brilliantly. The battle scenes are practically unequaled, with splendid attention to detail. If they ever give this movie the 3D treatment, you will feel like you’re drowning during that one scene.

Those are my five; what would you include?


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