Friday, October 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things Aren't? How successful is the movie?

So after major promo all summer long, the movie adaptation of one of everyone's favorite picture books, Where The Wild Things Are, is finally out. And now, let the opinion battles rage. I haven't seen it yet, but the two following reviews are at major odds with each other. Certainly, indicative of humanity's spectrum of taste.

I used to believe that it was absurd to make movie adaptations at all. They never got it right; I was always disappointed, and the book was inevitably better. Really, how can you fit 800 pages of high concept fantasy into two hours of cinema? But I would go to the movie anyway as a means of satisfying my visual lust for the story and let the rest fall by the wayside. The Harry Potter movies and The Golden Compass are great examples of this.

In the case of WTWTA, how can you stretch ten sentences into a movie at all? One might argue this is the more difficult challenge, but I would disagree. WTWTA is a picture book, but don't make the mistake of believing it is superficial cotton candy. It's a picture book that is as bittersweet-salty-sour-spicy and heart-wrenching as life comes. It is exactly that accuracy of Maurice Sendak's seminal work of genius, that I am very excited to see Spike Jonze and David Egger's movie adaptation of WTWA.

It was only recently, that I started viewing movie renditions of books in a new light. I'd been stubbornly holding on to the idea that a movie should portray a book as accurately as possible. I see now that it's a big mistake to do so in a literal sense. Movies and books are simply two completely different forms of media. It's like comparing a photograph of a tree to a painting of one. Movies should be an interpretation of the original story. Obviously, this leaves a lot of room for creative success and disaster.

Though generally a practical realist and prepared to be disappointed, I am at heart an optimist. I believe this movie was done with tender care and love and therefore, I hope for the best. Let the work speak for itself.

What do you think? Have you seen the movie yet? What are some of your favorite movie adaptations? Most awful?

Movie Review - Where the Wild Things Are - Some of His Best Friends Are Beasts -

Movie Review - Where The Wild Things Are - Among Sendak's Fierce Creatures, Dismay Also Lurks : NPR


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Winter, thanks for dropping by my blog today. I haven't seen the wild things movie--kinda afraid, to be honest. The book is one of the most awesome picture books ever, and I can't imagine how much had to be contrived to make a feature-length film. I may cave or wait and listen to feedback before deciding to go. Very few film adaptations of books have pleased me. Peter Jackson did a good job with LOTR and the Harry Potter movies worked out well enough, but one of my all-time favorite fantasy books, A Wizard of Earthsea, got thrashed, totally changing what made the story unique into vapid cliche. I think it takes an exceptional filmmaker to stay true to the spirit and story of a book while presenting in a different medium.

Winter Hansen said...

Hi Tricia,though I didn't read A Wizard of Earthsea, I watched it with my kids. It was one of those times where you think, this is pretty cool, but it could be SO much better. I agree that it takes amazing vision (and money, probably) to bring a book to movie format successfully. I'm guessing that no matter what, the movie WTWTA will attract loads of viewers with high expectations. I wonder what Maurice Sendak thinks.

Samantha K said...

one of the main things that make this movie seem less "child-like" was the actors they chose for the voices, especially James Gandolfini (from the Sopranos)