Monday, March 7, 2011

Adaptation Distillation - Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)

Hello, and welcome to yet another Comparative Adaptology. I apologise for last week, I had my subject all picked out, and was ready to write it up, and then I just sort of forgot, so I’ve pushed it to this week, hoping none of you will particularly care about this terrible lapse.

Now, this week is going to be a bit different. This is the start of a new monthly feature known as Adaptation Distillation, wherein I shall take time to look at a particular adaptation that really isn’t all that bad. So without further ado, let’s jump into Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Now, right off the bat, let me just say that this is probably one of my favourite movies I saw last year. Well, okay, the only other movie I saw last year was Inception, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this film is probably the most wonderfully nerdy, cinematically inventive thing that I’ve ever seen. The cast is utterly brilliant, bringing the characters from the graphic novel to life nicely. Now, I’ve heard people ragging on Michael Cera’s performance, but I thought that it was pitch-perfect for what this film needs, and he was thoroughly enjoyable in the role, and I am still not convinced that Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t actually Ramona Flowers, escaped from the confines of print. The supporting cast is quite good too, and it would be difficult for me to pick out a low point, though if I had to, it would probably have to be Brie Larson’s Envy Adams, while not giving a bad performance, per se, she utterly failed to capture the essence of the character from the graphic novels, in my eyes at least.

The plot, surprisingly enough stays extremely close to the source material, the only huge deviations being the compression of the timeline from a year to the course of about three or four weeks and the final battle with Gideon, which can be excused as the final volume was being written at the same time as the film. For those unfamiliar with the film, the plot goes a little something along the lines of “boy dreams about girl, boy meets girl, is forced to fight girl’s seven superpowered evil exes, etc.” This is all pulled off quite well, all things considered. Though some problems do arise with the compression, such as us not really getting to explore Scott’s past with Kim and such, and we fail to really see how much of a jerk Scott can be at times, but seeing as they were only working with a two hour movie, they can be excused.

Finally, we reach presentation. This is probably where I’ll be spending the most time in this entry. Mostly because holy crap, this movie is amazing. From the cinematography, to the writing, down even to the editing, this movie is an absolute joy to watch. Director Edgar Wright managed to make everything look just right, managing to perfectly capture the feel of the graphic novel at points. Not to mention fight scenes that one can actually follow without having to take motion sickness pills. The writing too is brilliant, taking loads of inspiration from the source material, and adding new little tweaks to the story as it goes. Then we have the editing, which frankly is amazing, quite literally almost making it feel like the comic has come to life, from the little subtitles that pop in and out, to the onomatopoeia that flow into the film seamlessly, every little detail coming together to create a film that’s entertaining, both to look at and in general. If anything really bothered me, it would be that the whole thing is almost too fast-paced. You find yourself sitting there at the end of the film going “Wait, it’s over already? Nooo.” However, it’s a fun ride while it’s there.

So in case you didn’t already figure it out, I greatly recommend this movie, and urge you to watch it when you have the chance, but I would also suggest at least picking up the graphic novels at some point if you can.
So until next week, take care.


Monday, February 21, 2011

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 2005 Film/1981 BBC Miniseries

Hello, and welcome to the first installment of Comparative Adaptology. As I said in my previous post, we’ll be going over the 2005 film and 1981 BBC miniseries of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So let’s jump right in, shall we?

Now, the 2005 movie is an interesting case. It had been in production for almost twenty years, Douglas Adams constantly re-writing the script and such. Shortly after Adams’ untimely death, the movie finally went into production. Sadly, as I was not a fan of the series at that point, I have no idea what actually went on in the fandom at that time. Anyway, the film was finally released to mixed emotions, some people raging at it for changing the source material far too much, some people accepting it on what merits it did have, and yet others, not really caring.

Anyway, that’s quite enough rambling about production history, let’s actually get to the meat of this review, then.

Now, right off the bat, let me say that in my opinion, the miniseries has the definitive cast for the series, (David Dixon’s Ford Prefect being the high-point of it all.) except for one dark spot, Sandra Dickinson (Former wife of Peter Davison and mother of David Tennat’s fiancèe, Georgia Moffett) as Trillian. She is quite the antithesis of the novel’s vision of Trillian; she’s blonde, loud, and really not all that bright. The film however, scores over the older, not quite pedestrian work in that with their casting of Zooey Deschanel as Trillian and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, the latter quite stealing the show in the last twenty minutes or so.
    However, they manage to go wrong with their casting choices for Zaphod and Ford. Mos Def’s Ford Prefect... Bothers me, quite a bit. It’s not that he’s not white or ginger, far from it. The thing that bothers me about him is the utter lack of charm brought to the character. Ford’s most memorable lines being spouted with no regard for timing or inflection, something that made Dixon’s Ford such a delight. Sam Rockwell’s Zaphod is also something of a problem. He’s portrayed as something of an idiot and pervert, admittedly that’s how he is in the book, but here in the movie, it’s taken to an extreme, however he still manages to be enjoyable. His heads are also something of a problem, but we’ll get to that later.

Moving on now to plot. The two productions follow the same basic plot, more or less, at least up until Episode 4 of the miniseries, Episodes 5 and 6 incorporating the plot of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. However, the movie, being a big budget Hollywood film, was forced to take several plot detours, as following the basic plot would likely bore mainstream audiences. Such detours include Humma Kavula, who was actually invented by Adams specially for the movie. Yet other changes appear, such as the frankly baffling decision to make Lunkwill and Fook seemingly immortal little girls, who also end up being revealed as Benjy Mouse and Franky Mouse. There really isn’t much else to say in this portion, so we’ll move onto our final section.

Which brings us to presentation. How do these adaptations stack up to each other, and more importantly, the source material? First off, the miniseries is an amazing adaptation, being essentuilly a TV version of the radio series, but it suffers from questionable effects, Zaphod’s second head being one of them, and general 80s-ness. However, it does make up for it with some great British actors, and absolutely amazing Guide illustrations, which in fact, were handdrawn.The 2005 film on the other hand, decides to go a slightly different route with it all, the main MacGuffin not being Magrathea itself, but the Point Of View gun, which is yet another Adams creation. The writing is decidedly all over the board, ranging from painfully groan-worthy (The 'Arthoolia’ line) to actually sort of amusing (The flyswatters on the Vogsphere and the countless nods to the source material). Zaphod’s head suffers yet another injustice here, with a quite baffling interpretation which decides to stack his heads, and only proves to make the movie Zaphod more irritating, but as with the 80s miniseries, has some absolutely wonderful casting. Martin Freeman being a more than worthy successor to Simon Jones’ Arthur Dent, and Alan Rickman is an absolutely hilarious Marvin, being able to delivery all the barely disguised contempt for existence.

So in conclusion, they are both not without their merits, but the 1981 miniseries is the better and more faithful adaptation, and I highly reccommend trying to find it. Despite this, the 2005 film still has a certain feckless charm, and is actually quite entertaining at times.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

My First Post, and A Quick Explanation

Hello, and welcome to my newest project: Comparative Adaptology.

Now, you're all probably asking yourself, "What in the name of the Great Prophet Zarquon is Comparative Adaptology?", and you'd be justified in doing so, since as far as I can tell, it's a field that I came up with myself. In its basest form, CA is the art of taking two or more adaptations of a work and looking at them, to see how they hold up against the source material, and each other.

So, starting this Monday, I shall be taking a look at a different set of works each week, starting with the Hitchhiker's Guide series, where we will be looking at the 2005 film and the 1981 BBC miniseries. So stay tuned.