Friday, July 25, 2008
Spiderwick - The Tangled Web...
A while back, Bart, Cassidy and I went to see the movie of The Spiderwick Chronicles. We all loved it. Me? I had nothing bad to say about it. Not a single critique. Those who know me are well aware that I can be particularly harsh, demanding, expectant… (whatever you wish to call it) of stories such as these. Usually there is a “Why didn’t they just…?” or a “That didn’t make sense..” of some sort. Not this time. Okay, if we’re going to nitpick…I did have a slightly jarring moment. But nothing that tainted the movie or story. I cannot say what it is without giving the ending away. Suffice to say I had the thought, “Is that the only way to do deal with ___?” The ___ of course being omitted so as not to spoil it for you. But since it stayed in tune with fairy tale lore, I didn’t mind it at all. Not a rolling eyes moment, a cocking head moment. SO, I thought since I loved the movie, I should read the books. I finally have.
If you’re not aware, The Spiderwick Chronicles is a series of five books by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black. They’re each very short, each of them amounting to about 80 pages all told. The type is quite large and there is a full page picture about every 4 pages and large pictures taking up as much as quarter of a page throughout. Thus, the movie consisted of all five books.
Before I begin to compare, let me say: I thoroughly enjoyed the books. No issues there.
But now, naturally, I have some qualms with the movie. *sigh*
I realize…movies are different from books, adaptation and alterations need to be made. At first they were understandable changes. For instance: In each, three kids move into a dilapidated many story (ha!) house. They wind up involved with a “war” of and with various creatures from the faerie world. Now, in the movie, one of the boys finds a big book, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You in a secret library. It is wrapped and tied up with a big rhyming warning to NOT open the book. (Of course, he does.) I knew from the tiny exposure I had to the series that it had such warnings on the books themselves. So, it seemed right. Ok. In the book, however, the boy finds the secret library and a cryptic poem…one he takes the time to decipher the clues of…leading him to the book. The book has no warning label. It’s hidden beyond hidden, though. All right. No problem…I can see that. Cinematically, reading a poem and figuring it out in your head doesn’t quite fly as well as reading it. That re-write I am fine with…makes sense. (Especially when finding out that one of the faerie characters speaks in rhyme in the book.) Along the way, such modifications to the story were made…all of them “in tune” adaptation-wise. But truthfully…I found myself liking some of the new developments in the movie better. So I looked, but the authors are not credited with the screenplay at all. Which, of course, made me sad. But I pressed on…and something changed.
Suddenly, at the end of book three, I began “condemning” the movie. The books had so much more! (Big surprise, huh?) The inventive modifications and alterations became watered down oversimplifications. I wanted to say aloud to the filmmakers, “UM, you MISSED a spot!” Seriously, the book proved far richer than what they presented in the film. (Again, what a surprise!) But the point is it escalated to a degree of ridiculousness. I began to equate it with sheer laziness on the part of the movie. Why bother to make a troll come out of the river? The creatively depicted elves of the Grove can just be a whirlwind of sprites not unlike dandelion seeds instead. A rescue mission in the giant palace of the big enemy? Nah, too much set to build. He can just come to their house. Let’s throw out half the plot points, etc.
Back in defense of the movie, though, it did generate a better sense of the impending doom of the “ultimate” evil than the books did, which doesn’t really hit with full impact until book four. And the basic throughline is there…it’s just missing a lot of the scenery as it speeds along.
So now I am at the point where I do not dislike the movie, but it’s rather disappointing.
The books are terrific, a fun romp. But I find myself wishing elements of the movie were contained within it.
All in all, a good story either way.
But it does drive home once more the implicit query: Book or movie? Which to experience first? More than likely books, hands down. But then, that does not always transpire in each case. And either way, one or the other is going to seem light or lackluster by comparison.
Any thoughts? (Besides simply slamming Hollywood.)