Monday, August 9, 2010

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix Theater: books to film addition

The Road (2009)
I still haven't finished Cormac McCarthy's source work for The Road, despite that it falls into one of my favorite genres — post-apocalyptic dystopian futures. But judging from the half I did read, John Hillcoat's film adaptation is about as faithful as they come. A nameless father and son wander a desolate landscape void of plant or animal life and dotted by dead treas. They push a shopping cart filled with their few remaining possessions — some crayons, paper, blankets, a few morsels of food, and a handgun with two bullets saved for the worst. They dodge cannibalistic drifters, stumble into a house of human livestock, and experience all other sorts of inhumane survival. It's nihilistic, grim stuff without an ounce of relief. Hillcoat was definitely the right man to bring McCarthy's hard-as-nails survival story to the big screen (everyone should check out Hillcoat's equally grim Australian western The Proposition). Despite reaching an unexpectedly emotional apex before concluding, when most of a film involves its main characters contemplating suicide, you're left wondering "What's the point?" B

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) This one also begs the question, what's the point? Not because it's a bad movie, it's actually pretty good, but because I already read the book. What's the point of watching a thriller/mystery when you already know where and when all the thrills end? It kind of kills the suspense. And as fun as it is seeing the pages realized on film, I kind of like my brain's version more. Of course, all of this can be said for any film adaptation. There's almost no way to judge it on its own merits, but I will try. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is perfectly cast, especially Lisbeth Salander, the emotionally disturbed hacker punk/private investigator who helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist look into corporate corruption, an ugly family secret and a series of brutal serial murders. I would even say that in its effort to translate the 600-page novel in to 2.5 hours of film, the required plot streamlining even improves upon some of the book. But again, knowing all the twists, red herrings and surprises ahead of time, I was bored at a few junctures. I'm guessing someone who doesn't know how it ends would like this quite a bit, so it's gonna get a B+. (An American remake staring Daniel Craig and a bunch of other people better looking than the Euro actors here is currently in pre-production, with David Fincher ("Se7en," "Zodiac") directing.)

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