Saturday, May 10, 2008

Walden Media think you're stupid; the Wachowskis are just inconsistent.

I'll start with the good news: the Wachowskis are inconsistent. I am of course referring to Larry and Andy Wachowski, the writer/director/producers of The Matrix, a thoroughly entertaining movie and groundbreaking at the time (nine years ago?!). However, they are also the writer/director/producers of its unfortunate (for us) sequels and, to the great indifference of nearly everyone, the writer/producers of V for Vendetta. The inconsistency is this: I just saw their latest movie, and I was thoroughly entertained. Is it ridiculous? Yes. A little cheesy? Sure. Gaudy? Yeah. Really, really over-the-top? Oh yes. But it works in a way that no other movie has so far this year. Don't know what movie I'm talking about?

Speed Racer.

I'll wait while you recover. Done? Sure, it's a movie based on a cartoon, and it looks like an LSD-trip, but it has a genuine, beating heart that had me smiling involuntarily within the first three minutes. Here's the clip that first made me wonder if this movie could actually be good:

Incidentally, it also uses contextually relevant flashbacks to an extent that is ironic only because the movie co-stars Matthew Fox.

Now for the bad news: Walden Media really do think you're stupid. Last year they released a movie called "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising", based on the book "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper. I first read the book seventeen years ago, and it is, along with the other books in the series (it's actually the second in the series), one of the few books I read as a kid that I still enjoy now. It is set in England sometime in the 60's or 70's, and is about Will Stanton, a British boy who on his eleventh birthday discovers that he is the last of the Old Ones, and will play a key role in the final battle against the Dark. Judging by the movie that was actually produced, however, Walden Media thinks you're too stupid to get that story. Here's a partial list of improvements made:
  • Will Stanton is an American living in England. (Americans won't pay to see fantasy movies about British kids.)
  • It's set in the modern day, and includes an extended scene in a mall. (To make American kids feel more at home.)
  • There's a ~16-year-old love interest for Will.
  • Will is 14. (Presumably so that they can make his attraction for his love interest sexual without it being too icky.)
  • A deep, dark family secret.
  • A long-lost twin. (No, I'm not kidding.)
  • Lots of action sequences.
  • And on...
  • And on...
I'm going to stop before it sounds like I'm ranting. I'm not against book-to-movie adaptations; I'm not even against book-to-movie adaptations that make significant foundational changes to the storyline (remember the Bourne trilogy?). I'm simply against changes that try to cater to an imaginary audience that is dumber than the audience that actually exists, and against changes that result in a movie that is just plain bad.

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