Dec 18, 2004

Self Help and the Married Soldier

You know, it's becoming a strain to come up with catchy titles for each and every post. I do my best to post every day, sometimes missing a day, sometimes posting twice or (*gasp*) three times in a day to make up for it (and I haven't done that since I was dating, for those of you with dirty minds.)

I wasn't going to apologise for last night's ranting about books-turned-movie, but I was going to expound a little bit.

Don't get me wrong. I know that there will always be movie or tv adaptations of books. Authors sell the rights in search of more exposure and money, widows do the same thing for probably similar reasons. I think, however, that people should take more care in the chosing of directors and producers, and retain more control over the finished product. Again, there are sterling examples, and there are movies that should be made an example of.

Lord of The Rings. Peter Jackson took an utterly mammoth project into his camp with J. R. R. Tolkien's master opus, and did a phenomenal job with it. He took out bits I would have liked to see (Tom Bombadil leaps to mind) and he edited J. R. R.'s often very Middle English complexities of language to make it approachable to modern viewers (what was three pages of somewhat convoluted speech in the book became one line to Arragorn--"Let's go hunt some orcs.") He also changed the story just a little bit, and no, I'm not going to mention The Evenstar, because I know why he had to do it, I was going to suggest that it might have been more fun to see Wormtongue throw the pallantir (sp?) scrying crystal at Gandalf and Co., rather than the movie's version, where it sort of just fell when Sauriman was killed, which was also a rather liberal adaptation. BUT, all in all, I cannot complain, because he took what could have been a colossal failure and turned it into a completely memorable experience that kept me wound up for almost four years. Bravo.

(And if you don't do The Hobbit, Jackson, you pudgy barstard, I will keep emailing you daily, calling your cel phone and leaving nasty notes in your post office box until you do. I HAVE to see Smaug on the big screen, with a truly powerful voice and incredible size and utterly fearsome demeanour, and a mountain of gold for a bed.)

Now then.

Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. I read the book in the late 70's as a younger man, and was quite taken by it. Not only was it a 'true war' sort of thing, it was science fiction, and I could relate to Ricco completely, because he was a somewhat spoiled young boy trying to come to grips with the real world, a tremendous loss, AND the military, all at the same time. Not a complete mirror of my life, but enough similarities existed that when Ricco failed, I felt crushed, and when he succeeded, I was elated.

I forget what movie my wife and I and a bunch of friends were watching, but we saw the previews for "Starship Trooper" play, and a dear friend of mine and I sat astounded, mouths agape, freaking utterly out, because we knew it could only be one of two books--Starship Troopers or Armor by John Steakley. When the final credit ran, it stated in gigantic type:

Starship Trooper
Robert A. Heinlein
Coming to theaters
Summer 19XX.

We went utterly insane, no doubt offending many people around us. Then, strangely enough, by the time the movie actually MADE it to the theater a year or so later, Ginny Heinlein, widow of Robert, decided wisely to pull her husband's name from the movie, because Paul Veerhoven, the director, had bastardised it from a story of a young man's growth into manhood amidst the horror of war (ala Kipling) into "Robocop In Space, Now With More Blood!" replete with needlessly gruesome scenes of bloodshed, carnage, more bloodshed, a body count to rival ANY modern horror movie, and more than a few completely gratuitious scenes of dismemberment, heads exploding, body parts flying, people getting scissored in half by steel doors and etc. It still didn't help that a movie based on an utterly marvelous book still bore the stamp of Heinlein, and of course every reprint of the book from then forward bore the logo "Now A Major Motion Picture."

The second movie? Straight to video, and I hear it's ten times as bad.

I know it can be done. It HAS been done. Take a great book, make it into a great movie without changing it too deeply. Look at A&E's presentations of Nero Wolfe. Timothy Hutton produced two and a half seasons of utterly MARVELOUS adaptations of Rex Stout's stories, with an excellent ensemble cast, beautiful costuming, great casting, and the folks at A&E thought the numbers it was producing were not high enough, so they cancelled it. But somehow, the Poirot mysteries go on and on and on. I watched a few of them--they STINK ON ICE. So, I don't understand the Industry. Guess I never will, but it certainly will not stop me from bashing it whenever it takes a horrid turn for the worse.

postscript--forgive me for changing grammatical style in mid-stream, but I recalled this morning that in proper grammer you underline the title of a book, but put in quotes the name of a movie, and I'm not about to go back to re edit previous posts. My bad, I'm aware of it, so sorry.

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