I was not excited about taking a gaggle of young girls to see this movie, and had resigned myself to sitting through it and studiously taking notes for this post. Within ten minutes, my notebook and pencil were forgotten and I was pulled in. I couldn't imagine what might be done differently to make this story, that has been told in so many ways, new and different. There have even been recent film remakes that were exceptional, so what would these folks do that no one else had done before? I wondered if Spiderman and Cinderella had the same career counselor. And yet...I was wrong. I fully and openly admit, I was completely mistaken. This version is a visual delight but the best part is that the characters come off as real people with history, depth and an emotional texture that makes the movie engaging and fresh.
I normally have just a single book to compare movies to but with Cinderella there is a vast and varied body of previous work. Cinderella has been retold in several books and other mediums over the last millennia. I can’t really compare the movie I saw yesterday with the vast body of work that makes up the linage of Cinderella, but I can give you a short history lesson and differentiate it from other recent film versions. Cinderella is a classic plot trope and has been around literally since people started telling stories.
Images are owned by Disney.
The most common attributed origin is the Brothers Grimm Tale Aschenputtel or The Little Glass Slipper (Cendrillion ou La Petite Pantoufle de verre) by Frenchman Charles Perrault. However, the oldest written version of Cinderella was commonly accepted as the story of Rhodopis, a Greek slave girl who married an Egyptian king in 7 BC. The story was put to ink by the Greek historian Strabos. The story is present in nearly every culture though without glass slippers, fairy Godmothers and mice that transform into horses. There are even ballets and operas that celebrate Cinderella’s happily ever after.
Cover image here is a public domain image.
There are some interesting variations I discovered as I researched the literary family tree of the story. In some, instead of dying, the father is a villain as well, and takes an active role in Cinderella’s descent from gentlewoman to servant. In others, there is no stepmother only true older sisters who persecute the young, beautiful, favored daughter and the parents are not addressed at all. In the Italian version, it is the stepfather who oppresses Cinderella. In the modern movie, Ever After the fairy Godmother is a man, the famed inventor and scholar Leonardo De Vinci no less.
In some stories there are up to three balls. In some, the fairy godmother is the ghost of Cinderella’s dead mother who is called by Cinderella weeping and praying at her grave, not her crying on a bench in the chateau’s rose garden. In the Chinese Cinderella (Ye Xian), the fairy godmother is actually a golden fish. There are even a few stories in Arabian Nights that echo the theme.
So what was it like?
So on to what make this version so engaging... First and foremost ,the characters are given a real backstory and emotions that make sense. The wicked stepmother is snarky, as well as mean, with a laugh like nails on a chalkboard. Cinderella is not all bubbly and optimistic as she is being oppressed. She takes it with grace and humility, and she is brave and kind but she reacts like a normal person might and is hurt, humiliated and emotionally devastated at times. The emotional depth makes her much more appealing. She is given the tattoo worthy tagline "Have courage and be brave" from her dying mother early on but never makes it appear easy to live that way. I liked that aspect of her portrayal very much.
Ever After poster by 20th Century Fox Studios.
Earlier I mentioned another popular modern film version of Cinderella, Ever After with Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott. This current version varies from Ever After mainly because, while it is just as whimsical in spirit, it does not hold to the historical accuracy of Ever After and maintains more of its magical feel. Cinderella gives a nod to historical accuracy with its lavish sets and costumes, but there are modern, fun things that give the current turn an almost Tim Burton feel without going over the top. Speaking of magical and Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter is so perfectly suited in her role as fairy godmother I can’t think of anyone who could have done it better. When it comes to being a genius at quirky, I think it would be difficult for find better than Carter. She will captivate adults and children alike during her brief appearance.
While I was not overly impressed with Cate Blanchette as the wicked stepmother, the two stepsisters were not “ugly” this time around. Instead, the two were quite pretty and inversely unpleasant and shallow personality wise, strengthening the theme of outward appearances can be deceiving. They do have some great one liners for the discerning adult who is listening for them. The addition of Nonso Anozie as the prince’s captain of the guard was a stellar choice. His classical training and generally amazing stage presence make the scenes with him and the prince a pleasure to watch.
Another aspect that departed from previous film versions is the prince is given a some emotional depth, and the story is much stronger for it. He is dealing with his kingdom, the pressures of being monarch soon and the pressure to marry a princess he does not care for. After the ball he is ridiculed by his advisers for wanting to find this flighty mystery princess. He takes some of the criticism a prince might actually encounter given the situation.
*Minor spoiler alert" In this version. the king, who is a loving father and unquestionably kind and wise, is dying and we see the beloved prince lose his father. The moment is awful and sad, and it makes him far more engaging than the typical handsome face seen in other versions. And he is quite handsome in this movie. I am not sure what color blue his contacts are but somehow his eyes always seem to match his blue cravats. He carries off the dashing prince quite well. When I was searching for a still of him to include I was quite surprised to see his press shots from Game of Thrones. I am an avid GoT fan, and I did not even recognize him. His demeanor is so different and in this movie his natural accent has been allowed. He is very different visually here compared to GoT. I never found him overly appealing looks or in general on the series, but he showcases a very different side of himself in this film.
I like that the animals in this version don’t talk. The movie maintains its whimsical flare with the animals being aware and clearly not normal mice but they are not vocal. As with the Disney animated version, the mice are Cinderella's only real companions but here they are mostly portrayed as just above average slightly personified mice.
The blue dress and waist-gate. I saw nothing about Cinderella in her blue dress that made me think she was too thin or intentionally exploiting a tiny waist. She is supposed to be a half starved servant girl, and really isn’t even thin enough in full view to pull that off. The accusation that Disney depicted her as having a tiny waist on purpose can be attributed to light, shadow in the photo and a good deal of people seeking click bait. It was downright ridiculous once you saw her in motion and not the stop motion still circulating the internet. The dress is vibrant and flowing with varying shades of blue and has shimmery butterflies around the neckline and sparkles all over. It is above average and pretty but nothing to write home about until she begins to dance. Then the dress becomes everything little girls might imagine a fairy tale princess dancing the night away in. All four of the little girls with me literally gasped the first time the prince turns Cinderella and the dress flares to life. Honestly, controversy aside it is fairly modest, tasteful and simply stunning when she moves in it.
As lovely as the blue dress is, it is nearly upstaged by the ivory floral wedding dress at the end, which was a whole new flavor of amazing. I can see why it is already on demand for fall brides. This picture does nothing to show off how beautiful it really is.
To close, I will only say the shoes are more breathtaking onscreen than they are in the press photos. The costume designer for this movie deserves a medal. The effects team should be in the running for a medal as well. This version brings all the visual wonder modern CGI can bring to the magical transformation scenes. The sequences where the animals and pumpkin transform and later deconstruct are particularly well done and amazing to watch.
So what did I think?
Overall, it was exceptional. The characters were better developed than I have seen in previous versions. There are some really brilliant plot twists that make the story work better than in previous versions which I have intentionally left out to prevent spoilers. Most of this movie is a foregone conclusion plot wise but not all of it. It is visually stunning and the CGI augmentation is done with a light hand in most places and where it is obvious it is dazzling, beautifully and wonderfully so. If you have a soft spot for Cinderella stories and amazing shoes, I highly recommend the 2015 version of Cinderella.
I would even go as far to say it could be considered fodder for date night. However, considering it is a live action movie with some very dark moments, I would not recommend it on the big screen (versus home viewing later) to children younger than five or six. There were two preschoolers in the viewing I attended and both were very upset at times due to the screen content. I would say it is fine for most school age kids and more mature little ones. However, it is not as tame as the animated Disney version and contains subtle adult themes (mostly about death and greed) rendering some tense moments here and there. Overall, I would recommend it to any of my friends and family with kids with no hesitation.
So how are the critics liking it opening weekend? Pretty well.
Fandango: 5 out of 5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes has it at 117 viewers throwing fresh tomatoes with 23 throwing rotten ones, with it pulling an overall 4.3 out of 5.
Movies.com is rolling in with 4 out of 5 stars from the staff critic and 4 out of 5 stars from the general site followers.
Roger Ebert has given it 3 out of 4 stars.
Thanks for checking out The Page and Screen. Until next time happy reading and don't hog the popcorn!
Apparently, I am the only adult in my social circle who was not required to read The Giver in middle school. I stumbled upon the unabridged version of the audio book in my local library just last autumn and was dazzled and disturbed in equal parts. I found the story riveting and the characters compelling in a very refined way. The author seems to have envisioned and captured them like a warrior fighting with a very fine simple sword instead of a overdoing it with machine gun. There is no way to write this installment without spoilers so consider this fair warning. This post is filled with them. However, my initial reaction when I watched the movie this past week was mixed. The bottom line is that this movie departs so far from the book in so many major ways I can't really compare the two in more than a very general way.
THIS POST CONTAINS SEVERAL SPOILERS FOR THE BOOK AND THE MOVIE.
Image from www.rogerebert.com
That fine balance of sophisticated and thought provoking concepts and prose simple enough to make Strunk and White giddy made The Giver appealing to adults as well as children. However, that appeal is dulled considerably in the movie because the screen version only sideswipes the deeper subject matter, Nevertheless, the screen version still pulls the audience in with ramped up action, a touch of romance and increased tension that goes beyond anything seen in the book. The feel of the book is lost except in one or two scenes that hold true but with the different plot dynamic the scenes are not as powerful as they were in print due to lack of context. I won’t say the movie is bad because it isn’t. The cast is amazing and enough and the general plot themes are maintained enough that it is still an entertaining movie. Only, it is just an above average entertaining movie without most of the deep rooted philosophical nuances that make the book so powerful. To me it felt more like a mix of Hunger Games and The Giver instead of just an adaptation of The Giver.
So what was it like?
The Giver is different in some game changing ways from the very first scene. One of the things that makes the book a bit disturbing is that the children are entering training for their jobs at the tender age of twelve, NOT the more reasonable age of sixteen. On the page, a big part of the book is watching Jonas’s young sensibilities struggle against the very adult things he now has to contend with. In the movie it is not such a stretch and not nearly as unnerving. The issue of how awful it is for a child to have to fully comprehend the evils of the world and mentally handle them is supplanted with an onscreen starter romance with Fiona that flirts with evolving into a love triangle with the third member of the group, Jonas and Fiona’s friend Asher, but never quite gets there.
I want to make sure to give credit where it is due. The casting director deserves a medal for the adult cast. Alexander Skarsgard as Father and Jeff Bridges in particular as the Giver give really solid performances. The roles for Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes were both extended far beyond their scope in the book, presumably to make their participation more lengthy and noteworthy. In the book, the Chief Elder is only a leader in the society and makes no attempt to single out or later pursue Jonas. Also, in the book, Mother is not portrayed as an enemy in any sense. One of the creepiest aspects of the book is that no one is emotionally engaged with anyone else on any deep level. The whole concept of family is deconstructed to the point of Jonas’s family being more like roommates and coworkers than what most people consider the conceptual idea of family. On screen, with the parts of the chief elder and mother painted as inherently evil and therefore very much concerned and emotionally engaged, the entire concept is lost. On the page, oddly enough, them wanting to preserve the “sameness,” more than bothering with Jonas as he makes all his revelations and eventually leaves with Gabe gives them a much more sinister feel.
The whole point of the book was to highlight the generally frightening left over husks people would be if humanity with all its flaws were indeed stripped of all memory, diversity and emotional individuality and were made to be the same and emotionless. In changing that to an action based dystopia adventure for the big screen much of the point of the book is lost.
Photo from theGiver.wikia.com
The actor’s and actress that play the movie's leading trio are Brenton Thwaites (Jonas), Odeya Rush (Fiona) and Cameron Monaghan (Asher). These characters are all turning sixteen in opening scene of the movie but in real life Brenton/Jonas is twenty-six, Fiona/Odeya is eighteen and Cameron/Asher is twenty-two. Odeya comes off as a teen because she is one and Cameron pulls it off with some careful grooming and some fine acting. However, for me, the twenty-six year old Brenton just did not manage a convincing portrayal of a teenager. It seemed forced to me. The actor on screen was more than double the age of the Jonas on the page and the gap was too much for me to bridge as my brain tried to sync the two. Book Jonas is fresh and naive and struggles to stave off childish wonder and fear. The biggest things that moved me as a reader are lost as a viewer watching a grown man trying to pull off the same naivete. If you haven’t read the book you won’t miss it, but if you have, the incongruity will likely become readily apparent.
If you have not read the book and don’t have the expectation that accompanies the books pivotal themes Thwaites delivers a very good performance. Odeya carries Fiona very well. It is hard to compare the page and screen as far as the interaction with Jonas and Fiona. In the book, Jonas does see her red hair but instead of a romantic attraction culminating in a kiss, then her ultimately risking her life to help Jonas. In the book, she remains oblivious to his attraction and largely disappears for the later part of the book. On the page, Jonas feels a few “stirrings” and wonders what it might be like to have her as his wife in the way little kids would, not knowing what is involved in an adult marriage. He also never tries to share any knowledge with her. The rules given in the beginning of the movie and mostly ignored thereafter are pivotal in the book and mostly followed and extremely important to young Jonas. On the page, Fiona tends the elderly, not the young, and is not involved with Gabe. On paper there is no grand escape, only Jonas taking Gabe and riding his bike off into the night with no pursuers or wild chase and certainly no jumping a motorcycle off a cliff. All of that wild action was for the benefit of the moviegoer and serves its purpose well.
Photo from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Giver
Students everywhere will be bummed to learn that The Giver writ large is so far from the written version that watching the movie in lieu of reading the book for reports is not even an option. Some other major differences change the tenor of the movie as well. In the book once the Giver shows Jonas a memory it is given to Jonas in earnest and the Giver no longer possesses it. Also, in print Jonas spends over a year with the Giver and when he is given a painful memory it is done carefully with buildup. Jonas does not accidentally get bad memories. The Giver on the page would not have allowed that sort of careless mistake and if he is tired Jonas is released to go home for the day.
How the Giver and Jonas interacted physically made a big difference for me. In the book, to transfer memories Jonas has to lie down and the Giver places his hands on Jonas’s back. Then he shows Jonas the memory much like the movie depicts. It may just be my overly analytic, highly caffeinated brain, but the symbolism and connotation of a young child face down and helpless receiving memories that may or may not be painful was quite different from Jonas and the Giver sitting face to face in chairs a few inches apart grasping each others wrists. The feeling of those scenes in the book is quite different due to the utterly helpless and submissive posture and mental state of the child. In the movie, that powerful subtext does not carry over with the older actor. The adjusted scene blocking making the exchanges seem almost like an equal interaction.
When I read the book, I did not get any sort of child molester vibe but more of a clearly non-sexual dominant and submissive dynamic. The transfer of memory was not nearly as active on both parts as it was onscreen. It was the Giver transferring memories, as if it was a medical procedure to implant them into Jonas's consciousness. It was not originally presented as the exchange in the movie where Jonas seemed to have some choice or control most of the time.
Another big difference was that on the page the kids had completely different jobs which would have made much of the onscreen plot unfeasible. Jonas was the Receiver of Memory, but Fiona’s work with the elderly instead of the young would have taken her completely out of the final third of the movie. In the book, Asher is a recreation director in training and had nothing to do with Jonas’s actions in the later parts of the book. He is certainly not a drone pilot, does not have a falling out with Jonas over his relationship with Fiona (again that is an onscreen only add in), does not get punched and neither Fiona nor Asher sees or is even aware of Jonas leaving with Gabe. On the page, neither is involved with Jonas after he leaves town so none of those aspects are comparable.
As to the ending...in the book Jonas simply sneaks Gabe out of the city and rides out into the desert and then the cold and eventually does find the sled on the hill. However, there is no high speed chase, no drones, no triangular stones and no being dropped into a river. In written form, a few helicopters from the community buzz around doing passes during the day the first few days, but it is not an intensive search. Once they leave the community, the later parts of the book are about how Jonas and Gabe survive. On screen, in Jonas and the Giver’s last moments together the Giver simply says “Let me give you the memory of strength” and all the hardship on the road is wiped out by an array of moving photos of people struggling, and the memory of how to be strong and endure. I thought that was a pretty colossal plot cop out. Then the movie flashes back to Fiona’s release ceremony which plays like any standard movie lethal injection scene. None of that happens in the book. On the page, the community is left far behind and does not reappear after Jonas and Gabe leave.
Photo from www.ala.org
Though the book is a Newbery Medal winner it has one of the most notoriously ambiguous endings in middle grade fiction. On paper Jonas and Gabe find the sled and see a light in the distance that is most likely a town, Jonas hopes…The End. Frustration and cursing ensued. On screen there is actual closure, which I loved but that was one of the most central aspects of the books and the movie was completely unfaithful to it. Instead, Jonas finds the Barrier of Memory (another on screen only addition) and once he finally crosses it everyone in the Community instantaneously gets their memory back. One of the plot pillars of the book is the community has lived without historical memory and valued “sameness” for centuries. The Giver and Jonas talk at length in the book about going back and back and back with memories and talk of there having been many receivers. They only mention it once in the movie and it is not elaborated on at all. So if back and back and back is supposed to be in place in the onscreen version (which it is, they say it) that means the current people in the community would have no memories to come back to them. Those people would be a blank slate like an amnesia victim, not an insta-culture full of remorseful fully aware people. That was another toughie for me to swallow.
I really liked the book as far as the author’s voice, the premise and the absolutely artful way she handled the point of view character and the eventual plot point reveal that being “released” means being euthanized. In the book it sneaks up on you. In the movie, you see it coming well in advance. The two are very little alike. Where most often I see movies and books being alike as I would imagine identical twins that have grown to look a bit different, these two are more like cousins or good friends with only a few ties in common.
So how did the movie compare to the book?
I can’t really give comparison numbers this post because past the general premise and the cast the book and movie pretty much went their separate ways. The book is amazing if you don’t mind the inconclusive ending. I did mind it but the rest of the book was so well written I decided I didn’t mind enough to dislike the book on the whole. The movie was fair but I found the older Jonas discordant and distracting and I also kept trying to reconcile the two plots. Had I not read the book I imagine I would have liked the movie far better. The concept is just as interesting even though it is expressed in a completely different way. As far as onscreen appeal, the addition of villains (the Chief Elder/Streep and Mother/Holmes), the love triangle between Asher, Jonas and Fiona and the addition of motorized bikes and motorcycle chases made for a much more visually engaging and suspenseful show. So was it better on screen or off? If I had to recommend one, I would recommend the book.
A few months after the DVD release and a zillion movie goer reviews later how does it rate?
If the movie goer hasn’t read the book then this is tailor made to appeal to Hunger Games and Divergent Series fans so it has rated out well overall with highs and lows instead of mostly middle ground reviews.
Fandango: 4 out of 5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes has it with 51 viewers throwing fresh tomatoes and 92 throwing rotten ones, with an overall 3.5 out of 5. RT also had the best overall critic’s consensus I came across, “Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie doesn't dig deep enough into the classic source material's thought-provoking ideas.”
Movies.com low balls it a bit I think, with 0 out of 5 stars from the staff critic, but it gets back onboard with 3 out of 5 stars from the general site followers.
Roger Ebert has given it 2 out of 3 stars.
Thanks for checking out The Page and Screen! Until next time, happy reading and don't hog the popcorn.
This week I will be sizing up The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I chose it because I loved the books and I loved the movie. However, my affinity for each was for totally different reasons. I also just found out the sequel, The Scorch Trials, will be coming out in September 2015.
To be fair, I hated the book at first. I picked it up because it had been out forever, gotten lots of great reviews and I don’t like not knowing what all the fuss is about when it comes to book buzz. I am not one of those readers (or viewers) who likes to be dropped in the middle of an introductory scene and have to exert myself to figure out what is going on, at least in general. Normally, it’s enough to make me put a book aside and move on.
By the end of the first paragraph, I knew there was no way I was going to read two hundred odd pages of this discombobulated tale. By the end of the second paragraph, I was even less interested. I told myself at the end of every page for the first seventy pages that I really didn’t like the story and felt like I was being emotionally blackmailed into reading on. I mean honestly, I had had enough of the piecemeal plot and nonsense dialogue. It was clearly a waste of my time. Which if you haven’t read the books, is EXACTLY what Dashner intends. He wants the reader to be at a complete loss for as long as his characters are. By the end of the first chapter, I was as pissed and confused as Thomas was.
Photo credit to www.thefilmequals.com
Hats off to Mr. Dashner and his ability to engage readers in such a way that putting down his books is nearly impossible. By the end of Maze Runner, I was simultaneously thrilled and pissed that I had two more books between me and the answer to “What is WICKED?” I have now read the entire trilogy as well as The Kill Zone. I found them all excellent once I got over being mad about getting strong armed into reading them courtesy of my own well stoked rabid curiosity.
When word broke a year and a half ago that Maze Runner was to be made into a movie I was thrilled. I was even more excited when I heard Dylan O’Brien was to head the cast. I had watched him on Teen Wolf (a show made far more entertaining and compelling than it has any right to be thanks to its generally outstanding cast) and found him very talented. Someone to watch if you will. The director was a virtual unknown and not even thirty. Wes Ball proved his directing chops quite thoroughly as far as I am concerned. I was also quite pleased to see Ball has signed on for both The Scorch Trials (Movie #2) and The Death Cure (Movie #3). Seeing that the time was taken to enlist actors young enough to pull off the teen feel of the movie was another boon. I am not a fan of movies that fail to observe that most basic congruity. Twenty seven year old men in high school attire tend to blow my suspension of disbelief. You don’t see much of that here which is great.
The movie sticks to the basic material of the book and the general premise but it loses substantial punch in the details that are left out. However, surprisingly, this does not make it a bad movie, only gives it a different feel than the book. There are a few points worth mentioning that diverge the screen version from the paper one in major ways. There are dozens of articles on the Internet listing the exact things that were changed. There were hundreds of minor things that were different and most of them didn’t have much of an impact unless you had read the book and plan to go into dissection mode when you watch a film adaptation. I will only touch on the short list of large plot points that I felt made a difference.
So what was it like?
The book and the movie open in similar fashion with Thomas moving up into black space in a metal cage. In the book, he goes for hours and we learn a bit more about his character. With the initial solid feel for Thomas, Dashner gets the reader engaged within a few paragraphs and nosy about the maze nearly as quickly once the box surfaces. In the movie, Thomas comes up into the Glade fairly quickly without the initial confusion and one on one time with Thomas. The difference being he gets lost a bit in the opening scene in the craziness of the Glade, Gladers and awe inspired by the maze around them. While the initial hook is set in generally the same way, things begin to change after that. Not big story changes per se, but more like the texture and feel of the story changes.
In the book, there is more time allotted for Thomas to remember his name, be angry, shocked and confused about how he got to the Glade in the first place. Thomas getting to know the Gladers occurs in a completely different way. There are huge chunks of backstory left out and many interactions between Thomas and various characters cement certain relationships and completely change others between the two mediums. For me, I would have rather seen the character development hit a bit harder. In the movie, I was taken aback a few times at how easily Thomas seems to fit right in with the Gladers and go straight to the top of the hierarchy. It is much different on the page. On paper where he ends up is not all that different so it is not a big detractor, but including some of that backstory would have given the main characters more punch and made viewers more empathetic to Thomas and the Gladers in general.
Photo credit goes to www.thetimes.co.uk
On the screen, Thomas starts rocking the boat day one and most of the Gladers are happy to jump on board. On the page, it takes much longer and Thomas is viewed with much greater suspicion. The movie version does not necessarily lose anything here if you haven’t read the book but on the page it makes more sense for Thomas to be trying to rally the Gladers behind him when it finally occurs. It also shows the Gladers in a far more compelling and intelligent light as you see the more involved struggle they go through to follow Thomas or push for his banishment. I read several Lord of the Flies comparisons referencing the movie and on screen that feel is certainly there. On the page, the Gladers are not nearly as impulsive and mindless as the boys in LOTF.
On the page, Theresa is not as much of a player until late in the book. She is really only introduced and makes her escape with them. She is a much bigger player in the remaining books so she needs to be there. However, she is actually unconscious a great deal of the story in written form. I personally think I like her better that way. There are many inconsistencies created on screen with her showing up in so many scenes she was not originally in or she was in but was there for a completely different reason.
Photo credit goes to mazerunnerwikia.com
The biggest departure for me personally was that SHE AND THOMAS ARE PSYCHICALLY CONNECTED IN THE BOOK. They mentally talk nearly the whole time she is conscious and they have the same dreams on several occasions. I realize the difficulty of portraying that in a fashion that is not a collection of dubious voiceovers and don’t fault the film makers for it. But, once Theresa is conscious on paper it is clear Thomas is her concern, she is not nearly as interested in being one of the guys as on film. In the book, the psychic connection makes the fact they are connected in a big way a foregone conclusion. On screen, they don’t know why they both are convinced they are connected somehow. Dashner presents it in such a way that the connection is not only there, but makes Theresa a more sinister and suspicious figure, especially to Thomas. Again, if you have not read the book you don’t miss it. The way it is done on screen is certainly not bad. I even thought a few of the changes added a bit here and there.
There are a lot of changes in the grievers and some of the other monsters and in the maze itself. I honestly don’t think any of those changes detract from the story onscreen. The movie is based on a book after all, and some simplification has to occur somewhere. The movie depiction of the monsters is off in form and function but the on screen monsters are sinister in their own way and which one is better or worse, depending on how you look at it, is a matter of opinion. I personally prefer the written baddies but I think the onscreen ones will measure up well enough to satisfy most.
The final thing I found worth noting (and my only spoiler) was that on the page the griever attacks at the end came nightly for a few days taking only one boy per night and in the movie it was a mass attack. In written form, there was much more conflict and things went down differently among the Gladers. Things in the Glade itself changed providing several sources of external conflict (the sun going out and fluorescent lights coming on) and the extended time created far more internal conflict for all of the characters. It was a pretty big departure.
What did I think?
As I said in the beginning, I loved the books and the movie for completely different reasons. Anyone reading and seeing needs to be aware the two only share basic content. In the books, the characters are stronger and much more three dimensional. Even the bad guys are far worse than in the movie. But since this happens pretty consistently with film adaptations I don’t really count it as a flaw. The movie is an action movie and it moves at a much faster pace. It cherry picks many of the plot's most riveting twists and combines them in a very satisfying way. The screen version takes some liberties, but most do these days, and while the departures were pretty major in some places the story does not lose much in translation. It just takes on a different flavor.
How close was it to the book from 1-10? 1 being it was a totally different experience and 10 being it was line for line…Maze Runner comes in at a 3. It is the same material but the feel is substantially different. Definitely not bad, but one is a character driven work and the other is a plot driven action flick. There are losses and gains with either version.
How did the movie rate compared to the book?
For me, the book is a solid 8 on a 1-10 scale, with 1 leaving me angry for having spent the time reading it at all and a 10 being a place under a spotlight on my coveted favorite reads book shelf.
The movie rated an 8 also on that same 1-10 scale, but only if I consider it on its own merit as a stand-alone film. If I compare it specifically considering how closely the movie followed the book it would come in at a 3 since it is based on the same subject matter but the similarities stop there. I thought much of the author’s voice (which is really good) was lost. However, the movie sped things up and kept the story just as riveting while making it quite a bit more visually stunning (and it is visually stunning, make no mistake there).
I would recommend the movie and the books. I am very pleased to see The Scorch Trials (Book #2) is already in production and the major players cast wise are all staying on. September seems very far away at the moment. If you read the books and liked them and you watch the movie with the mindset that the two are similar but different, I think you will enjoy the film version of The Maze Runner very much. I did. I was also dying to see how they would bring the Maze to life, the answer? Admirably.
A few months after the DVD release and a zillion movie goer reviews later how does it fare?
Fandango: 4. 5 out of 5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes has it at 90 viewers throwing fresh tomatoes with 53 throwing rotten ones, with it pulling an overall 3.7 out of 5.
Movies.com is rolling in with 2 out of 5 stars from the staff critic and 3 out of 5 stars from the general site followers.
Roger Ebert has given it 2.5 out of 3 stars.
Thanks for checking out The Page and Screen! Until next time, happy reading and seeing!
The anticipation is finally over. Today, twenty-one other people and I caught the first showing of the day of Fifty Shades of Grey over hotdogs and crinkling candy wrappers. To go or not to go that is the question? If you really loved or really hated the book I would say don't go. It will disappoint you on both counts. If you are somewhere in the middle or on the fringe then you might just enjoy it. I was interested to see that most of the people attending were couples or gal pals come out to see what all the hubbub was about. I was the only lone soul in the theater. I am normally unaffected by the looks I get going to the theater alone but before I thought about it I caught myself making sure my notebook was visible and my pen poised to write so I didn’t look like I was there just to watch. I wasn’t there just to watch but that is a bit of a cop out. What is it about this movie that causes people to act as if none of us want to see it when many of us clearly do? Curiosity, plain and simple.
Photo credit www.movies.com
So what was it like?
The movie opens with a beautiful (What else?) gray scale cloud sequence. I will own that since I live in the Seattle area it took me a few minutes to stop checking out the background instead of giving my full attention to opening credits of the movie. It is the first movie I have seen that was shot at places I have been, often. It was a little surreal. The area is beautifully shot for those in the Seattle area, so for those who live in or around Seattle you not be disappointed on that count.
Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia in full spirit of the E. L. James character throughout the movie. She comes off as innocent, naïve and just a touch over-the-top at times. However, since that is how she reads in the book I think Johnson did an excellent job with the role. She also manages to waver back and forth from stunning to frumpy in a way that shows she has done her homework reading the original novel. I was iffy about her being cast in the beginning. I will not say she was hands down the best actress in Hollywood for the role but I will admit she did a fine job. This version of Anastasia delivers several one-liners that made her stick in my mind as much wittier than she was in the book. I didn’t go back and look up how many of them were added by the screen writers but she has a bit more depth here than she did on the page, even without all the inner goddess talk.
Jamie Dornan on the other hand does not come up to scratch as well as his female lead. Everyone has their own mental image of what is attractive but he just did not ring true as Christian for me personally. Technically, he does all the right things, says all the right lines and he is a handsome man with a body fit for the role. However, there is something about him in the role that just does not bring out the Christian from the book. It is subtle, and not necessarily his looks. He does not come off as having a hard or dangerous edge. In the book, Christian comes off as being bulletproof in the initial installment and having the world at his disposal (and knowing it). Dornan’s portrayal comes off just short of the totally self-assured mark, more like spoiled rich kid who has mostly grown out of being a punk. In the first half hour of the movie I was unconvinced that he could pull off the role at all. I did not get the initial impression of the aloof yet brilliant billionaire. I mainly just got jerk for the first few scenes. However, he does much better in the middle and late scenes. In the book he was a jerk but he was also appealing on other fronts. It took a while for that to show through in equal measure on screen and even then, the simultaneously cold and hot facade still slips occasionally to just plain luke warm.
The first few scenes (Anastasia in his office and him in the hardware store) are painfully awkward to watch, more so than is depicted in the book. In the first handful of scenes, the dialogue reads more like a roundtable cast read-through than an actual production scene. When reading them in print Christian’s charm, looks and confidence carry the moments and Anastasia is simply awed. On screen both characters seemed out of their elements and uncomfortable.
Photo credit to fiftyshadesofgrey.wikia.com
As the movie moves along through the club scene (which comes off much funnier and realistic than it has any right to) and the other scenes where Anastasia and Christian get to know one another the movie seemed to find its stride. Dornan finally becomes the Christian we all know and love by flying helicopters, being suit model sexy on a regular basis, driving fast cars and being the in control expert he is “in all things”. His ability to do so many things well is one of the things that draws readers to him in the books, his ability to do amazing things with ease is present in the movie but it develops in a visible way much later than it did in the book. The lag makes his appeal come much later in the overall story. making the character dynamic feel slightly off kilter in a few places.
The Red Room is IMPRESSIVE. That is all.
Christian's mother coming to visit is one of the funniest scenes in the movie.
As we roll into the final third of the movie, the fanatically hoped for chemistry between Anastasia and Christian finally starts to develop. Sam Taylor-Johnson deserves a big shiny award for the cinematography and choreography in the sex scenes. It is the most I have ever seen in a sex scene while seeing next to nothing. Other than lots of Johnson’s breasts and an occasional glimpse of pubic hair there is little more than you might see on a magazine cover; unless it is a Kim Kardashian cover, then the movie is offering quite a bit less actual nudity. The sex scenes are well done and not quite classy but in the ballpark. The S&M is toned down a lot. There are no cringe worthy scenes until we get close to the end.
I nearly finished the entire movie without wondering what all the domestic violence press noise was about. I read the book of course so I had some idea but then I understood completely. SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK!! In the book, Anastasia and Christian build up to the final scene where he spanks her with a belt at her request. Also in the book, they have several sessions in the red room and various other places where things get a little raw and heated. In print, the final spanking scene is a natural continuation of the story that makes sense. In the last few scenes of the movie, Anastasia and Christian have the big argument they are supposed to but with some of the in between scenes cut out. It makes it appear as if they have gone from a few little love taps and minor toy play to him beating her with a belt. It is meant to be a pivotal scene and is supposed to alter things for both characters, but I found the way it was done to be misleading and not in line with the books general feel. The movie depicted the scene as an act of retribution, while in the book it was not retribution as much as it was her asking to go to the next step (even though it ends up being catastrophically different than what she expected).
In the book, after the spanking, Anastasia reconsiders the entire relationship based on the spanking as the end of a spectrum she does not wish to see or feel again. In the movie, it comes off as if she is a victim of domestic violence. In print, she is many things but a victim during her love play with Christian is not one of them. The key thing about this scene is every aspect of it was consensual between adults. Also, the post-spanking scene in the book has a much different feel. The characters are on equal ground of sorts, not so in the big screen version. I can completely understand the media storm revolving between and from BDSM groups and domestic violence groups. I think it is safe to say the final spanking scene will get a reaction of some sort out of most people.
What did I think?
I listened to the people around me chatting before the movie and I heard several people say they read the books and didn’t like them but came anyway. For what it is worth, the movie is very much like the book in enough ways that if you don’t like the book, you won’t like the movie. Also, if you love the book you may not like the movie because it is just far enough off to be disappointing and possibly even annoying.
Last night Kerrie Mitchell and Breanne L. Heldman of the Yahoo Movies Staff did an excellent article on the exact things that were different between the page and screen. It took a bit of the wind out of my sails as I was hoping to cover the same material but it is an excellent write up. Check it out in full at https://www.yahoo.com/movies/fifty-shades-book-to-screen-changes-110824442422.html. Of the things mentioned by Mitchell and Heldman, two stood out for me as noteworthy departures from the series.
First, Anastasia's employment is left out completely. This is a pretty big factor in the next installment, so this bothered me more than anything else. It is a big plot hole and it leaves a lot of ground for them to cover in Fifty Shades Darker right from the get go. Second, there is no trace of the inner goddess. I, like the authors above, did not miss it. Johnson’s portrayal shows Anastasia as much less neurotic and grounded than I thought she was in the books.
The “Red” vs. “Stop” or the Writer vs. the Director controversy: The Hollywood Reporter put out the following article a few days ago, “Fifty Shades of Grey” Author Overruled Director’s Preferred Ending. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fifty-shades-grey-author-overruled-770424. I so wanted to go with E. L. James on this one because, as an author, I want to support any author who takes a stand on keeping their babies as intact as possible. But in this case, I just can’t. SPOILER ALERT! In the closing scene, Anastasia steps into the elevator and Christian is pursuing her to ask her not to go. In the book, she says “Don’t, please”. She is simply asking him not to follow her. In the movie, she says the same. According to the article above, the director wanted the movie to end with her saying "Red." I have to give it to Sam Taylor-Johnson, it would have been an exceptionally slick and cool ending. Sam-Taylor Johnson is signed on for the next installment but both director and author have admitted they butted heads during the screenwriting process and during filming. I am curious to see if she sticks with the project.
To wrap this up, I was not appalled at how bad it was, nor was I blown over by how good it was. There were some really funny lines, some really well-acted scenes and some excellent film-making in general to keep it at an R rating. There were also some horrible clunkers line-wise, painfully awkward scenes and places where there was ZERO chemistry between Dornan and Johnson. If you want to see it for the sake of seeing the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, then I absolutely recommend it. If you are looking for an exceptional or Valentine date-night worthy night at the movies, you might look elsewhere.
How close was it to the book from 1-10? 1 being it was a totally different experience and 10 being it was line for line…FSOG rolls in at a 7.
How did the movie rate compared to the book?
For me, the book was an even 5 on a 1-10 scale, with 1 leaving me angry for having spent the time reading it at all and a 10 being a place under a spotlight on my coveted favorite reads book shelf.
The movie rated a 6 on that same 1-10 scale, if I consider it on its own merit as a stand-alone film. If I compare it specifically considering how closely the movie followed the book it would come in at a 4 since it did not follow the book at all in places and completely lost the tone and voice of the author in others. The 4 would also be because the book does lay out the character's mental state much better, but the 6 has merit in that the movie is more efficiently put together plot-wise.
So you know how it is rating across the internet on opening night:
Fandango: 4. 5 out of 5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes has it at 43 viewers throwing fresh tomatoes with 115 throwing rotten ones, with it pulling an overall 3.1 out of 5.
Movies.com is rolling in with 1 star from the staff critic and 3 stars from the general site followers.
Roger Ebert has given it 2 out of 4 stars.
Thanks for checking out The Page and Screen! Happy watching until next time!
Coming up over the next few weeks I will be covering Maze Runner, Ender’s Game and The Giver. Next month I will be hitting the recliners again to catch Insurgent. I can’t wait!
As a budding writer and active author-in-training I hear constantly that a blog is the best way to put yourself out there to your fans, students, followers and readers. I have struggled with this for a while. I am currently not published yet so I didn't want to write about writing or my process or any of that since I didn't feel like I was have the credentials for it yet. I know I am an excellent fiction writer but until I have a bit more hard evidence I won't be trying to prove it here. I roamed far and wide for a topic that I love and know I will continue to love in the years to come. I wanted something that my followers would enjoy whether they like my writing or not.
After writing off and resurrecting the blog idea several times I decided I was over thinking it. I took the approach of finding things I really love to talk about no matter what it was then see how that worked into my writing. Once I stopped trying so hard to be a super serious and "professional" writer the answer was clear. I needed to write about my passions. I have two great loves as far as entertainment; books and adaptations of those books for the big and small screen.
I taught at a writer's group meeting last night and listened to the conversation buzz about the upcoming release of Fifty Shades of Grey. I have been watching the brilliant marketing junket for the movie and had read the book. I don't find it soul moving in its content but I am terribly curious to see how it will translate to the big screen, especially after all the press coming out about how the director and author butted heads over the ending. After thinking it over one last time the decision was made. The Page and Screen will be my blog about the things I love most; books and their movies, or vice versa and which one I thought was better and why.
So in preparation for my kick off Friday night, I just arranged to catch the first show Friday morning at my local theater. So break out the popcorn and wine (yes, my local theater serves wine) and tune back in Friday evening for my review of Fifty Shades of Grey and if I think the did the book justice or not. Laters, baby.
Posts in Order