Book To Movie Talk: Allegiant

Divergent-Allegiant-Movie-Poster

*not spoiler free*

When I saw the first trailer for Allegiant, my expectations were low. As more trailers and teasers were released my expectations continued to sink. I doubted the film itself would be good let alone accurate. I knew going into the cinema screen that this adaptation would not be the Allegiant I hold close to my heart so of course I was apprehensive.

Here’s a breakdown of the important new characters added to the cast for this part of the series:

David played by Jeff Daniels

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Matthew played by Bill Skarsgard

Bill-bill-skarsgard-34587944-1080-1566

Nita played by Nadia Hilker

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Starting off with the existing characters, Theo James failed to impress, yet again, as Four. I’ve always found Four to be a painfully boring character in the books so if Theo intended to transfer that to screen then I guess you can say he was successful. I used to enjoy Shailene Woodley as Tris but in this film she is surprisingly underwhelming. Despite the fact that the existing characters find out in Allegiant that everything they know is a lie and that people have been watching them through cameras their whole lives, they seem content with this in the film, while the book versions go through a massive adjustment period. It just completely threw the tone off in the film, getting rid of any possible tension.

The new characters don’t leave much to be desired either. Remember Nita in the book and the role she played? She might as well not exist in the film. David didn’t seem nearly as desperate and evil, appearing laid-back more than anything else, and Matthew plays a considerably smaller role with the humour and charm that made me appreciate him in the book vanishing into thin air.

The only actor to give a good performance was Miles Teller, returning to the role of Peter, who had screen presence and made the terrible dialogue he was given funny, even eliciting a few laughs from me.

But the lack of emotions from any of the characters led to the events of the film not feeling believable which is key to a story with this kind of concept at its core.

I was already aware from the promotion prior to the film’s release that things would be different; the main factor fans picked up on being the changes to the “world beyond the wall.” That 21st century, modern day Chicago from the book seems like a pleasant dream when you set your eyes on what they have done to the world.

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Everything beyond the wall is a wasteland. The world is split into 4 places:

Chicago – the city ruled by factions that the characters believed to be the world

  • The bureau – genetic welfare headquarters
  • The province – essentially the government that the bureau has to report to
  • The fringe – a place where those who survived what ravaged the world are living in poverty.

Neither the fringe nor the province exists in the book and I am still trying to understand why they needed to add it. I would have found this slightly bearable if the locations looked real and less like a soft play centre. The source material doesn’t lack the information or action to make this watchable and not seem stagnant so why the creators felt the need to include such massive plot changes just seems redundant to me, unless they were trying to purposely destroy this series, in which case they’re doing a fantastic job.

Natalie’s diary is given to Tris by Matthew to help her understand the important role her mother played and come to terms with her new surroundings. In the film, David gives Tris memory tabs that allow her to relive parts of her mother’s life in the fringe, before she willingly entered the Chicago experiment. Another unnecessary change.

The only part I saw of book Allegiant depicted on screen was the trials.

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This scene opened the film and showed a sense of madness that had taken over the city as everyone rallied to see the deaths of those that had persecuted them. I will admit, the only moment that elicited any emotion from me other than disappointment was when Caleb was in the cage waiting for his trial and screaming to Tris “please don’t let them kill me.” Even Evelyn with the devastating fear that crippled her in the book fell utterly flat on screen.

There just seemed to be a lack of conviction in all the information given and it felt that none of the cast really wanted to be there, not that they were given much good direction in this script.

I reached a point during the viewing process where I tried to look at the film as if I hadn’t read the book before and even then it just didn’t make sense. Making Tris out to be someone who is a “chosen one”, not fully explaining what makes people genetically damaged or pure. Frankly, it’s just a mess.

But in the end, I am a fan of this series and I will see the final part titled “Ascendant” when it is released next year. I just hope to the book adapting gods that the ending stays the same.

 
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Book To Movie Talk: The Book Thief

*not spoiler free*

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The Book thief is based off the historical fiction novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and is without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by death and follows Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl, in Germany during World War 2. After her brother dies, Liesel arrives at her foster parents finding it even harder to adjust to her new surroundings. Exposed to the Nazi regime, Liesel is threatened with the possibility of losing the innocence of her childhood. Until a Jew called Max shows up and seeks refuge in their basement. Hans teaches Liesel how to read in secret as the Nazis are burning anything that may be considered communist. So she must steal them.

The book moves at a slow pace and is very long. It has an overwhelming and phenomenal narrative with a use of metaphors that really put things into perspective and made me feel for these characters in a way that I can’t put into words and don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a book like this again in my lifetime. So naturally, I had my expectations for the adaptation.

Here’s a breakdown of the “main” cast:

Liesel Meminger played by Sophie Nelisse

liesel

Rudy Steiner played by Nico Liersch

rudy

Rosa Hubermann played by Emily Watson

Rosa

Max Vandenburg played by Ben Schnetzer

Max

Hans Hubermann played by Geoffrey Rush

hans

“One small fact: you are going to die.”
This starting line really hits you hard with a truth many of us try to avoid. Like in the book, we follow the train but miss out the colour element. Death does not talk about the brother’s soul (despite talking about others later on in the film) or the colour, in fact, the voiceover focuses entirely on Liesel and his unexpected “interest” in her that leads him to keep coming back to watch her throughout her life.

The true beauty of this story lies in the narration and I feared that this may be lost in an on-screen adaptation. And I was right. Death was voiced by Roger Allam and it just felt too Americanised and that the delivery was off. It didn’t have the same impact as the written word. However, there were exceptions such as “I’ve seen so many men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me” which are kept in and showcase in a way the terror of what these characters are about to face.

I feel as if the only way an adaptation could fully satisfy me is if the acting was done in silence and the book narrated over the top.

To me, the casting of Hans Huberman was the most important. He is fundamental to Liesel’s transition into a new home. While Rosa is cruel and unloving, Hans is welcoming and warm, offering Liesel a hand to help her out of the car when she first arrives. When Hans discovers she has a book and it turns out she stole it, he doesn’t hit and scorn her like Rosa would, he teaches her to read. When I saw that Geoffrey Rush was taking on the role, I was more than happy. He portrayed Hans like I read him in the book.

Another fundamental character is Max Vandenburg because he and Liesel are so similar in terms of their situations: both had to leave their families, both are trapped in the same house, on this street. But in a world where Liesel is being told from all angles that communists are bad and Jews are evil, he opens her to a different perspective. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job and really solidifies their relationship on screen in the jokes he makes with her and the time they spend together.

There are so many scenes in this film that stands out to name a few:

The contrast of the choir song about freedom while Nazis are beating people on the ground and destroying a bookstore:

book burning

The library scene at the Herman house when Liesel explores the shelves in awe. The score music, composed by John Williams really shines here, encapsulating the feeling of exploring wonderment for the first time. The way this is shot is so beautiful too. I love the lighting:

library

A scene in the basement with Hans, Rosa, Liesel and Max where they’ve brought snow in, made a snowman and they’re all sat together while Hans plays a Christmas song on his accordion. It just reflects, to me, a willingness to keep things normal despite fear:

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When Hans cries in the kitchen saying “I’ve ruined us.” It’s a fleeting scene but holds a lot of depth. The performances from both Geoffrey and Emily shows just how dangerous doing something as simple as standing up for someone could potentially lead to bad things. This is also when you start to really see the breakdown of Rosa’s character. Again, unlike scolding him and mistreating him for his terrible choice of action, instead she holds him and cries with him. A fantastic acting choice:

crying
And finally, the scene where Rosa cries over the accordion. This scene is just so utterly moving and powerful. A simple object as an accordion, something that is normally always connected to Hans is on its own. The way Rosa holds this then sits and breaks down in tears shows that she isn’t the soulless woman we may have been tricked into believing she is. I think this short moment may be my favourite of the whole film. It also breaks my heart in a follow-up scene when Liesel returns to find Rosa lying on the bed asleep, still holding the accordion:

accordian

I realise that I have focused primarily on Rosa, Max and Hans in this review and that’s because they are the ones that hold this film together. Nico as Rudy looks the part but doesn’t bring the cutesy charm that I felt came through in the book and his friendship with Liesel appears more like acquaintance on screen, and Sophie as Liesel leaves a lot to be desired. As this film is very slow paced and relies heavily on character development and arcs (as the action doesn’t happen until the last half an hour of the film) having engaging characters is very important and the film Liesel just fell very flat for me.

The film overall feels quite flat as a lot of the grit and darkness has been stripped away to create a smooth finish and it just feels too light. After all, this is – in a sense – a war film, while we know from history that Germany wasn’t attacked until the end of the war, the people who lived in Germany at the time didn’t know that would be the case, and so you would expect there to be tension and fear. But alas, there isn’t.

The ending to this story is perfect and surprisingly I enjoy both versions. I love the panning shot around the modern room as the voiceover tells us what became of Liesel. There’s annoying product placement in the way of a mac computer and I wish that wasn’t there. It would have been much nicer just to see the collection of photographs as Death brings us to the end of this story.

And I just adore the last line:

 

“I am haunted by humans.”
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Movie Review: Pan

Pan

*Warning: this post is not entirely spoiler free*

If anyone was to ever ask me what my all time favourite story is, the answer would without a doubt be Peter Pan. There is something just so beautiful about this place called Neverland, the people who live there, and the adventures you can go on that makes me cling to it with everything I have. The original novel, written by J.M.Barrie, is the reason I decided to become a writer. While this is obviously a book blog, Peter Pan has always been so precious to me that, even though this is a “loose adaptation” it would be silly for me to ignore it.

When I initially heard that this movie was in the works I was so excited because it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a Peter Pan movie. As I waited with bated breath for more information, it was finally announced that the movie would be called “Pan” and would be an origin story. An origin story you say? Surely that hasn’t been done before? Well you would be right, imaginary other half of this discussion. There is no “canon” origin story to Peter Pan. So this had me very interested.

So first, let us take a look at the main cast:

Levi Miller

Peter played by Levi Miller

There’s not really much you can gauge from looking at a child actor. But at 13 years old, he’s roughly the right age for Peter and from what I saw in the trailer it seemed like he was going to be right for the part.

Hugh Jackman

Blackbeard played by Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is well… Hugh Jackman. He’s just such a fantastic actor. When I first heard he was going to be in the film, I was convinced he was going to play Captain Hook for some reason, but then as more details of the story came out I discovered he would be playing Blackbeard. Also he shaved his head and grew a very styled beard for the role.

Garrett

Hook played by Garrett Hedlund

Here we have the actual Hook. This is what made me nervous for the film. Based on the footage of Garrett in the trailer, his accent is just terrible. I don’t know who told him to put that accent on but bad move.

Rooney Mara

Tiger Lily played by Rooney Mara 

And finally, we have our Tiger Lily. This was one of my bigger concerns. The Indians in the original story are Native American and suddenly in the trailer pops up Rooney Mara. A white woman.

I’ll come back to what I thought of the cast based on the actual movie later on.

The film has a really pretty opening with a voice over talking about how everything has a beginning and how sometimes not everything is the same as it was at the start: “those who start as friends become enemies, and those who start as enemies become friends.” (A possible link to Hook maybe?) This then cuts to a woman running down a street and leaving a baby outside a door with a necklace. After this brief scene – in which the viewer can identify the actress as Amanda Seyfried- it cuts to a few years later, during World War 2.

Levi Miller finally makes his appearance as Peter, the boy who was abandoned in the previous scene. He’s in an orphanage and the only way I can possibly describe this place is that it’s like the orphanage in the musical film Oliver! Food is rationed, the nuns are nasty, the conditions aren’t great and they’re forced to do work. I half-expected the nuns to start singing when Peter asked if there was any bacon.

Anyway, one night while the boys are sleeping, the nuns put up a pirate flag. A pirate ship arrives and those on board begin stealing some of the orphans. The army sends fighter planes after the ship believing that it is an attack from the enemy. Why on earth you would think the enemy in the 1940’s would use a flying pirate ship to launch an attack, I’m not sure, but I admired the slightly comic scene that ensued.

The ship makes it back to what is assumingly Neverland and this segment of film is what got me really pumped for the rest of it. As Peter looks over the side of the ship he sees thousands of people looking up at him, all chanting, believe it or not, some of the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit. It seems like a cult gathering and the chanting reaches it climax when Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) makes his entrance and welcomes the new arrivals to Neverland. This scene just made me want to grab a sword and start kicking things and stabbing things because it was just such a badass and epic build up.

Initially I thought that the boys getting stolen by the pirates would end up being the lost boys from the original story, especially since Peter’s best friend was called Nibs. However, after the intense chanting scene and seeing how many boys were actually there, it seemed my guess was very much wrong.

Blackbeard tells the boys to get mining and Peter learns that they are looking for fairie pixim (fairy dust). Along this way Hook (Garrett Hedlund) makes his on screen debut as the rather bitter adult who’s all “I’m not your friend, kid” but then ends up being stuck with the kid anyway. Peter is determined to find his mother and believes that she may be on the island and that the natives might know where she is. With the help of Hook, they escape and so the cat and mouse chase begins.

And of course, what would a film be without some ancient prophecy?
The people of the land know of a prophecy which tells of a boy, born from a human woman and a fairy prince, who will come from another world to kill Blackbeard. Also, the boy has the ability to fly.
This couldn’t possibly be our little protagonist now, could it?

So there’s the basic plot laid out for you.

I was very surprised by this film. I expected it to be good but it just went beyond that. There were so many wonderfully clever links to the source material which actually answered a lot of the questions I had about the story such as how Peter can understand fairies, how he actually got the name “Peter Pan” and links to Hook becoming the captain we know.

Going back to Rooney Mara whom I mentioned earlier, I tried really hard to put aside the fact she was white and pay attention to her acting. She was very good in this film. Although I’m sure Tiger Lily is closer to Peter’s age in the book, she took on more of a mother’s role with Peter in this film and it was really lovely to see someone guiding him, and believing in him when he didn’t believe in himself. I still would have preferred someone Native American to take on the role though.

There was one aspect to this film that literally had me eye-rolling so hard you could have probably heard me. When Hook meets Tiger Lily, it’s not really hard to see that she’s rather attractive and a kind of sub-plot was the tedious Hook attempting to flirt while Tiger Lily having no interest but eventually kind of softening to him. It just wasn’t needed at all and kind of detracted away from the importance of what Peter was facing.

Levi Miller was utterly incredible in the main role. Dare I even say it, he may be my favourite Peter Pan to date. I can’t even put into words his acting in this film, but if this boy doesn’t have a long film career ahead of him, I will be shocked.

To top the film off, you have breath-taking visuals of the island, brilliant CGI and the score music , composed by John Powell (known for How To Train Your Dragon scores), just adds that extra bit of magic.

I highly recommend you see this film if you haven’t yet. Or if you have, let me know what you thought about it!

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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