Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Continuity and Tradition, Part III

Moby Dick is pretty boring anyway, right?
The writers revere Melville's original text, but their graphic novel-style version will change the structure. Gone is the first-person narration by the young seaman Ishmael, who observes how Ahab's obsession with killing the great white whale overwhelms his good judgment as captain.
If you'll excuse me, I need to go show my "reverence" for Robert E. Howard going and burning a few more copies of his books.

18 comments:

  1. Awesome! I hope they don't forget the vampires!
    This change will allow them to depict the whale’s decimation of other ships prior to its encounter with Ahab’s Pequod, and Ahab will be depicted more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive
    I know, I wish Melville had depicted that whale crushing up all kinds of other things, maybe an oil rig or a small country so we could know that Ahab wasn't just this mad old guy. Perhaps there could be a reverse-Scooby Doo moment, where he starts out villainously broody (Johnny Depp?) but is then unmasked as a dashing young hero (Vin Diesel, I'm thinking?).

    "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story." Those are so rare these days! Maybe if the whale was a robot, filled with ghost ninjas in expensive eyewear, like a deep sea diving Matrix? Then The Rock could save everyone and discover the source of ambergris. He'd be all [sardonic grin to camera] no way that's going in my Old Spice.

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  2. Yeah, I was just about to quote the, "This is an opportunity to take a timeless classic and capitalize on the advances in visual effects to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story," myself.

    Holy hell.

    I feel so out of touch with the world (which seems to be defined by media these days), but I'm not very sad about it.

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  3. Good thing they're not depicting Ahab as a brooding obsessive. What was Melville thinking? It's perfectly normal to sacrifice your life, time and all that you possess, not to mention sacrificing your underlings, in the pursuit of some uncomprehending whale who is just tired of being harpooned and doesn't even know what your name is.

    Hopefully we'll get to see the whale leaping out of the water and performing badazz whale-fu moves on surface vessels. Then the ships will all be like ramming each other, and guys will be harpooning each other in the confusion, and there will be explosions, and there'll be this totally hot babe, and then Ahab will face down the whale and he'll have like one harpoon cannon in each hand, and like doves will fly past them while they face off, and then they'll do ninja karate.

    This is going to be awesome.

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  4. *blink*

    I was going to say something about creative bankruptcy plaguing Hollywood, but then I realise this is fairly creative. Utterly wrong-headed and stupid, of course...

    Other than that, I agree with the two previous posters.

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  5. Of course the John Huston-directed movie of Moby-Dick from the 50s sucked too. Bastardizing books when adapting them into movies (and acting like by doing so you're somehow "improving" the original) is nothing new.

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  6. Gotta love it; the idiocy of Hollywood is the gift that keeps on givin'. What's next? Kafka's The Trial with screenplay by John Grisham?

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  7. Am I a terrible person if the movie you guys are describing sounds pretty awesome?

    Robot whale fu? Ghost vampire ninjas? Effing gnarly, dudes! Throw in Helen Killer and I'd go see it in the theater!

    The book is for the ages. Is a dumb movie going to change that?

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  8. Hasn't done yet, despite 5 game attempts. Actually, the imdb writeup of the 1930 version says:
    In this extremely loose adaptation of Melville's classic novel, Ahab is revealed initially not as a bitter and vengeful madman, but as a bit of a lovable scamp.
    ...so I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

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  9. Poor Melville, rolling over in his grave yet again :(

    Allan.
    (who almost wrote a PhD on Melville, but decided paying his student loans off a few years earlier was more sound)

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  10. Perhaps Moby will do the soundtrack? ;)

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  11. Bastardizing books when adapting them into movies (and acting like by doing so you're somehow "improving" the original) is nothing new.

    Indeed it is; I certainly didn't mean to imply otherwise. It's this very impulse that makes me so suspicious of the mass market approach to entertainment.

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  12. Just to point out a counter-trend, there have actually been a few examples of fairly faithful movie adaptations of fantasy in recent years.. The LotR films by Peter Jackson did a decent job of sticking to the spirit of the original novel, and the Narnia films are doing okay too so far (the mass-marketing of tie-in merchandise is another discussion entirely, of course). [This one will get me flamed :)] I even think Conan the Barbarian captured the feel of REH's stories pretty well, even if it did cut-and-paste scenes from a bunch of different Conan (and Kull) stories into one patchwork quilt. There are other examples, but point is that sometimes Hollywood gets it right, or partly right. And, at least they sometimes prompt folks to seek out the original sources, which is always good. I shudder to imagine what "fans" of the Moby Dick film will think when they pick up the novels, though, LOL.

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  13. The LotR films by Peter Jackson did a decent job of sticking to the spirit of the original novel

    Not a good example with me, as I grow increasingly more disenchanted with the LotR movies as time goes on, but I understand your central point. It's true that Hollywood doesn't always screw up, but that's the exception rather than the rule in my opinion.

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  14. "Reimagining"

    The more I hear that word pop up, the less faith I have in the project attached to it. It's no surprise that art feeds off itself. It takes its own ideas and concepts and plays with them like putty, trying to shape them into things that can be new and interesting, even if it's not as good as its sources.

    But when I hear "reimagining", how did Alan Moore put it in that article you linked to yesterday?

    They take an idea, bowdlerize it, blow it up, make it infantile and spend $100 million to give people a brief escape from their boring and often demeaning lives at work.

    A bunch of money to take something interesting and make it more of the same-old, same-old, because another bunch of money says that's exactly what we want.

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  15. Such is the fate of Hollywood "reimaginings."

    Grab a beer and some pizza and go see the movie. Moore had a point, but perhaps not the one you've been pointing out.

    Movies are inherently different from books. You can spend many days, even weeks, reading a book...but a movie that lasts that long will bore its audience (TV miniseries notwithstanding). Books exist to engage the mind. Movies exist to engage the senses. And that is a very critical difference.

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  16. Books exist to engage the mind. Movies exist to engage the senses. And that is a very critical difference.

    You have a point, I mean I loved Starship Troopers as a movie and it has almost zero to do with the novel.

    I think it's like the uncanny valley. If a movie is very faithful or not faithful at all to its literary origin, it can be enjoyed. But there is a place where the movie is like the book, but not enough, and it bothers a person.

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  17. Books exist to engage the mind. Movies exist to engage the senses. And that is a very critical difference.

    Granted -- but then why must movies be so parasitic upon books for ideas? Why not create stories specifically designed to work hand in glove with the medium of movie making?

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  18. They need to score this movie to Mastadon's "Leviathan" album, since it's a tribute to Moby Dick. Then it will be a truly Metal Movie Moment.

    I'm sure I'll see this at some point, but it is pretty sad. Adaptations of books are often done primarily to give the audience something to initially hook them into seeing the film, but by doing so, you're going to alienate the very people you're trying to hook by ruining what drew them to the film in the first place.

    Of course, by that time, you've already got their $10-11 bucks, so what do you care?

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