Thursday, 24 May 2007

Aleithiometers and Adaptations

The trailer for the film of Northern Lights, the first in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is now online.

I'm rather apprehensive about this film. I love Pullman's trilogy as much as disagree with his anti-God polemic. Any film adaptation would have to be pretty special to do justice to the books. I'm rather worried about the meddling that's apparently going on with the film. The reports are that the anti-God angle is being cut out or at least heavily downplayed, which is a bit like trying to have the Bible without any of that messy God business.

Actually, the God I believe in doesn't bear much resemblance to the God that Philip Pullman doesn't believe in. The thing that really bothers me is that Pullman identifies his pantomime bogeyman "the Authority" with the Christian God. So it might actually improve the story if the attack is on the abuse of authority in general, rather than just (supposedly Christian) religious authority.

The trailer looks reasonably decent, but hasn't really put my mind at rest. It looks like it sticks to the story fairly well, which is promising. But the look of the film seems all wrong to me. The cityscapes with zeppelins flying over look pretty, but they look very much like fantasy/scifi settings, rather than "like our world, but different in many ways". In my opinion, the look ought to be much more like one of a period drama, and be much more rooted in the real world.

It also seems to play up some of the most generic aspects of the novel, such as the whole "She is the prophesied one who must save the world" spiel. There isn't much hint of the more thoughtful and philosophical aspects of the novel - the only impression we have of the daemons in the trailer is "magical animal sidekick" rather than the fascinating externalised soul of the books.

I really hope the film will turn out well. I guess we'll see in December.

Another movie adaptation of a fantasy novel currently in the offing is The Dark is Rising. Christopher Eccleston will be playing the Rider, which is promising. Apart from that - well, this quote from an article The Dark is Changing doesn't bode well:
A joke among the journalists covering The Dark Is Rising set visit in Bucharest over the last couple of days was that the movie has only changed three things from the Newberry-winning novel on which it’s based: they’ve changed the lead kid’s nationality from English to American, they’ve changed the lead kid’s age from 11 to 14, and they’ve changed everything that happens in the story.
It's a while since I read the book, but I really enjoyed it and thought it would translate well to screen. There are certain moments, such as Will in an avenue of trees in the snow setting some wood on fire with his new-found powers as crows wheel about around him, that have stuck very vividly and visually in my mind (maybe not entirely accurately, I'd have to check).

Anyway, it looks like the best I can hope for this film is that it becomes a decent fantasy film in its own right that just happens to have pinched the title from Susan Cooper's book, and just disassociate the two from each other.

I sound like a right whinger, all this moaning about films not being as good as the books! To end on a cheerful note, this Saturday's Doctor Who episode, Human Nature, looks set to be one of the best stories of the new series. The two-part story is adapted by the author Paul Cornell from what's widely regarded as probably the best Doctor Who novels, and the advance word is that it's very, very good. Don't miss it!

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