Where The Wild Things Are
(USA/Germany 2009, director: Spike Jonze)
Movie adaptations of books are always difficult, as those are two different media. But what if the source material is only 48 pages long and a picture book? I had my reservations about the director as well, as he did the highly overrated Being John Malcovich, but he also did ironically the rather good Adaptation as well. Now the book itself is not really that weird with a boy whose room turns into a new fantastic world. After all it’s a fantasy book, and there’s not much story in it anyway. The underlying theme of growing up is there, true, but it’s all so subtle that it was hard to imagine how a movie of over 100 minutes could be very interesting. As it turned out, it was very interesting and good. Most of the time it felt like a theater play, as the monsters were real human characters or in this sense their emotions, representing insecurity, anger and other human traits. It’s definitely one of the weirdest atmospheres I’ve seen (even surpassing David Lynch’s sometimes nonsensical happenings). It’s a great achievement to turn a quite simple story into this sort of film. It’s even hard to categorize: Is it really movie for children? Or is it about childhood for grown-ups to remember? All in all there were so many melancholic elements in it, accompanied with the right music that sets the tone, it’s difficult to say. What’s easier to say is that it’s a very touching movie which strikes something in you even though you can’t exactly pinpoint it.
Bridge To Terabithia
(USA 2007, director: Gabor Csupo)
Another “children” movie which deals with more realistic topics than the typical happy-as-hell Disney movies. Being bullied at school, not finding one’s place in the family and coping with loss at the end made this a touching story with decent acting. The only problem it seemed to have when screened at the cinema was that it was sold as another Narnia movie which it clearly isn’t. Sure there are some fantasy creatures, but the magic itself is only in the imagination of the kids (which doesn’t make it any less real if you believe in it). The way they transform their everyday life experiences into a fantasy world is very well done. And when reading the book, it’s interesting to note that the author never really describes the world the children are experiencing. And still the readers seem to get a clear world with all its untold stories. That’s why you don’t get a real progressive story in the fantasy world which many people found disappointing. At its heart, it’s a drama, and a very good one with a nice soundtrack as well (especially since the little girl is played by a teen pop star singer; and she doesn’t disappoint with her acting and singing).
The Spiderwick Chronicles
(USA 2008, director: Mark Waters)
A not-so-good example if you’re looking for it staying true to the books, because it isn’t. But then again if you read the books (around 800 pages) you find out that there isn’t much of a story in it, at least concerning the fight between the children against an evil ogre. The movie is sure faster and concentrates on action than dialogue. Sometimes it’s even so fast you’re wondering what’s happening as one set-piece follows the other. For light entertainment it’s okay, but then again the original book itself isn’t much else than a fantastic journey into the realm of fairies, something simple and yet appealing to a younger audience, and if you don’t care much for character development or heavy themes, it’s alright. As they say, the kids are alright… although I always felt it unnecessary that they had one actor playing the brothers (who sometimes does a bit of overacting as well and can be annoying). In nearly every scene it just didn’t look right as you could tell the cameras only filmed one boy or you could make out the effects to put them in together. It’s also interesting to note that this movie should have been a clearly American movie (not like the Harry Potter movies), and in the bonus features you find out the boy is played by someone from the UK, and the girl is from Ireland. How small the world can be.