The pacing was good. The story line was tightly written and the best thing going for it. But the way that story and pacing played out was often too jerky or off-key. Punchlines weren’t delivered as expertly as they were in the trailer, and then there was the soundtrack (which must have been expensive, for all the classic songs they used; it seems like they bought all the songs on the director’s playlist and, after filming, were like “Welp, we already paid for them. Find somewhere to stick ’em!”). The soundtrack would play as if building up to something, only to end abruptly for no reason–as if trying to win us over with a few of our favorite lyrics here and there. At times it turned into a music video.
Annnnd the acting–oh man, the acting–was melodramatic/overacted and chaotically delivered–just like those punchlines. I’m not going to mention names or characters (cough, cough, Joker), because they ALL did it to some degree. Maybe they were throwing back to earlier, cheesier adaptations. But it didn’t give as much of an off-putting vibe as I think they wanted.
And why the heck didn’t Katana get a better backstory? Compared to the others she just appears. I was really confused as to her part in the whole thing, other than the token Asian. They didn’t explain her origins well enough–not to a degree where I felt I could relate to her. Same with Killer Croc. No one seemed to care about him. It was like he wasn’t even there half the time.
But the diversity of the cast was definitely something the film had going for it. Lots of women. And the color scheme. And the attempts at stunning imagery (re: music video).
Will Smith as Deadshot was the most surprising thing about the film–how much I ended up liking his character and portrayal. Going off the trailer, I didn’t have much faith in his relevancy and thought Smith was just the BIG NAME meant to draw more people in. But he ended up being the character with the most believable backstory and motivations in the film.
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was also a great choice. I just wish they had put in a little more effort to smooth things over in the film. Otherwise, it’s almost like they let Leto’s Joker edit it at first and then tried to fix it.
See also Suicide Squad Kinda Sucks, But Hey, So Does 2016.
A confession: I didn’t love Andy Weir’s The Martian. Despite all the people telling me at coffee shops/airports/etc. that it was their favorite book, I struggled to get through the prose. (I know, I know…) The story of astronaut Mark Watney and his fully science-enabled quest to stay alive while stranded on Mars was fascinating, but the book’s use of repetitive plot devices and phrasings (“shit,” “holy shit,” and “well, shit” appear regularly) made it a slog. In short, it was fine—I just thought it needed a good edit.
Ridley Scott’s The Martian is that edit. Freed of Watney’s long monologues and Weir’s deep explanations of botany and chemistry, the movie is far more agile than the book. It’s no less compelling and a whole lot more fun. (At one point, I actually spent an evening doing my taxes just to avoid delving into another chapter of The Martian.) Simply put, the movie is better than the book.
And Scott’s not the only one hungry for material. Earlier in Steven Spielberg’s career, the director filmed a mix of scripts he’d been involved with—Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind—and those written by others. (His Jurassic Park was The Martian of its time.) In recent years, he’s steered toward adaptations. His last three films—Lincoln, War Horse, and The Adventures of Tintin—all have been book adaptations of one variety or another. And his next two are adaptations of Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Ernie Cline’s nerd-favorite Ready Player One.
If there’s a future analog to what happened with Weir’s book for The Martian, it could end up being Ready Player One.
Ready Player One, in fact, has a lot in common with The Martian: a good yarn told competently, but not astoundingly. The characters are likable and the worldbuilding is impressive, but frankly, it reads like a movie treatment. (Cline, an admitted ’80s movie obsessive, came to prominence because of his script for Fanboys, a love letter to Star Wars). It’s now up to Spielberg to turn Ready Player One into a story told well.
At Comic-Con International this summer, Cline spoke to me about the adaptation process and said something very interesting. He had written the first two drafts of the RPO script, but told me that “they couldn’t wait to get rid of the guy who wrote the book, because I was too precious about everything.” As the screenplay went through rewrites, it got further from Cline’s original story—and lost a lot of his pop-culture references. Then, as Cline tells it, Spielberg had a meeting with Zak Penn, who was working on the script at the time, and came armed with a copy of the book that had “100 Post-it notes” of things he wanted to re-introduce into the movie. (Penn later told Cline about the meeting.) Spielberg had seen the story, and he knew how to tell it.
Ready Player One was nominally a young-adult title, but not a franchise, and as such is an exception to the recent spate of YA adaptations. However, with the exception of Veronica Roth’s Divergent books, most successful YA adaptations have been qualitatively on par with their literary predecessors: Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books were both great stories, well told…
Read the rest.
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]
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