I saw it in a movie once...


I just saw the remake of "War Of The Worlds" and I will admit that is visually impressive. I must say that after watching the several "Apocalyptic-ish" film titles come and go:one after the other, over the past ten years; I've developed a slight immunity to the "shock-factor" these titles were supposed to deliver. But I still found this recent addition to be:good. Was Tom Cruise a necessary addition? No.

What did "shock" me, was the comments I heard from other movie-patron while leaving the theatre:

":I thought the movie was pretty good, but the ending was lame."

":so bacteria killed them? Couldn't they have come up with a better ending than that?"

":there've been too many alien-attacking-earth movies; I think they should try something new for a change."

YES! These people are unaware that "War Of The Worlds" is a book, a radio-drama, a movie, a TV series, a TV movie, and ANOTHER movie. Is modern America truly THAT ignorant? Can a great work of literature of science-fiction ONLY be given its proper attention when combined with a famous Hollywood leading-man, and a 250 million dollar budget?

Is modern America truly THAT ignorant?

In a word: yes. But don't get me started on that. You can get annoyed with ignorance regarding film and progress from there to places that are a lot more controversial.

Film's in a pretty sad state right now. I say "right now" but not "these days" because I don't think it will stay that way: but Hollywood's seeming tapped out at the moment. Remakes, remakes, everywhere, and not much original. Hollywood's turning to remakes and sources of "fresh" material -- comics and Asian film -- because it's not producing much of its own that is really, truly worth going out to see.

Has Hollywood's time passed? It's possible, but I don't think so. It just needs a new generation of dreamers to give it some dreams. It needs dreams worth believing in -- sooner or later, things of mythic proportions always seem to work their way to the big screen. We need stories. We need heroes, tragedies, laughs, and titillation. Special effects have carried us on a nice ride, but they've never been an adequate replacement for what we really crave: good stories.

Soooo true...

I've noticed that Miyazaki's films have been gaining a following in the hollywood critic population. Also, more and more popular hollywood actors/actresses have been contributing their voice-talent to these impressive Japanese animated films. Yes I'm an anime fanboy, I just think its nice to see good stories getting their just attention...

...but what the hell took them so long?

I haven't seen the Spielberg War of the Worlds yet, but I just got back from Batman Begins. I have one word for it: wow. I'm still all tingly inside. Right. I return you to your regularly scheduled gaming talk...

So, anyone going to mention Revenge of the Sith?

It was ok. Mostly what I expected -- a bit better in places. Loved McGregor and McDiarmid. I won't say more because I don't want to start a fanboy/anti-fanboy flamewar.

Two words: Plot holes. *cringes* This one directly contradicts the original trilogy in about ten different places. That's all I have to say.

Neither "Batman" begins NOR "Revenge of the Sith" are remakes. So what do they have to do with the topic?


Oh God, did I just say that??

:: checking temperature ::

"Captain A. Ssasin, please report to the infirmary"

good thing I don't remember the originals' plot very well, then.

:: hurries off to see the nurse, while clutching forehead ::


I just saw the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory today, and so I thought I'd rant about it a bit.
Here's my biggest complaint: Wonka himself. He's a freakish creep, with severe childhood problems and an annoying laugh. You can't DO that to him! Sure, he's supposed to be a bizzare, eccentric guy, but he's supposed to do it because he knows better, not because he doesn't know any better. Depp's Wonka is socially malajusted. The original Wonka just doesn't really care what other people think.
So, Gene Wilder of the earlier movie did a much better job than good ole' Jack Sparrow. Depp has some good lines, but for the most part his portrayal of Wonka is off the mark, and indeed misses the target entirely.

On the other hand, the rest of the movie was pretty good, and truer to the book than the earlier movie. They used Roald Dahl's lyrics for the Oompa-Loompas this time, and the characters visited the exact same rooms they did in the book. The earlier movie looks a little better, and there's some scenes they added that weren't in the book but that were still really good, but the new movie also finds ways to add to the book - the character of Violet Bureguarde, for instance, is a much worse person - her crimes have been expanded from gum-chewing and talkativeness to arrogance.

So I guess the best movie would be somewhere between the two - with Gene Wilder's Wonka instead of Johnny Depp's, some of the non-book details from both, and the special effects from the newer movie. If we have to add plot details from outside the book's, the earlier movie's stealing-gobstoppers bit is much more appropriate than the newer movie's "Waahh! My father was a dentist!" bit.

Or as an alternative, read the book, which is a great childrens' book and has a sequel that's also great and involves space travel.

You know, I say, and hear this so often: "Great spectacle, visually impressive, but I didn't like what they did to the story / main characters." It seems like, in order to enjoy a film these days, you have to check your brains in at the cinema door, and try hard not to expect anything even vaguely like the book it may be based on.

Johnny Depp is good at what he does, but clearly isn't the right choice for Wonka. I can see why the film execs chose him. They wanted 'a big name star, someone a bit weird, but with whom modern kids can identify - someone who will successfully sell this film to its target audience'. It's criteria like this that drive casting choices, not how well the actor can portray the character described in the book.

(Never mind, maybe those kids who are impressed by Depp's performance in this movie will be inspired to watch 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. That should expand their minds a bit. {chuckle})

Anyhow...film after film seems to turn out a big disappointment in terms of plot and characterisation but we still keep Hollywood in business by going to see those films, don't we? Well, maybe not. I personally have vowed never again to go and see, rent or buy any film for which the screenplay was written by David Benioff. His crime? The screenplay for Troy; I had waited 25 years for someone to do justice to The Illiad on film. Watching that movie ranked amongst the top 10 disappointments of my life. Some good set-piece combats and Peter O'Toole's performance as Priam were its only graces. I don't know, maybe the studio management were to blame, maybe the screenplay got doctored but if that were the case and Benioff had any integrity he'd have asked for his name to be taken off the credits....

Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy was another monster disappointment, an expected one however so that didn't hurt too much.

Why can't these people get it right? All this technology available now, but they screw it up because the marketing people want their hooks for the target audience, the screenplay writer thinks he can do better than the author (in the case of HHGTTG we had someone who wrote the screenplay for Chicken Run thinking he could write funnier dialogue than Douglas Adams), the director wants to stamp his ego all over the thing, and in between all these conflicting forces the story just gets mangled. All we're left with is something vaguely like the original with some neat special effects to distract us from the awfulness of it all.

Having said that, there have been a few good 'spectacular' movies around recently that haven't disappointed - inasmuch as they did 'exactly what it says on the tin'. The Marvel comic adaptations like 'X-Men', 'Spiderman' and 'Fantastic Four' turned out OK - I suspect because Stan Lee keeps an iron grip on artistic control of those movies. (Though 'The Hulk' was a bit screwed up in terms of plot - I know, they wanted to make something more complicated than a film about some big green guy that smashes things - but the end result was messy).

But then I didn't expect too much of those movies anyway.

Maybe when Hollywood-scale CGI becomes affordable by small independents we'll start seeing some real artistic gems that combine spectacle with integrity.

Trouble is, of course, there'll then be loads of filmmaker wannabes flooding the market with rubbish at the same time....as with popular music, there'll be those who think that glitz, technology and some pretty faces can be a substitute for talent. The issue then becomes what actually makes it onto the big screen. If rubbish sells, then rubbish is what will be shown. Again, just like the music industry.

And when someone does make a film that actually adheres (in places) to the source material rather than pandering to the expectations of the masses, what happens?

They say things like:

":I thought the movie was pretty good, but the ending was lame."

":so bacteria killed them? Couldn't they have come up with a better ending than that?"

":there've been too many alien-attacking-earth movies; I think they should try something new for a change."


{/rant off}

I thought HHGttG was a pretty good movie. It wasn't exactly like the book, sure, but the book wasn't exactly like the radio program. Douglas Adams changed stuff from medium to medium because some things worked better in some forms of presentation than in other forms. And I thought the casting was pretty good, except for Trillian, though the choice for Ford seemed a bit odd. But then, Ford was an odd person. The point is, it's a story in Adams' Galaxy, where things don't really need to make much sense, as long as they're funny. After all, isn't that what life is all about?

OK, things that irritated me about the film.....where do I start?

The casting wasn't so bad - though I didn't like Martin Freeman's Arthur Dent at all. Arthur Dent isn't supposed to be spineless - a bewildered englishman struggling to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of a universe vaster and stranger than he'd imagined, yes, but a spineless buffoon? I couldn't see Trillian copping off with that limp rag - that kind of disturbed my 'suspension of disbelief' a bit.

Special effects - yup, great.

The screenplay. Ah. Well, no, it wasn't like the book, or the radio series (which I listened to at the age of 14 on a home-made crystal set) or the tv series, or the vinyl-format LP versions (rare collectors items residing in my LP collection...). No, these things weren't all identical either, but they had something in common that was almost entirely lacking from the film - brilliantly sharp, funny dialogue and humour that relied on unpredictability.

Now, a piece of folklore circulated by the studio management was that the screenplay was written by Douglas Adams, and they've cannily given him a posthumous credit as Executive Producer, but personally I don't believe that Mr Adams would have been proud of this film. Fact is that the screenplay was doctored into oblivion by Karey Kirkpatrick - an awful choice. He wrote the screenplay for Chicken Run; which is a great piece of visual slapstick, but notably lacking in the kind of witty dialogue that was the essence of Hitch-Hikers.

They killed the dialogue based humour by mangling Doug Adams' own jokes, butchering them and in some cases adding their own unfunny punchlines. Here's an example:

The Original:

"I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the Display Department."
"With a torch."
"The lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But you found the plans, didn't you?"
"Oh yes, they were 'on display' in the bottom of a locked filing
cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying
'Beware of the leopard.'"

The Film:

"I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"But you found the plans, didn't you?"

Unnecessary. I wouldn't have minded them chopping chunks of the plot out (Doug Adams plots were always so haywire that it hardly matters) but by butchering the dialogue at the micro-level they destroyed the essence of what made it funny (for me, anyhow).

Instead they replaced it with visual slapstick. Some of which was good - I loved the 'knitted dollies' sequence and Arthur puking string - but mostly it was painfully unfunny and predictable (e.g. the ultimate demise of the scuttling jeweled crab - oh, I didn't expect that!)

They could have had both. If they needed to slim the script down because of time constraints they could have cut out the whole John Malkovitch thing - which was totally unnecessary. (I'm not saying that I didn't like it - but it would have been a worthy sacrifice to preserve some of the original dialogue-based humour that they killed.) They could also have dispensed with the naff hollywood cliché ending. Not sure what would work best as a replacement ending but almost anything else would have been better!

The bit that made me laugh the most in the film was Simon Jones' cameo appearance as the recorded message from Magrathea - and his final quip at the end. The only real belly laugh the film got out of me.

They should have gotten Richard Curtis / Rowan Atkinson / Ben Elton to work on the screenplay for this film - the creative minds behind Black Adder. Black Adder is far more similar to Hitch Hikers' in its humour than Chicken Run. It's virtually all dialogue based.

Don't get me wrong - the visuals were good, but they could have had great visuals and some intelligent dialogue based humour as well.

Oh, one thing about the visuals wasn't so great. The book sequences - which were incredibly naff considering the tech we have available now. They looked like rapidly cobbled-together flash animations.

The BBC tv series 20 years ago had far better book sequence animations. And they were done the old-fashioned way - hand-drawn, frame by frame, onto sheets of acetate. On a tiny budget.

Don't think that I failed to enjoy this film because I've analysed it too much. I'm analysing why I failed to enjoy the film.

If you liked it, that's great for you. I spent most of the duration squirming in my seat in discomfort.

LG, on the whole i agree with you. just want to add two notes:
first, IMO the ook sequences were cartoonish on purpose and stylish.
second, the whole mosquito-swatter-hitting-the-nose sequence was abismal.

zipdrive out

second, the whole mosquito-swatter-hitting-the-nose sequence was abismal.


first, IMO the ook sequences were cartoonish on purpose and stylish.

Well, I appreciate that this is very much a matter of taste. I guess they were stylish in a 'minimalist' sort of way.....

'Minimalist' these days is of course all-too often a euphemism for 'Minimal content / effort / materials, sold at maximum price that idiots with more money than sense can be conned into paying'

Not that I go overboard on kitsch either, I'll hasten to add....style-wise, I actually prefer the 'pared-down' look. As long as I pay a pared-down price as well....


I just thought the book sequences looked a bit amatuerish and thrown together as an afterthought. Maybe they were done like that on purpose, but I'm not sure if the only purpose was to be stylish...that's a whole lot of big screen minutes filled at very little cost there...

Then again, playing devil's advocate against myself, I guess the actual 'book' itself would be designed to be very user-friendly - i.e. dumbed down enough so that some frood smashed out of his head on Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters would still find it just about readable....

I've never seen the movie, but I will say this in defense of the screenplay writer: Faux DNA is a tall order. Only Adams could ever properly write Adams.

On the other hand, it sounds like they didn't try very hard. Myself, I'd have gotten Terry Pratchett to do it.

personally, i find pratchett's humor very inconsistant.
some of his books (like pyramids) or parts thereof make me laugh uncontrollably. Others, however, (i.e. feet of clay) mostly leave me cold, with the occasional giggle.

come to think of it, some of Adams' later books (DTTotS and the later HH books) are also hit and miss in my opinion.

Remember that the staff of the Guide is composed almost entirely of slackers, at least at he start of the series. They'd almost certainly put in only the minimum required effort to get the article done. So it may be seen as a result of laziness more then an attempt at user friendliness.

It doesn't have to be consistent, it just has to be Adams-esque. I've always found Pratchett to be somewhat Adams-esque, at least in his earlier books. The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, particularly.