September 10, 2010

A Hasty Confession

So, after all the hoopla of introducing myself and writing down the rules, I should probably confess to the wee little itty-bitty infractions that I've already been guilty of.

Just after I began this whole wacky project, Douglas Coupland released his latest novel, Generation A. Now, there are a few authors who are absolute heroes of mine, and before I die I'm going to read everything that they've ever written (Hmm ... idea for future blog post: discuss who these authors are, and why). And Douglas Coupland is absolutely one of them. So the instant the store had his new book, then I had to have it to. Even then, I might have stood strong, except one of my managers at The Avenue Bookstore, knowing I'm a Coupland fan, organised with our Random House rep to get me a free copy. She'd either forgotten about my pact, or else she's got a nasty streak I wasn't aware of.

It wasn't too much of a cheat, though: I was nearly at the end of a batch of ten books, so I just jumped the gun a bit on my new acquisition.

A far more egregious breach of the rules came more recently. Like, last week-type recently.

When I was a teenager I devoured the entire Tomorrow, When the War Began series. I was the right age, they hit me at the right time, and - for teen fiction - I thought they were pretty bloody good. I read a fair bit of bad teen fiction back in the day (though I suspect it's a section of the market that has matured a lot since then), so the good stuff was like a desert island to a drowning man.

With the movie coming out, and the trailer making it seem like it would be a steaming pile of shit (seriously, watch it online. It's ridiculous, right down to the whole 'guy diving away from an explosion in slow motion' cliche), I thought I should revisit the books before I saw it.

Not seeing it at all was, of course, never an option I remotely considered.

I'd intended only to read the first three books, which were always my favourites, but they blew me away all over again and I ended up scything through the whole series of seven in about five days. Whether it's that they really are great books or that I was reading through rose-tinted glasses, I couldn't say. What I can say is that it got me crying a couple of times, and I'm not much of a weeper. Books and movies can often get me blinking back tears, to the point that it's my fallback line when I want to suggest 'emotionality' in my writing ... and my writing partners mercilessly mock me for it. But to actually get those salty bastards out of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks? Not easy.

And the movie? Actually, it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Most of the action was well-staged (a personal beef of mine is the utterly inept way that most contemporary action movies are filmed) and the actors did what they could to breathe life into the characters.

My main issue was that, when in doubt, it always reached for the easy answer, the cliche, the 'done' thing. A character who, in the books, smokes pot, writes poetry and is quiet and introspective gets turned by the movie into a comic-relief 'stoner', lighting up joints at inappropriate times and saying 'dude' a lot.

In the books they decide not to carry guns with them, in the hope that, if caught, they'll be incarcerated rather than executed. It makes perfect sense. In the movie, one guy's wandering around with a rocket launcher slung over his back. A fucking rocket launcher! A) Where'd he get it? B) Who taught him to use it? C) A fucking rocket launcher?

It's that kind of movie. I think Stuart Beattie, the writer-director, either didn't trust his actors enough to play any sort of complexity in their characters, or he didn't trust his audience to understand it. I know a film needs to be adapted from a book, and that of course some things will get lost along the way, but interesting characters should never have to be one of them.

Cheers, JC.

currently reading: City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer
books to go: 125

1 comment:

  1. I remember sobbing while the dawn broke as I stayed up reading all night to finish the last "Tomorrow' book. I'm a little nervous to watch the movie. It has 'Neighbours' actors in it. I mean, really!