Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Better On Celluloid Than On Paper

I haven't seen "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" movie yet - I'm holding out hope that I can figure out which of this weekend's showing times will contain the least number of chatty girls - so I'll have to come back and follow up to this post with an answer to what I'm about to propose.

But I'm proposing right now that, in the end, the Twilight series makes for better movies than books.

Now, hear me out. The first Twilight book is, IMO of course, a wonderful book. I enjoyed it thoroughly, unashamedly, and have no problems admitting I couldn't wait to read the next installment, New Moon. I think the book trumps the first Twilight movie although I also think the movie treated the book fairly as far as interpretations go (if you care, you can see what I thought here).

However, after New Moon the Book, I feel that the third and fourth books took serious nose dives in terms of, well, pretty much every aspect. The plots were forced, the characters unrecognizable, and, at least in Breaking Dawn, the whole premise gone to crap. Within the pages of Eclipse, Bella turned into a whiny, self-centered brat, Edward became not much more than a doormat and Jacob an outright bully, and the whole WTF? love triangle between the three main characters completely diluted the supposedly soul-mate pureness of the Edward/Bella pairing and almost nearly destroyed any ability for me to reread Twilight ever again. I won't even speak of my loathing for the whole Renesmee/imprinting garbage - I couldn't even finish Breaking Dawn.

However, I think that New Moon the Movie did a lot to make the Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle believable. Maybe that's because we weren't subjected to all of the endless goings-on in Bella's mind that we got in Twilight/New Moon the Books about how Edward is/was/ever will be for all eternity the one and only true love of Bella's life. The movie did a better job defining the friendship between Bella and Jacob and creating a foundation on which we might believe that their feelings for each other go deeper. I can believe that Movie Bella is actually conflicted in her choice between Edward and Jacob. Book Bella just came off as looking ungrateful, disloyal, and a first class tease. (FYI, My review of New Moon the Movie is here.)

I'm going out on a limb to say that Eclipse the Movie will only strengthen this viewpoint. Unlike we did in the book, the movie won't require us to slog through page after page of Bella's thoughts about how much she loves Edward-and-only-Edward only to then completely negate all of that when, oops, all of the sudden she thinks maybe she could be in love with Jacob after all. Instead we'll see her interacting with Edward and interacting with Jacob and, wow, two hunky guys, what girl wouldn't be a bit confused?

Like I said, I owe myself a follow-up to this post. But I propose that when it's all said and done, the four Twilight films will at least present characters who remain consistent and a plot that flows somewhat believably. As it is now, I've decided to pretend that Eclipse and Breaking Dawn the books were never written. The fact that I couldn't even finish Breaking Dawn the Book yet I do look forward to the Breaking Dawn the Movies speaks volumes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What, No Red-Blonde Actresses In All the Land?

After finding an old-school cover edition of The Thorn Birds at Costco, I've been rereading this epic novel over the past few days. I absolutely love Colleen McCullough's voice and writing style: the story goes down like a smooth, creamy milkshake.

I remember watching the mini-series starring Rachel Ward and Richard Chamberlain. I don't recall if I first read the book, then watched the mini-series or vice versa back in the day. I do know that having watched the mini-series is seriously affecting my current re-reading of the book because I cannot get out of my head the images of the two actors playing Meggie and Fthr. Ralph. As pretty as Rachel is and as handsome as Richard was in his younger days, neither actor fits the description from the book, and it's very distracting for me.

Father Ralph de Bricassart is described as an incredibly beautiful man. This handsomeness is a great source of most of his misery since it incites in Mary Carson a lust so overwhelming that she becomes the world's most evil spurned-woman when he turns down her advances. No matter to her that he's a priest or that he's forty some odd years younger than she is. She wants the dude and his refusal to accept her invitation into her bed results in some major life-long suffering on his part.

[Sidebar to say that Mary Carson's lust for the much younger Fthr. Ralph is a serious Eeew! moment in the book, only slightly more creepy than the fact that Fthr. Ralph ultimately ends up falling in love with the girl he meets when she's only nine and he's in his late twenties. For crying out loud, the man explains menstruation to the girl and then ends up sleeping with her. Still, it's a great story!]

Now, Richard Chamberlain was definitely no slag in his youth. His head is a bit over-large, and his eyes are so widely spread I find it distracting, but he's a nice-enough looking guy. Even so, I simply can't make the connect between the actor playing Ralph and his description from the actual book:
In all her life [Mary Carson] could not remember seeing a better-looking man, nor one who used his beauty in quite the same way. He had to be aware of how he looked: the height and the perfect proportions of his body, the fine aristocratic features, the way every physical element had been put together with a degree of care about the appearance of the finished product God lavished on few of His creations. From the loose black curls of his head and the startling blue of his eyes to the small, slender hands and feet, he was perfect.
Where are the loose black curls? Rich's hair is most definitely brown with not so much as a wave much less a curl. Sure, the eyes are blue. But I don't see in this face the pure beauty that Fthr. Ralph is supposed to possess. Rich's handsomeness is more of the rugged, manly type rather than a slender, aristocratic beauty.

As for Meggie, Rachel Ward and Sydney Penny (who plays Meggie as a child) are certainly attractive in their own right. But they don't even come close to matching the description we get of Meggie from Fthr. Raph's POV:

The sweetest, the most-adorable little girl he had ever seen; hair of a color which defies description, not red and not gold, a perfect fusion of both. And looking up at him with silver-grey eyes of such a lambent purity, like melted jewels.

Rachel Ward's hair is at best auburn. Sydney's isn't even on the same planet as "red-gold". Both actresses have chocolate-brown eyes. I do give the casting directors credit for finding a child-actress that looks as if she might one day look like the grown-up actress, but that's all the points they get. I just find it hard to believe they couldn't find a single pair of strawberry-blonde, grey-eyed actresses in all of the land to play the child and adult Meggie, or at the very least, ones who had light eyes rather than dark brown.

Now, I'm not stupid. I know that ever since the first brilliant flash of inspiration that led whomever to realize books could be made into movies (or mini-series) that there have been actors and actresses who've deviated completely from their literary counterparts as far as appearances go. Heck, even romance novel book covers get it wrong a lot of the time when it comes to hair and/or eye color. But it's rare that something like this affects me when I read the story. Usually I tune out any external influences and let my imagination fill in the blanks using the written descriptions as a starting point.

For some reason, I simply cannot stop picturing Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward as I'm reading this book. This time, I guess the mini-series trumps the original.