Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Aiming for the Stars

As a Neil Gaiman fan, I totally experienced what it must have felt to be a Harry Potter reader at a screening of Order of the Phoenix. Stardust was entertaining enough, but I was taken completely out of the story every time I noticed that they awkwardly changed the novel to fit in over-explanation, cut out explanation, or force character development and chemistry. I also noticed that they inserted a re-shot Michelle Pfeiffer looking younger than she was in the previous *and* following scene. Talk about sloppy editing.

As for the actors, Ricky Gervais' only-in-the-film character was pretty much pointless. Robert DeNiro hilariously toed the line between Macho-Arrrrggh-Pirate and Tranny-Pouf even if his character in the book was probably expanded simply because he's Robert DeNiro. Or very possibly, the screenwriter felt that she needed some device to force Tristran into manhood and Yvaine into aquiescing femininity. Michelle Pfeiffer was brilliant, but that goes without saying as hundreds of other critics have already inundated her performance with praise.

Claire Danes was FANTASTIC as Yvaine. So many critics disliked the choice of Danes for the role, suggesting she was reprising her character of Angela from "My So-Called Life" due to the amount of angst. However, I think that Danes' ability to channel teen angst was WHY she was so perfect! The original character from the novel was every bit as snarky and whiny (but humorously and loveably so), after all.

My biggest gripe about the film was that it seemed as if so many aspects of it underestimated the audience's intelligence and therefore tended to overexplain itself. The ending was changed so that it'd be "happier", even though I did prefer the bittersweetness of the original. Some of the more explicit scenes were censored, and they arbitrarily inserted a sex scene between Tristran and Yvaine. The device of making Yvaine "glow" when she was happy was inelegantly timed at points so that it distractingly fumbled some delicate emotional scenes that the actors themselves could have pulled off fine without it.

It wasn't a bad film by any means, don't get me wrong. Some of the changes and takes on the original novel were highly amusing, after all -- the aforementioned flamboyantly hairdressing DeNiro and Pfeiffer's comically-timed struggle with sagging body parts being among them. Not to mention a personal favorite, that Sienna Miller's naively provincial insistence that traveling all the way to Ipswich was a big deal. Perhaps I simply need to re-view it and take it in as a standalone movie rather than keeping a mental tab of comparisons.

* Alice



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