Friday, May 30, 2008

Ensepulchred within their crozzled hearts


News from what has the potential to be an awesome adaptation of one of the best books of the last decade, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It stars Viggo Mortensen, who's yer basic go-to guy if grizzled intensity is called for . And there's a part for Michael Kenneth Williams, who you might know as the mighty Omar from The Wire. Heavens be praised! Not quite so happy about the idea that there's a "fleshed-out" part for Charlize Theron, who plays the wife. It's being made by the director of The Proposition, which was good but flawed (the voice-overs! The scenery-chewing English villain).

The Road is an absolute classic, a one-sitting read, and there's definitely a cinematic shape to the book — even if it is shockingly bleak. A film version would lose the quasi-biblical rhythm of the prose. On the other hand, the dialogue does a fair amount of the heavy lifting — think the conversation with the blind old man late in the book:

"What if I said that he's a god?" Ely replies: "I hope that's not true what you said because to be on the road with the last god would be a terrible thing so I hope it's not true." Ely suggests that it will be better when everybody has died. "Better for who?" asks the father. For everybody, says Ely, closing the scene with a rather lovely peroration, of the kind that gives this book its clear, deep sound: "When we're all gone at last then there'll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too. He'll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He'll say: where did everybody go? And that's how it will be. What's wrong with that?"

I'm rather less confident that Zak Snyder's going to pull off Watchmen, despite the attention to detail as evinced in his production blog. From a narrative point of view, it's just too nested, too self-recursive, and the ending is not exactly Hollywood gold. That said, 300 was vastly better than I'd been led to believe by critics who unaccountably found a movie of cartoonish slaughter and dubious ethnic stereotypes somehow offensive. Whatevs, Granpa:

Moore described the book as “unfilmable,” not least because of its narrative structure, with flashbacks, supplementary “research” and a comic-within-a-comic that serves to counterpoint events. In an interview with Amazon, Moore recounted his reaction to Terry Gilliam’s abortive 1989 attempt to turn “the War and Peace of graphic novels” into a film: “I had to tell [Gilliam] that I didn’t think it was filmable. I didn’t design it to show off the similarities between cinema and comics, which there are, but in my opinion are fairly unremarkable. It was designed to show off the things that comics could do that literature and cinema couldn’t.” In The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, David Hughes quotes Gibbons making much the same point: “With a comic book the reader can back-track; you can reach page twenty and say, ‘Hey, that’s what that was all about on page three,’ and then nip back and have a look. We wanted to take advantage of that difference… We wanted to make a comic book that read as a straightforward story, but gradually you became aware that it had a symmetrical structure.”

1 comment:

killer bob said...

Yeah,I'm worried about Watchmen too. I can't see how they're going to make it even vaguely relevant. The stills look just like the usual Empire fodder that provides unaccountably excited gush, only for the three star review to follow five weeks later. On second thoughts, it could provide a good counterpoint for the saturated Super Hero genre that we're currently experiencing. But as you say, the film's got to be handled properly in the first place. Comics generally make for disappointing films I reckon: From Hell, V For Vendetta, Akira. Ghost World was pretty good though, as was A History Of Violence. Oh whatever. Here's to hoping we're proved wrong!