All for one, and one for all

I was in high school when I learned not to get excited about film adaptations of classic (or any kind, really) literary works. Francis Ford Coppola was releasing “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” and it was supposedly going to be oh-so-faithful to the book.  So, all excited, I read the book. It’s now one of my favorites, but the movie … no. It was a mess, and really, not tremendously faithful at all. I tend to call it “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula” for all that Bram Stoker really had to do with it.

My point is that I don’t expect a whole lot when it comes to films made out of books. And sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised, but for the most part, I don’t feel that adapting literature is something Hollywood does particularly well. They’re too busy injecting their own vision, or something, to really get the feel right. In some cases, supposedly they don’t even read the book they’re adapting! And another thing…

What’s with the constant, never-ending flow of remakes? Seriously, people? There have simply got to be tons of new and interesting concepts floating around out there without the need to remake stuff – especially if the original is pretty much perfect (see: My Fair Lady, but that’s a rant for another time).

And so, if we combine these two concepts; literary adaptations and remakes, what do we get? We get a rant. Ready? Here we go.

The object of today’s ire is this. Oh boy. Where to begin?

  1. The usual remake argument. Do we really need another Three Musketeers movie? There have been half a dozen over the years, including the 1993 Disney version, which I am forced to admit I love, despite its anachronistic humor. I just don’t get why we need to keep making the same stories over and over again. Sure, they’re great stories … but there are more out there. Aren’t there?
  2. Paul W.S. Anderson.  I will admit that I have not seen any of Mr. Anderson’s oeuvre, because I don’t really do video game/zombie flicks. Oh wait, correction: I have, in fact, seen two Anderson-directed films: Event Horizon (creepy space horror) and Mortal Kombat (video game, no zombies). Neither of these were great movies, and nothing on this man’s resume leads me to believe he would make a good “period” film. Which leads me to point the third…
  3. Period vs. modernized vs. combination? Argh. If I don’t really want to see another Three Musketeers movie, what I really, REALLY don’t want to see is one that is somehow taken out of its appropriate place and time. Now, I don’t necessarily think that is the case here (it’s all too historically significant) but isn’t the biggest reason directors like to rehash things their own, unique “vision”? So what is Mr. Anderson’s vision for Porthos, Athos, and Aramis? God help me, if they’re fighting zombies…
  4. Casting (ish). My complaints here are sort of minor, in that I don’t take issue with any one person cast. The reason for that, however, is that for the most part, I haven’t heard of about half of them, and the other half are not exactly big names. Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, Robin Hood) in a period flick? Fine. Orlando Bloom? If you must. Christoph Waltz as Richelieu? Interesting, slightly amusing, but acceptable, if he’s as good as people say he is. Mads Mikkelsen as Rochefort is also intriguing, although I don’t envy anyone forced to follow up the divine Michael Wincott (from the ’93 film). And Milla Jovovich I don’t even feel the need to mention. But the rest of them are a bunch of no-names. I am all for new blood, and I am not a fan of casting someone A-List but ill-suited just to put butts in the seats. But with something like this, which somebody doubtless assumes will be a blockbuster, you need actors that people are going to want to come see. And this list isn’t it.

Ultimately, I just don’t see WHY. I accept that this could turn out to be a good film. I’m no Hollywood insider or producer, so what do I know? I am, however, a moderately discerning movie-goer, and based on the information I have currently, I don’t have a good sense about this one. The more recent titles that spring to mind in comparison to this are The Count of Monte Christo (2002, utterly dreadful), and The Musketeer (2001, also horrible, I’ve heard).  The Count of Monte Christo garnered a shocking (to me) 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but only made $54 mil at the box office, while The Musketeer had a 10% rating and only made $26 mil. Both period pieces, more or less adaptations, with no really big names in the cast. Hmm. I think I rest my case.

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5 responses to “All for one, and one for all

  1. Great rant there, Sam, and some great points to consider. I’m not familiar with the director at all, never seen anything he did. Now that alone doesn’t bother me, but I agree with point #3, of all the potential book-to-movies materials out there, is it REALLY necessary to go with this one, AGAIN? The cast could use one or two big names, though I still might watch it for Christoph and Mads, they make up for having Bloom in there.

    I do have to take offense about Monte Cristo though, we talked about this before when I posted a scene from there. I LOVE that movie, and the RT rating is justified. I think the low B.O. take was due to the fact that nobody knew who Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce were (what a shame!) Anyway, the one Musketeer-themed story I did like was The Man in The Iron Mask: http://flixchatter.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/friday-guilty-pleasure-flix-man-in-the-iron-mask where Porthos, Athos, and Aramis were played by Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons… not to mention the great Gabriel Byrne as d’Artagnan! They might not be movie stars, but that’s what Leo is there for.

  2. Hey, RTM – I knew you wouldn’t like my take on Monte Christo. However, I am a MASSIVE fan of the book, and even with my realism firmly in check, I thought that movie was absolutely horrible, with no redeeming features whatsoever. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree. 🙂 I can get behind love for The Man in the Iron Mask, though … that’s another fun one. Not a fan of Leo, so everyone else made up for him – especially Gabriel Byrne!!

    • No redeeming features?? Not even the hot air baloon scene? [Grumble, grumble] 🙂 Ok fine, I guess I’ll just take your suggestion, agree to disagree.

      I’m not a Leo fan either, but all the supporting cast made up for him. YES, especially the elegant Mr. Byrne. He really stole the show for me!

  3. I wouldn’t mind a new version of the Three Muskateers if someone would do a (GOOD) adaptation of Steven Brusts book THE PHOENIX GUARDS.

  4. The Musketeer was, indeed, horrible. We still refer to it as Crouching Musketeer, Hidden Plot. Let’s hope this doesn’t go the same direction.

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