All posts in Read or Watch?

Read or Watch? The Killing Joke

Because this is already such a large post, I will give it a simple introduction. Ladies and gentleman… it is my pleasure to write a Read or Watch post on one of the most iconic Batman stories ever written: The Killing Joke. Read more…

Read or Watch? Outlander

I cannot express how excited I am to be writing this ‘Read or Watch’ post because it is something that I have been waiting to do for years: should one read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, or watch Outlander, the television series? SQUEEEEEEE!!! 😀

Read more…

Read or Watch? The Hunger Games

This young adult sensation was recently released as a movie starring Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Jennifer Lawrence. What could be a better incentive to dive into the series written by Suzanne Collins? It is a series, by all accounts, which has been raved about since it’s first publication date. So the question is, do you read it, or watch it? Read more…

Read or Watch? Let Me In / Let the Right One In

This Read or Watch is going to be interesting because it involves more than just one adaptation of a novel: in this case I will be reviewing and deciding between 1 novel and 2 movie adaptations. This time, I will be looking at the vampire, coming of age story told under two titles: Let Me In and Let the Right One In. I hope, in this post, I will finally be able to give a definitive answer to the question of whether to read the novel or watch one OR both of the movies.

Låt den rätte komma in (Translated into Let the Right One In or Let Me In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

½

Oskar is a 12-year-old boy that is brutally bullied at school; in order to deal with this, he develops a strange fascination with the murders that occur in his city and region. During one of his forays outside with his knife, Oskar meets Eli, a girl that seems odd. She is pale, lank, smells funny, and has never heard of a Rubik’s cube, but can solve it.

What follows in the remaining 400 pages is a unique representation of the ever-popular vampire lore. Lindqvist mirrors the life of a young vampire with that of being a bullied adolescent. It is not a pretty novel, it is very dark and dreary and it touches on subjects that are a little difficult to stomach, especially when described in great detail: murder, pedophilia, castration and bullying.

If you are looking for a vampire novel with even a smidgen of cheer (maybe a little sunshine) you are not going to find it in this piece. Lindqvist details the dark dredges of humanity and he does it well; my brow was furrowed in constant consternation and disgust while reading this novel. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it; I have to say, that from all of the vampire pieces that I have either read or watched, this one is a very good addition to any vampire lover’s repertoire.

The vampire tale is very limited, and Lindqvist does a great job of giving very little blood, guts and gore (what is generally seen in vampire stories). Instead he tells a story about humans, specifically their survival. Oskar is surviving the beatings, teasing and humiliation that he faces on a regular basis; instead of standing out as an outcast, he would simply love to blend in and disappear. Eli is surviving her curse; the vampire lore here is not glorified, it is not sexy, it is a curse and a burden. In her way, she is trying to survive by a method that is seen as an abomination to the rest of the world. Like Oskar, I’m sure that Eli would simply want to disappear and blend in. This is why when they meet, the connection is instant.

The novel is long, and a little bit slow, but it is worth the read. As a fan of the vampire lore, I have to say that this was a pleasant surprise, since I very rarely like anything made with vampires (movies or books). Along with the horror and coming of age tale, there is a little bit of mystery and love story mixed in as well. Lindqvist has merged many genres and made them each an equally essential part of a story; take one part of the tale out and there will certainly be something lacking. It all blended into a very influential portrayal of human darkness and survival.

Bram Stoker may have written the first piece on vampires, creating the ever-lasting Dracula, but Lindqvist has created an equally important piece of literature; he has created a vampire tale that people can connect with and will remember long after the last page has been read.

Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson

½

This first film adaptation was made in Sweden; it received numerous awards and critical acclaim. It is still listed on peoples’ Top Ten Lists for horror movies. Lindqvist, himself, wrote the screenplay for the movie. This why I hate to be the black sheep for reviews, but I did not enjoy this movie.

The acting, in particular Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson (Elif Ceylan, voice) as Eli were amazing. The cinematography was beautiful and the graphics used were realistic to a point that I have yet to see in other films.

I was 200 pages into the novel when I decided to pop this movie in with a couple of friends. Here is my main problem: the continuity of the story. From reading the book I can understand that not everything can (1) translate well into the feature film, (2) be included because of length restraints on the film (3) simply cannot be included in a feature that is avoiding an NC-17 rating or cannot be included because of what is deemed as appropriate material to view. Let the Right One In faced a lot of these problems as the novel talks, in detail, about pedophilia, murder and castration (which included the discussion on Eli being androgynous). A lot of this material is simply not meant to be viewed for entertainment purposes and as such, needed to be cut out. A lot of major scenes from the novel (ie. Hakan’s attempts to find Eli blood) were included, but the movie was basically focused on the relationship between the two children. This would have been fine, if those scenes were more tied together. It seemed like those scenes were simply taken out of the book, written to be screenplay material and pasted together; there was nothing linking the scenes together. My friends were relying on me to help explain what was happening, because I was reading the novel, and I was having a hard time. I simply couldn’t follow it.

There was also one scene in particular, in which the back story (that is present in the novel) is taken out of the movie. It is a brief scene of Eli changing and a flash of a suggestive scar. Without this back story it is simply a flash of missing genitalia and as such, leaves one feeling sick to the stomach, confused and reeling. The novel’s explanation for this does not make the scene more desirable, but it lets the audience know why they have to see it.

I wish I could agree with everyone else regarding this movie; the acting and cinematography were simply stunning, but there was too much working against it. A lack of fluidity and missing back story for crucial parts left my friends and I confused and feeling sick to the stomach.

Let Me In directed by Matt Reeves

This adaptation is pretty much a mixture of the novel and the first movie; what’s different are the character’s names (Eli and Oskar become Abby and Owen). For many, and for this reason, the movie is viewed as an unneeded adaptation. After watching the first movie I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to watch this one; I was even tempted to stop reading the novel, but I believe it was Kodi Smit-McPhee that drew me (remember him from The Road).

I will mention one aspect of the film that truly resonated with me: the bullying. Watching Kodi Smit-McPhee scream for the other boys to leave him alone and stop at the end of the movie was truly the most terrifying part of the movie. If anything, Smit-McPhee can expertly portray the great range of emotion that his character required.

Although the movie was more fluid and easier to follow than its predecessor, it was still lacking. Maybe it was too slow or maybe it was the fact that Lindqvist story, because so much has to be cut out, does not translate well into film, but I also was not too impressed with this version either. I did enjoy it more than the original and slightly less than the book, but to me, a true translation of Lindqvist’s tale has yet to occur.

Read or Watch?

Well, finally, I can provide a definite answer. Reading this, I am sure you have already figured out what I am going to say: read the book! The movies have their good points, but there is so much detail in Lindqvist’s book that it is a guarantee that you will miss something if you only watch the movies. Both movies were really well received, but I did not enjoy them. The book was tedious, dark and depressing, but the overall tale of survival mixed with the vampire lore, make Låt den rätte komma in a very proud member of my vampire novel collection; one that I actually enjoyed!

Read or Watch? The King’s Speech

It is very rare that someone can connect with a member of the royal family. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Tudor period, but can I really connect with King Henry VIII or, maybe, a few of his six wives? The answer: no. Despite loving the historical period, I cannot connect with those that lived and ruled during it, I can simply enjoy reading about them. My love for history has exposed me to numerous, random periods and continues to do so; most recently, I have found a time frame that not only is now a favourite of mine to learn about, but one in which I find myself connecting with; this period is that of the life of the third monarch in the House of Windsor, King George VI.

In this Read or Watch, the decision revolves around The King’s Speech, the film; or The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy, the historical novel.

The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter

A man steps up to a microphone at Wimbledon; as a hush falls over the crowd waiting for the important speech, all we hear is silence. The man is incapable of speaking. The microphone carries the sound of his swallowing; of his throat constricting over the words that cannot be released; of the clicking of his tongue as it gets trapped and moves off of his teeth; and your heart breaks.

This was the Duke of York (soon to be King George VI) and despite the fact that the monarchy’s role had recently evolved into a role filled with public speaking, the Duke was unable to perform that duty; he suffered from a speech impediment, more specifically, a stammer. This impediment, understandably created a fear of the microphone, the very device he was to speak into.

The story of The King’s Speech is extremely touching; for the first time, in all the movies I have seen, I believe the accolades given to this movie. It has far surpassed its well-earned five stars. It is hard to describe, and possibly even harder as a reader to believe, but this movie was perfect. It was funny, heartbreaking, inspiring and deeply touching. All aspects of the movie were beautifully handled, but the main aspect worth talking about is the acting; Geoffrey Rush as the eccentric Lionel Logue was funny when he needed to be, odd when he needed to be, but most importantly, he was humbling; Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth (who would later be known as the Queen Mother) was absolutely delightful, and it was gratifying to see her in a role that was more refined than weird. All other actors involved in the film, including Guy Pierce as Edward, George’s older brother, were brilliant, but the true standing ovation goes to the king himself, Colin Firth.

In the role of King George VI, Colin Firth proves that acting is not simply the act of repeating lines; it is a study of mind, body and soul. Every part of that man’s body was involved in his representation of the man that was known as Bertie to his close friends and family. I was awe-inspired not only by his job at playing the role, but by the use of muscles that he must have worked very hard in learning how to manipulate; I watched Colin Firth’s throat work over the words, as much as I watched him play the King of England.

It was truly a spectacular and inspiring movie.

The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy written by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

Written by one of Lionel Logue’s grandchildren, The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy is the historical accounts of the self-proclaimed speech therapist from Australia and King George VI. I will say that I was truly impressed with this piece of historical literature; many of these books become bogged down with the facts, losing the feeling behind the words. They can become tedious and take great efforts to read. This was not the case with The King’s Speech, in fact, it was a very touching and personal read; I believe that the fact that Mark Logue had a hand in it, put a little more personal feeling into the words; after all, he was writing about family.

In this work, the reader learns a lot more about Lionel and his family and the childhood and struggles of King George VI. What the movie was not able to include because of time constraints, the literature fills in. We learn about the true impact of his stammer and the treatment he received from others because of it; we learn about the seemingly unorthodox beliefs of Lionel Logue in curing stammering, a belief that could have been one of the main reasons for King George’s miraculous improvement in speech.

More importantly, the reader learns about the true nature of ‘Bertie’ and Lionel’s friendship. Letter’s, birthday presents, shared Christmas dinner, and daily visits, Lionel and King George’s relationship was more than simply that of a patient and doctor, it was one of mutual respect and love.

It isn’t very often that I get choked up over history, yes a good historical movie or television show may cause me to shed a few tears, but never with historical literature. The King’s Speech, because of the feeling and truth Mark Logue included in the piece, made me cry at the end. I was simply touched and inspired. It is a beautiful story, one that the Logue family should continue to tell. It is truly a story of human strength, perseverance, kindness and love.

Read or Watch?

Once again I cannot give you an either/or answer; unlike the other blogs under this theme, I’m not going to tell you that you should read the novel or watch the movie, I’m going to tell you to do both! What the movie doesn’t show, the novel will fill in; the people that the novel try to make real again, the movie will help with. Either way, they are both five star works, the movie made me want to read the book and the book made me want to watch the movie again; to me, that is a perfect combination.

Read or Watch? How to Train Your Dragon

The Novel

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III finds himself in a predicament. Either pass the Viking Hero Initiation or become an exile for life. The problem? Known as Hiccup the Useless by the other young boys in the initiation, he’s not seen as a very heroic individual, nor does he feel like one. Oh yeah, and his father is Chief of the Hairy Hooligans and his name is Stoick the Vast.

The first step of the initiation, as the title of the novel suggests, is for Hiccup to find himself a dragon and train it for the events during Thors’day Thursday. Hiccup feels great upon leaving the Dragon’s Den, he feels like he has found a dragon that is HIS. There is a connection; until he opens the pack, to find Toothless, the tiniest dragon that a Viking has ever seen.

What follows are Hiccup’s and Toothless’ adventures in training and battling the Green Death. The reader, child or adult, follows the trials and tribulations of Hiccup as he faces the fact that he might forever be known as Hiccup the Useless and that he might never live up to being the son of the great Stoick the Vast.

Fart jokes, nose picking and snot are aplenty in the work, but then it is a work for a very young audience. Get past that part of the novel and you will see a story with not only a great concept and characters for children and adult alike, but also a great story and moral.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell is not only a great and fast adventure; it is also a great tale of compassion and understanding. Whether it be focused towards another individual, another creature or even further to another eco-system, the message is simple but deep: practice a little bit of compassion and understanding towards another person or thing and you will come out with a greater bond. Don’t simply ‘yell at it’ to get what you want, because in the end, when you most need a shoulder to lean on, it won’t be there.

The adventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and Toothless might have been written for children and sit on the shelves of the children section in the book store, but they are just as much geared towards adults in its message.

The Movie

This is essentially the quintessential story of a boy and his dog … only … its his … dragon. Many people might think that they can then find better Dog/Boy stories, but I actually think the DreamWorks team have created something special and great! It was a touching, action-packed, funny story that will definitely be entertaining for both children and adults; actually most of the audience that I have seen in my two viewings of the movie were adults!

Because I have seen it in both 2D and 3D, I can comment on that. Watching it in 2D, you might not be able to see anywhere specific in the movie that would be a spectacular 3D scene, maybe the flight scenes, but other than that there is nothing blatantly obvious as being a good 3D scene. (Some movies, watched in 2D have these types of scenes; in particular, if you see Clash of the Titans, the coin skipping across the water towards the screen is a blatant try at putting a 3D scene into a movie). Other times, and most often, the 3D in movies these days just adds a depth to the screen that really isn’t all that exciting. ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ in 2D is a great movie. The flight scenes are breathtaking, the action scenes are tense and the interaction between Hiccup and Toothless are so very cute and touching. Put that in 3D and the makers have created something spectacular. There are some amazing scenes (obviously the flight scenes). One in particular comes to mind: when Toothless and Hiccup first meet, and Toothless’ face encompasses the entire screen. That in 2D is pretty tense; put it in 3D and it’s absolutely nerve-wrecking! So for once, I was impressed with the 3D and I hope future movies take a look at this movie and base their 3D off of it. No more making 3D movies because we can; MAKE it 3D! Use the media to the best of the movie! This movie did that!

Speaking of Toothless; he was just the most fierce, CUTEST creature I have ever seen! I couldn’t help but fall in love with Toothless! Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) was hilarious! Baruchel’s voice was absolutely perfect for the character, making him the awkward hero of the movie. His lines, maybe because they were delivered in his blase, sarcastic tone, were hilarious and touching when needed. Craig Ferguson, playing Gobber, was brilliant as the weird, goofball viking. You cannot put Ferguson in a movie, without him doing 110% and making a great character! Gerard Butler (Stoick the Vast) was in his teeth-nashing element, belting out his lines in his deep, scratchy brogue, while he beat up some dragons. Like Ferguson, he gave 110% and it definitely showed. And Gobber and Stoick together (as with what happens when you put Butler and Ferguson together) is absolutely hilarious!

All round, everything worked. Even the music for the movie added to the scenes. The score, done by John Powell, is breathtaking! I loved it so much, that I bought the score immediately after seeing the movie for the first time!

If there is one movie to see this year, so far, it is How to Train Your Dragon. It was great on all levels!

To Read or Watch?

My second ‘Read or Watch?’ and it is going to be just as inconclusive as the first. This time for different reasons. How to Train Your Dragon the novel and How to Train Your Dragon the movie are very different stories. The characters are the same (with slight changes to Toothless the dragon) and the ideas of the works were similar, but they were very different from each other. Where the movie shows a clan of Vikings that kill and battle the dragon species, the novel portrays a clan that uses dragons as aids in their daily living. Hiccup still brings forward an unheard of notion to his people but they reach that conclusion through different avenues. Both are great works, but they are great works separate from each other. You will get the same message of compassion and acceptance, but from two different adventures.

In this case, I recommend that you read the novel and watch the movie. Both were very good. Whichever order you choose does not matter. If you’ve read the novel and love it, don’t watch the movie expecting an accurate representation and vice versa if you’ve seen the movie first. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love these stories and highly recommend them but keep in mind that the novel and movie, although similar, are very different.

Read or Watch? The Road

The Novel

“Freeze this frame. Now call down your dark and your cold and be damned.” (19) Reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a journey into the dark recesses of his mind. It is a dark and dreary read; yet it is uplifting and inspiring. It portrays, unapologetically, the darkest and most destructive that humans can become; by examining the father/son relationship, The Road also becomes a tale of tenderness and the level of good that people have within themselves. It is an ‘every man for himself’ story, but it is also a representation of the bonds that men form when in their hours of need. It is complex yet simple. McCarthy leaves no stone unturned in his examination of human behaviour when facing total devastation.

In his post-apocalyptic novel, the reader is thrown into a world burnt and completely devastated. There is little to no information as to what caused the destruction and what is learned, is done so through the eyes of the man and his son, making their way to the coast. The readers learn when they learn. We don’t know much about the two main characters, not even their names, but throughout their journey, McCarthy creates a bond that carries on even after the novel is finished. The imagery is disturbing and heart wrenching. McCarthy displays the darkness in people that we, as readers, don’t want to believe is possible but know it is. Murder, kidnapping and cannibalism are only a few of the actions that the main characters run into as the author delivers his examination into the ultimate destructiveness that  humans are capable of. Even though the novel, at best, is dreary, you are still going to come out of reading it, inspired. Because even though every one of us has the capability to become destructive, we all have the ability to save and protect as well. The bonds and love that we share with other people create in us a tenderness that not even a world like McCarthy’s can tear apart.

Besides the story of post-apocalyptic hell that McCarthy presents, the most noticeable aspect of this story is the writing technique. I rarely mention the writing of novels in reviews, unless it is absolutely necessary. Simply flipping this novel open to the first page will show why I must mention it. With little concern for sentence structure and grammar, McCarthy tells his story through short paragraphs. There are no chapters; it is a continuous tale with zero breaks. The only other novel that I have read using a similar format was Vox by Nicholson Baker. While Vox was presented as a sort of transcript, The Road is organized in flashes of activity. It is almost like the reader is blinking their eyes to find themselves looking in on a new part of the adventure. While it is disjointed, it is also continuous and fluid. This is why the writing must be commented on: I don’t think any other writer could have done this as well as McCarthy did. For all intents and purposes, this sort of format and treatment of grammar and sentence structure should not work; but it does. The Road is depressing yet inspiring; disjointed yet fluid; terrifying yet beautiful; and complex yet simple. McCarthy has written a story of opposites playing tug-of-war with each other and, in doing so, has created a fascinating story and examination of mankind at its worst.

Overall, I would recommend this novel to anybody who likes to read. I am still astounded by how simple the novel reads, even though it is extremely complex. The characters, probably the least detailed I have ever run into in my reading career, will most likely stay with me for a long time after.  And even though The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale of a world destroyed, the reader is left with a sense of hope.

The Movie

Translating Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name into film seemed to me like a large endeavour. There was so much underlying meaning in the novel, that it seemed like it would be a difficult translation into film. I had heard, also, that they did their best to keep it as close to the original work as possible. After finishing the novel and having bought the movie before viewing it, I didn’t really know what to expect.

Was it close to the novel? Except for maybe two points in the film, where the directors had to take some liberties, yes, the movie was almost like reading the work. You could recognize lines and exact scenes that had been translated. But here is where a problem arose, to me at least. I do get upset when I’m watching a movie that has been adapted from a novel I love, and the directors and team have taken so many liberties that the book is lost by the wayside. That’s upsetting, and I’m sure that everybody has run into at least one of these movies. But some novels simply do not translate well into film and as such, liberties must be taken. With regards to the dialogue between the father and the son in the novel, it worked. For whatever reason, it seemed to work, even though it was stilted conversation. Placing that directly into the film seemed awkward, and it was at points between the actors. Yes, there were a few additions created to make the dialogue more engaging for an audience; there were also a few parts where the actors did amazing jobs with the lines taken straight from McCarthy’s work (case in point: near the end, when the father says that the boy isn’t the one that needs to worry about everything and the boy fires back ‘yes I am! I am the one!’ The actor belted this out with so much emotion that it almost made me cry.) Overall though, I would have to say that the most awkward parts to the movie involved the dialogue and part of that was because a lot of it was taken straight from the book and placed into the film.

The rest of the movie was very well done. It was bleak and dreary; the sets, locations and computer effects were almost too believable. The acting was amazing (except for a few lines) but the show was definitely stolen by Robert Duvall, playing ‘Ely’ and the boy, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Overall, it was very close to the novel and I give the people behind that great respect; but even though it was a very good adaptation, it was very fast tracked. There aren’t a lot of parts, like in the book, where they are simply walking. The movie kind of throws you into the ‘exciting’ parts of the story and it moves quickly through them, sometimes too quickly. I say this because, in the end, you don’t really walk away with a sense of hope and you don’t really get immersed in the emotions that were present in the novel. They were there of course, but they weren’t as strong. There was enough there to make me tear up at the end, but I think if some of the ‘slower’ parts were added as well, more emotion would have been created. It would have been a much longer movie, but the audience would have experienced the same depth of tragedy and hope that reading McCarthy’s novel allowed.

Read or Watch?

Since this is the first of this post theme, I wish I could have started the series off with a more definitive decision. But I can’t. McCarthy’s novel, The Road, and the film adaptation of the same name are so much a like that I feel you can get away with either.

This does not mean that I don’t prefer the novel. You are still going to miss out on a lot if you simply watch the movie. The layers of emotion present in the novel are only partially there in the film; like I said in the review, you aren’t going to get the same depth of tragedy and hope that you will from reading the work.

If I could convince you to read the novel first I would, but if you were the type of person that simply does not enjoy the act of reading, then I would recommend the movie. This is something that I can’t usually say, but for The Road, both film and novel were close enough that they both portrayed McCarthy’s tale of tragedy, hope, family, disaster and destruction.

This will most likely be the only time I can do this but here we go: Don’t like to read? Go ahead! Watch the movie!