Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Martian - Book vs. Movie

I came, I conquered, I finally belatedly watched The Martian! I've been ill so it seemed like a good time. Also, exams are coming and who wants to study?

Mars is the prettiest part about this film (especially since the
CGI isn't all that amazing)
The Martian (directed by Ridley Scott) stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a botanist whom his crew on the Ares III mission accidentally leaves on Mars, thinking that he's dead after he's hit by a dust storm. He now has to survive hundreds of sols alone in a Hab only meant to last for 31 and make his way home with no means to contact any other human beings. We also see NASA and stuff every now and then.

It's a pity to say, but the pacing of the movie felt way off. Where's all the hard work that goes into escaping a planet? Yeah, I know, it's not as interesting as the stuff that was included. But what about all the stuff that is just happily left unexplained? There's dozens of times in the movie that we skips twenty sols or so - fair enough, they were probably less important - but then we see Watney do some random stuff that probably has something to do with the Great Escape, without much explanation what he's actually doing or why. I was lost a lot of time even though I had read the book (almost a year ago, granted), so I can't imagine what it's like to watch him tape some stuff or rip the Hab apart when you really don't know why he decided to do just that. Especially since in the book, it all makes so much sense! Reading the actual book, I feel like I can understand his every motive and I appreciate that.

Mark Watney is a solve it all -kind of a guy. He knows lots of stuff about machinery and elements and all that, and he's motivated to actually make it out alive. My favourite part about Watney in the book is that he's incredibly optimistic at the face of anything and everything. It's even mentioned that it's the reason he was put on Ares III to begin with - he gets along with people and lightens the atmosphere. In the movie though, it's obvious that Hollywood decided it's better if we see Matt Damon frown constantly and mope around whenever he's not doing anything (and even when he is).

Spoilers aside, the movie also ends somewhat later than the book, a fact I did not enjoy. I mean, when they had to cut all that important stuff out, why did they decide this was worth being added? Priorities, off, if you ask me (not that you did, really).

That being said, the movie deals with the main media of the book rather well. The book is written almost completely in journal entries Mark types on a computer - instead the movie shows him making a video log. That works quite well and I appreciate it because I was worried it would kind of suck on the silver screen.

Altogether, I heavily recommend reading the book if you're interested in pretty realistic adventures on Mars. But if some pretty well filmed space mishaps are more your thing, find a copy of this movie. It's not badly made (though it's not as good, either). Thank you @Alex for convincing me to read/watch this!

Fun fact of the day (I really hope someone somewhere finds this at least half as interesting as I do): Most of the movie is filmed in a Jordanian desert and Jordan thought it was so cool they even used it to promote tourism. That's pretty darn cute. "Literally out of this world." Maybe one day I'll go to Mars then.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

'"I'm not going to be murdered," Harry said out loud.

'That's the spirit, dear,' said his mirror sleepily.'
Progress! Another Harry Potter down! Just looking at Goblet of Fire's audiobook length (21 and a half hours!!) makes me wonder how long the next one will take. Challenge accepted though! I'm going home for Christmas break so I guess I'll listen to it while driving around. I hope it'll have a lot of stuff not included in the movie.

Prisoner of Azkaban has Harry Potter return to Hogwarts, only to hear that yet again, someone's out to kill him. Surprise! This time it's Sirius Black, a serial killer who has recently escaped the super-safe prison that is Azkaban. Another, more pressing worry are the guards of said prison, the Dementors. They're creepy little creatures that suck all the happiness out of you, and they make Harry feel ill for obvious reasons - he has a lot of horrifying memories to be left alone with.

The best part about these books, when put into a competition against the movies, is that these things happen in the midst of the characters' daily lives. Harry doesn't go from one very important plot point to another - he goes to classes and plays Quidditch and sees his friends and studies and all that. The plot points that are important are weaved into all of this other stuff that's also going on, because life is important as it is and not just when someone's existence is being threatened by some mysterious creatures.

Anyway, I never liked the movie much. I didn't like the plot points it chose to emphasise, I didn't enjoy the pacing, I stopped rewatching it after a couple of tries and never tried again. The book though, the book was very good and somehow the plot was so much better than I remembered. Also, I really liked Lupin's character. I really liked Buckbeak. I liked the changes this book brought to the formula that has already been quite solidly established. I liked the darker tones as well.

I still don't feel like giving this a full score of 5/5 just because this still isn't the kind of a book that would make me a huge fan of the series and that would be like the best book ever. I don't know why and what I'm looking for in this series, but it's so loved I just want it to be just as amazing as people keep telling me. Ehh.

On a mostly kinda halfway related note, I finally went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which I wish to propose we rename Fantastic Beasts (They Are Everywhere). It was pretty good but not amazing - and honestly, I don't know why we need to keep reviving this universe if not for money. Well, maybe I'm just jaded and not excited enough. Fantastic Beasts was quite nice though. I'd like it so much more if it was a book first, though... But I get that that's a whole lot of effort to write.

Oh, by the by, my Patronus is a Fox, according to the Pottermore quiz. I can live with that. I said that I like rocks.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob - Book vs. Movie

The movie looks pretty gorgeous sometimes
I actually went to see this last week and I thought I'd put this in the same post where I reviewed the book... but then I realised I actually had quite a lot to say so maybe it's better if I put it in a post of its own.

If you read my review of the book, you'll already know that I a) enjoyed it and b) feared that the movie adaptation would be too much of a feel good flick without the actual depth and darkness of the book - living on the streets, battling addiction et cetera. Turns out I was worried about all the wrong things.
The premise is the same; James Bowen (played by Luke Treadaway, of whom I'd admittedly never heard of before but who's British, of the right age and does a good job) is living on the streets and meets a cat named Bob (played by the actual Bob and around six other cats, all of whom named in the credits. I only remember Oliver but it was cute!). Since he now has Bob, James decides that it's time for him to kick addiction and get himself off the streets. It's a feel good idea, but I don't think it translated right to the big screen. Or rather, I would've done it very differently - less Hollywood (or whatever the UK equivalent is) and more loyalty to the source material.

The darker the movie got, the more I felt like it wasn't actually trying to tell a story as much as it was trying to jerk some emotions out of me. Additionally, they've added some scenes not in the book that just made me feel so uncomfortable in the wrong ways. There's a scene where James goes to visit his father, breaks a vase, takes down the Christmas tree and has Bob run around a house with someone severely allergic to cats. I get artistic license and all but this wasn't in the book, therefore I assume it's not factual, therefore I wish they didn't make me suffer through it. Also, James is written to be a complete idiot. thicker than bark in this version. It's part of Book-James' character that he's very knowledgeable about cats. Movie-James needs to be told that a male cat should be neutered and that vets aren't free and he doesn't even understand the simplest hints that his father doesn't want him around. I was insulted about this because the book lead me to believe that James was actually pretty sharp and instead we get this mess.

Left to right: James Bowen, Bob, Luke Treadaway
and the worst part about this movie (nothing against her
personally though)
I think however that the worst part about this movie was Betty, Jame's Bowen's girlfriend(?) who was played by Ruta Gedmintas, Luke Treadaway's actual girlfriend. You see, I remember Belle from the book as a very likeable person. She's on the streets like James, they've dated at some point but it didn't work out, she takes care of Bob when James leaves to visit his mum in Australia. She's kind-hearted but mostly not very much there, because this is simply not her story. What do we get instead, in the movie? We get Betty, hippie vegan artsy hipster with pink hair who goes to pickets against animal cruelty and thinks she's smarter than James and better than him because she's not battling with addiction like he is. She even gets upset at him for... what? Trying to get his life back on track? Worse yet, she's always, constantly and endlessly on show. The story portrayed in the movie is almost as much about her and James' relationship as much as it's about Bob??? The book never mentioned a Betty but Belle has mysteriously disappeared for the movie, so I'll go ahead and assume this is how she was replaced. Sure, the two characters have chemistry but if any story didn't need a boring, extremely cliché mass-produced love angle, it's surely this one. It's a book about how a man's life was saved by a cat!! Also, Betty names Bob and it made me salty. In the book, it goes like this:

'By now I’d given him a name: Bob. I got the idea while watching a DVD of one of my old favourite TV series, Twin Peaks. There was a character in that called Killer Bob. He was actually schizophrenic, a kind of Jekyll and Hyde character. Part of the time he would be a normal, sane guy, the next he would be kind of crazy and out of control. The tom was a bit like that. When he was happy and content you couldn’t have wished to see a calmer, kinder cat. But when the mood took him he could be an absolute maniac, charging around the flat. I was talking to my friend Belle one night when it dawned on me. ‘He’s a bit like Killer Bob in Twin Peaks,’ I said, drawing a blank look from her. But it didn’t matter. Bob it was.'

In the movie, it goes something like this:

Betty: *in an off-handed manner* Oh, he told me his name's Bob.
James: What?

Because as a hippie vegan hipster, she talks to animals. It's later written off as a joke but it still felt somehow very annoying. I mean, if I was a vegan hipster, I'd be annoyed at these stereotypes. As a moviegoer and book-reader, I'm just annoyed at what an easy out they feel like. Belle was a side-character. Betty is a walking, talking, cliché annoyance that just doesn't go away.

You guys did your best, really.
All in all, this movie doesn't receive very high recommendations from me, but if you're a avid cat lover and somehow can't read the book, if you can laugh at incredibly stereotypical hippy vegans and if you don't want a movie that can be clearly put in a category, maybe I can tell you to go see this messy attempt of producing an interesting story in a new media. It was not worthy of the book, though.

Hopefully next time when I write about a book vs. a movie, it'll finally finally finally be about The Martian! It's certainly been a long time in waiting. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling

A patch of scarlet swam past, and Harry heard a soft clatter of claws beside him.
"Fawkes," said Harry thickly, "You were brilliant, Fawkes."

This was always my favourite of the movies. I love the Chamber of Secrets and I love the monster dwelling there and I love Fawkes (I was quite when I got to the part of the quote), and yet this one also has all the things I hate the most. I was always uncomfortable with Harry's broken arm and the Polyjuice potion and tried to busy myself with other things while these things were happening. Urgh.

I don't know anyone who doesn't have a general idea about these books but you're so fortunate if it's all ahead of you still! So, this one has Harry trying to get back to Hogwarts, only to be stopped by elf Dobby, who's worried about terrible things happening to Harry in Hogwarts if he goes back. In Hogwarts, someone's opened the Chamber of Secrets, and no one even knows what that means, except that it's sure to be trouble.

I do like this book, really. I just wish it had more of the things I liked and less of the things I didn't like. I enjoyed Tom Riddle (fun fact: in the Finnish edition his name is Tom Lomen Valedro for, well, you can imagine why if you've read the book) so much and I loved being in the Chamber of Secrets and I wanted more time for these things. I suppose it's not as pronounced in the movie since it had to cut a lot of stuff out, but darn I felt like the daily life took a bit too much emphasis here. It's not a bad thing in general - it's actually what really sets the books apart from the movies - but... Chamber of Secrets... the heir of Slytherin, give me more... There's some nice things about the daily life, too, of course. Whenever we go into more detail about the more minor characters, it feels like a new kind of candy I didn't know existed but now want more of. It's great.

We were in Slytherin at the Sittning, if you were interested! It was a lot of fun!
I still don't feel like this was an amazing read, though. Maybe I've seen the movie too many times and grown disenchanted, but I'm still waiting for a Harry Potter book to blow me away. I thought I'd get more of my favourite things when I read this book but that didn't happen and I'm pretty salty about that. I guess you can't have everything. I'm really glad to be finally reading these books though - I feel a little less uncultured and they keep me company while walking around sometimes.

I already started Prisoner of Azkaban yesterday, right after finishing this one. I'm pretty excited since it's always been my least favourite of the movies and thus I've not watched it until boredom, haha. Besides, the first part with the Dursleys has been interesting so far.