This past May has marked two years since I came on as co-author of this site. They have been an exciting two years to say the least, and have culminated in what I would call a very good film. For those who have yet to see it, I strongly encourage you to do so. I cannot say enough great things about the collaboration that went into the creation of this film, including the actors and director, Andrew Niccol. My co-author, Sarah, has given a good background on the film in her review, and I would echo most of what she says there.
That being said, I think there are two lenses which you can use to look at this film: as a stand-alone movie, and as a book adaptation. Compared to many other book adaptations I have seen, this one surpasses them all. No, it’s not perfect and bits and pieces are left out, but what can you expect in cramming a 600+ page novel into a 2 hour movie? With what they had to work with, I think they did a magnificent job. Andrew gives the film his own spin with the expansion of the science fiction element and it fits well with the atmosphere of the novel and the story being told. It is a great companion to a great book.
On the other hand, taking the movie by itself, I feel that it falls a little short. Granted, not everyone will feel the same as I do and I have taken over a month to think before writing this review because I wanted to understand my hang up with the film. When I watched the movie each time, I was completely engaged in the story being told and cried at the emotional climax near the end, as I do with the novel at that same point. My mother, who attended a screening with me in DC, even admitted to loving the film, though she typically is not drawn to science fiction. It really is a good movie, but it could have been great. With a novel the size of Stephenie’s, you have the time and space to create this intricate web of themes while telling the story. If you take that large, complex web and try to squeeze it to a smaller size, you lose that beauty and end up with a confusing mess. Unfortunately, I think that is what happened with this film. From beginning to end, the film moves at high speed, trying to include all these elements that make the book so spectacular: the warring romantic relationships, the sisterly bond that grows between Melanie and Wanderer, the brotherly bond with Chandler, the tension-filled relationship between Ian and his own brother Kyle, as well as larger themes such as this conflict between the aliens and humans, Wanderer’s budding love and affection for her humans, and the fatal flaw of our humanity. And of course, with Andrew directing, the alien element was a larger part of the film than it was in the novel. It is too much for any film this length to tackle successfully.
I won’t demean the great work that everyone did on this film by going into detail about how I would have done things differently. I am not a filmmaker and don’t understand all the pressures the way those in the industry do. We all have our opinions and ideas and I have the utmost respect for those who collaborated on this film. Though this might upset avid protectors of the novel in its entirety, I feel the film would have been better served if one or two key directions had been chosen for the film, rather than trying to include them all. I think it would have lent itself to a much clearer, concise story if they had done so.
All in all, this is a really good film and I applaud all of the hard work that went into it. I hope that you have the opportunity to see it if you haven’t already. Enjoy!! (And here’s hoping for the future books to be made into film adaptations, as well)