This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks the question : what was the worst film you have seen based on a book?
Easy! One of my favourite books is Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising. I’ve posted about this before, but in case you have missed it, the story is about Will Stanton, who lives in rural Buckinghamshire with his mother, daughter of a farming family, his father, a jeweller, and his many, many siblings. On his eleventh birthday he discovers he is the last of the Old Ones, a group of people with magical abilities who are fighting for the Light against the Dark. The leader of the Old ones is Merriman Lyon, a University academic who is, in fact, Merlin. He has been around for centuries, of course. Will must acquire six signs before the Dark get hold of them, and read something called the Book of Gramarye, which has waited for him for a very long time. If the Dark get that, disaster looms for everyone, so Merriman has found a way to make sure they don’t - one which will cost the Light dearly. Big mistake!
Okay. This is a very English story. There is a lot of folklore from the area in which the story is set. Merriman has made one big mistake, but he is, on the whole, a first-rate mentor to Will - who has to grow up quickly, because he can’t even share his secret with his favourite brother.
Th novel is beautiful and utterly magical, set over the Christmas season, with a storm and the riding of the Wild Hunt at the climax.
But now, we saw what happens when an English story is taken over by American film makers. It shows what might have happened to Harry Potter if J.K Rowling had allowed Stephen Spielberg to film it. He wanted to Americanise it. I believe he wanted to cast an American Harry and possibly even to move Hogwarts there. Look, there is nothing wrong with American stories. And the new series, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, starts off in the US, and amazing it was. We got to find out what American wizards were doing while the drama was going on in 1920s Hogwarts. We learned about American wizarding schools and the folklore from that part of the world. But it was created that way.
For some weird reason, American TV and film producers underestimate the intelligence of their audiences and seem to think they won’t understand anything not done with an American accent. (Don’t even get me started on the dubbing of Mad Max!) Not true, of course, as any fan knows. I have read plenty of angry posts about this film from US fans.
So, the film? Will Stanton(or Stenton, as he pronounces it with that accent)is American. He’s fourteen so that the villainous Dark lady Maggie Barnes, a farm hand in the original novel, can attempt seduction, before they even leave the US. Maggie Barnes, in the novel, only does the seduction thing on the Walker, a rather sad character who was turned to the Dark by her. The family inherit a place in England and go there, where Will discovers he’s an Old One. Not just an Old One but the leader of the Old Ones. He has to be, because these Old Ones are total idiots, including Merriman, who is not a university academic and Will’s mentor but a not too bright butler. In the novel, he is only playing the role of butler to Miss Greythorne, owner of the local manor, briefly so that he can take Will into the nineteenth century to receive the Book of Gramarye without any of the local carol singers noticing.
In the novel, Will realises he is the seventh son of a seventh son when he finds a carved initial among the family Christmas decorations for a brother who died before he was born. In the film, there was a twin brother stolen by the Dark. I mean, why? Honestly, why? What earthly difference would it make? This Will and his family were in America. Why hang on to the child all that time? Who raised him?
The only thing that made the film even remotely worth watching was Christopher Eccleston, best known as the ninth Doctor Who, as the evil Rider, the novel’s main villain. He was good, but I bet he was left embarrassed by that film and hopes nobody remembers it. I certainly would be!
Watching it was a huge waste of a morning, as far as I’m concerned.
So, that’s my horrible film based on a favourite book. What’s yours?