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The Book’s Better

I recently found out that Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials is being done as a series by the Beeb (that’s UK speak for the BBC). I certainly hope they do a better job of it than the Hollywood version starring Nichole Kidman and Daniel Craig, which chickened out on dealing with provocative issues raised by Pullman’s series.

Not too long ago I was fairly impressed with the way Amazon Prime handled one of my favourite novels of all time – Good Omens. In my opinion they were spot on when they picked David Tennant and Michael Sheen to play the demon and angel. Then their script writers did a bang up job (sorry I’ve been watching a lot of Life on Mars and I’ve got Gene Hunt’s turn of phrase stuck in my head). At any rate, they did a great job with the script, updating it for a modern, younger audience and adding in the odd inspired outcome too. What I loved most of all was that they didn’t stray too far away from the Gaiman and Pratchett novel. I’ve reread it so many times that I was keeping my eyes and ears peeled throughout for anything which I felt might dishonour the original.

Over the years there have however been adaptations of novels which have really wound me up. Two in particular spring to mind immediately. Chocolat and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The latter got me so worked up I actually texted in to a radio show about it. I never text or phone in to radio shows. What grated the most was the choice of Nicolas Cage as Captain Corelli. The wealth of European actors available to portray the part was as long as an Amazon python but of course Cage was flavour of the month in Hollywood at the time.

In the adaptation of Chocolat a Hollywood leading man once again got to strut his stuff. And while that stuff might be very attractive to the eye, it only served as a distraction because once more Hollywood vied away from dealing with controversial issues raised in the book.

This is perhaps the main reason I prefer European and Indie films to Hollywood releases. That’s not to say that they don’t get it right from time to time: Star Wars, The Matrix, The Bourne Identity. But in recent times all it seems to be about is remakes, special effects and an avoidance of anything even a little original.

So I’m holding my breath to see how the BBC deals with this latest version of Pullman’s trilogy and I can’t wait to find out what sort of job James McAvoy does of playing Lord Asriel. He’s right up there in my list of top 10 actors I love watching at work. It includes the likes of Michael Fassbender, David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Stanley Tucci. I’m not going to mention the rest of the list because they’re purely for eye candy reasons rather than their acting ability. This writer is not just about the brains you know. The truth had to come out eventually.

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  1. I will look out for the serial which hopefully will be shown here in Aus at some point. It's pretty rare for a film to outdo a book I think.

    1. It is indeed. I hope you're settling in and enjoying being a full time grandma. All the best

  2. I completely agree with you about Corelli etc. I could add the latest Tinker Tailor to the list with Gary Oldman miscast as Smiley. Conversely, I think the Harry Potter films are better than the books. I'm looking forward to the Beeb's His Dark Materials too. I gather the reason for the Hollywood cop-out on the religious issues was that the producers were afraid of offending the Christian rightwing, which is much more vocal there than here.

    1. I agree about Tinker Tailor too and found it very dull watching I'm afraid. I know most people raved about it but I fell asleep all three times I tried watching it. I also find the Potter films more palatable than the books. Only managed to get through the 1st one and that was with difficulty. I suspected the cop out on the Dark Materials film probably had something to do with the Christian rightwing in the States but I'm not really up on their politics much.


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