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was sold to gypsies as a small child for half a tank of gas and a kitten. She was quickly, if not easily, retrieved by her mother after the kitten was revealed to be an Eldrich horror looking for a ride into the nearest metropolitan area to begin wreaking havoc. It's been a bone of contention between Maria and her family ever since, whether the Horror-kitten would've been more or less trouble than she grew up to be.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Wizard Has No Heart for Inkheart

Inkheart tells the tale of Mo and Meggie Folchart, a father and daughter team of bookbinders. Mo and Meggie’s lives are quiet ones until, on one of their travels for Mo’s job, the past catches up to them. Dustfinger, an acquaintance of Mo’s from years before, comes to pursued Mo to give him something – a book – before Capricorn finds Mo and collects the book and Mo himself. As these people with strange names begin to invade her and her fathers lives, Meggie not only finds herself in situations she’s only read about before, but discovers that there is more going on between the covers of a book than just what’s written on the page.

Inkheart is cast as close to perfectly as I’ve ever seen in a book adaptation. Eliza Bennett and Helen Mirren are Meggie and Elinor, and Paul Bettany as Dustfinger surprised me as the movie progressed with his ability to capture his characters desperation. Andy Serkis is not Capricorn from the book but is still an interesting and compelling villain. The scenery is not as stunning as in Narnia or the Harry Potter movies - the movie doesn’t require such a grand scale as most of the conflict is among the characters – but it fits the tone of the movie and doesn’t detract from the action. Nevertheless, Inkheart is why books should never be made into movies.

I was anticipating that Inkheart wouldn’t be the same story I loved. I anticipated that Meggie and Mo’s powers would be out in the open from the very start to save time. I anticipated a plot and characters completely different from the books’, carrying only the title, the names of my beloved characters. I anticipated a completely different story, fitted together with a few chopped up key plot points that bared a vague resemblance to the book. I was braced for everything but what I got.

Inkheart is the result of when studios listen to fans when they say they want a straight adaptation of the book – or at least as close an adaptation as they can get. It doesn’t work and Inkheart illustrates perfectly why. All the thoughts and emotions the characters feel, and the memories and events which prompt them, are too numerous and complex to move easily to screen. And in stories such as this, which are epic and fantastical in nature, it ends up feeling trite and kitschy.

In one attempt to condense some of the more superfluous parts of the book, The Wizard of Oz was used to fill the role of several other less famous books. This sounds good in theory. In fact, it sounds brilliant in theory, considering the parallels in both books about people traveling to different worlds. In practice, however, it falls flat of being meaningful or inventive and instead feels contrived and cheesy.

In short, the movie tries too hard to be the book; it follows the plot almost exactly, but the few changes they make are ones which change the mood and attitudes of characters in ways which damage the story rather than enhance it.

Inkheart is based on the book of the same name by Cornelia Funke, author of The Thief Lord, The Dragon Rider, and the Inkheart Trilogy, Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath. And as always, this is in my college newspaper.

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