The Picture of Dorian Gray
Fantastic Mr Fox
The Lovely Bones

Those are three titles that you might recognise from recent television and internet advertising. And this is due to the ghastly fact that they’ve all been made into films.

Films that look THOROUGHLY AWFUL.

I’m not even stooping to post their trailers in my blog – if you’re that morbidly curious, go and Google them. (That’s like me telling you to Google ‘harlequin babies’ or ‘prolapsed rectum’, actually, isn’t it? Your pupils are going to be raped either way.) Hold on tight, this one’s a VENT! and it’s even got sections.

Whatever Happened To Sneaky Dorian?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is something I just finished recently, and it totally didn’t take me two years to do so. Ahem. Just from the trailer – and I may be judging too early here, but I’m fairly sure my opinion wouldn’t change even if I DID see the whole thing – it looks like ‘Dorian Gray’, the film “adaptation”, is a very, very ghostly imitation of Wilde’s excellent little tale. If you haven’t read the novel, a) DO, and b) the character Dorian himself is a curious young gentleman indeed. He not only manages to charm and bewilder a great number of the supporting characters, but the reader into the bargain. Wilde wrote him extremely well. Ben Barnes, on the other hand, whilst looking fairly acceptable, is just…pathetic. You’re screwing a laydee in a back alley? WOW REALLY I’M SHOCKED YOUR HAIR IS VERY SHINY BY THE WAY. When Dorian weaves and ducks through his various merry bloody exploits in the book, I actually want to find out the consequence. Point is, I don’t care what one-dimensional film!Dory gets up to. It doesn’t sicken me to my stomach. Book!Dory is, however, enchanting, scheming and foul.

The power of the written word supports the secretive nature of characters – anti-heroes? – like Dorian Gray. In the immediacy of film the intrigue and suspense goes the same way as Basil Hallward’s career. HAW I just made a geeky inside joke – now you’ll HAVE to read the book. Won’t you? Won’t you?

Purely Boneheaded

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold potentially will fare better on the big screen – but the trailer gives the story away entirely. Sometimes, I think that’s a good thing. Shakespeare’s plays, I believe, need to be read and comprehended before you see them in performance. They’re so beautifully complex that it pays to know the destination so you can enjoy the journey we undertake to get there. But in the case of The Lovely Bones, giving away the whole premise of the thing takes the punch out of it. The book did this wonderful thing of ‘darting forward, pulling back’ – feeding the readers tidbits of information that promised to go somewhere before retracting or, in many cases, the chapter drawing to a sudden end. Also, Saoirse Ronan plays Susie Salmon, and she’s not pleasant to look at. Though, obviously, that’s my personal bias.

Well, They Foxed That One Up

Now we reach the part that stings me in my little literary geek heart the most – the animation of one of my favourite childhood stories, Fantastic Mr. Fox. To save you the pain of watching the trailer – it’s horribly Americanised, by which I mean things explode inappropriately, Mr Fox is made into an annoying smartarse and George Clooney does his voice. The trailer does not name Roald Dahl by, well, his name, but relegates him to the position of “the author who brought us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory“. It’s just nasty to witness.

I’m aware that Dahl worked on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – that’s why that particular film is nothing short of an awesome mindfuck. But Foxy was never destined for the big screen – it’s not possible to turn that terrific little tale into a feature-length film, or at least, not one that’s any GOOD. This is when we’re going to see kids forsaking the actual texts in favour of substandard adaptations – in most cases that’s all right, I suppose, some of older children’s books are outdated (I hated Barrie’s Peter Pan as a child. “Too much description,” I wrote in my reading diary. Clearly I wanted more swordfights). But Dahl’s stuff is GENIUS. It’s sick and twisted and funny. There’s no mercy or dumbing down for children in his books – that’s why they’ve stuck around.

TOO LONG, DID NOT READ

So yeah, I’m pretty much in favour of sticking to the book and ignoring the badly-executed silver and small screen versions – and I know for a fact I’m not alone in this. Though he mentions televisions in this poem, this magnificent children’s writer’s words can be applied to the cinema just as easily…

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Roald Dahl

Advertisements