Adaptation

Wonder Woman (2017)

As DC tries to combat the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, they have begun by building towards the Justice League film. In the meantime, we are treated to their standalone backstories. Wonder Woman is the latest film to get the treatment with Gal Gadot returning as the legendary Amazonian.

What I have recently disliked about the comic book movies is that they all seem to be using the same framework. (mainly the Marvel Cinematic Universe) But what is more enjoyable about the DC Cinematic Universe is the darker and grittier undertones they have taken, which was present in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman even though the latter wasn’t as enjoyable.

Wonder Woman is continuing this trend, but referencing the picture that was seen in Batman vs Superman with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) herself stood with four men during World War One. Before Wonder Woman leaps into how Diana found herself there, they divulge in the backstory and the mysterious land of Themyscira, home of the Amazons.

What was great about Patty Jenkins’ interpretation of this story was that there was enough in the narrative to allow for the audience to interpret things themselves, something that has been missing in my recent cinema outings. And there was some gorgeous graphics in the opening sequence as Queen Hippolyta (Connie Neilsen) reveals the origin of the Amazon race and of the battle between Zeus and Ares.

Zeus cast out Ares, and hid the Amazons from the world until Ares rises again. The rest of the Amazons and Diana train on the beautifully landscaped island of Themyscira away from the worlds view. That is all until Steve Travers (Chris Pine) crash lands on their private island.

And this is where the film really picks up the pace as Gal Gadot and Chris Pine come into their own as characters. Gal Gadot becomes the focal point of her scenes as Diana believes that the atrocities of war are at the hand of Ares, the God of war. Although he has found a new form in the body of General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) as his sidekick Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) concocts a poisonous gas capable of killing everyone. Diana forces Travers hand in taking her to front line to help the war effort and she just looks fantastic whilst doing it.

It has to be said though that she isn’t objectified in anyway, she rather manifests Wonder Woman as a character in such a way that she is incredibly strong and rather independent, especially as she continually defies her mother and Steve. With Batman v Superman the film felt long, Wonder Woman on the other hand doesn’t. This could down to the enjoyment of the characters and the narrative actually being enjoyable instead of the usual cut and paste method Marvel and DC films are currently using.

As I mentioned, the DC Universe films like to be grittier and Wonder Woman has majority of the film centred around World War One. Patty Jenkins effectively manages to instil the atrocities of war and it really works from the dirt of the Belgian trenches to the empty celebrations of a victory for one evening.

My only grief is the overbearing music that is used. The musical cues aren’t established very well, as it clearly tries to evoke emotions at the correct times and at times this took me out of the picture and made the enjoyment considerably less-so.

Gal Gadot is truly a wonder as the titular character as the film progresses into it’s climax. The final third of the film looks as though it is going to enter the realms of similarity as with previous comic book films, it still tiptoes on those, but doesn’t dive head first into it. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Gal Gadot is electric, especially as Jenkins’ captures Steve Travers occasionally glancing at Diana with astonishment at her beauty, but not in that objectifying way that I mentioned earlier.

Just as I thought I was losing patience with comic book adaptations, Wonder Woman comes along and manages to give some life into a merciless machine. I realised after coming out of the cinema that Wonder Woman tried something new, it left the comedy (that has become a staple point for comic book films now) to a minimum and perfectly integrated it into the film. This worked and garnered appropriate laughs when needed, but on a whole, Wonder Woman was an enjoyable and terrific watch and this has to be down to the enjoyable narrative and brilliant characters that can be connected with.

Fight Cub (1999)

I imagine David Fincher’s 1999 adaptation ranks highly is everyone’s mind and at the moment of writing, Fight Club sits tenth on IMDb’s ‘Top 250’ films. Fight Club has that popular fandom, as majority of response’s about Fight Club is that you are not supposed to talk about Fight Club.

These are the first two rules of the popular underground club formed by Edward Norton’s insomniac narrator and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a soap salesman he meets during his many jet adventures. Norton narrates through his monotonous life, as he goes to support groups for ailments he doesn’t have, like testicular cancer or blood parasites to relieve his insomnia.

Fincher has an eye for the darker films, having directed Se7en before this and following up his 1999 cult classic with Panic Room and Zodiac. He manages to give the screen a darker, ominous presence as the use of shadows and night-time throughout this film really accentuate this effect.

As Norton’s narrator flies us through the support meetings and his sleepless nights, it’s worth noting this film is a slow burner to begin with. As soon as the Narrator meets Tyler Durden, as this point the film picks up it’s pace. In the opening twenty or so minutes, it was a quick run through the Narrators life and the support groups he attends, as soon as he meets Tyler, he returns home to find his Condo blown up.

With nowhere to turn and no one to turn to, he takes a chance on calling Tyler Durden and asks for a place to stay. From here, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton form a rather strange relationship on screen as the two are seemingly polar opposites. Especially as the Narrator has a white collar job for a major car company working out whether to recall the cars or not, whereas Durden is a night worker with a string of different jobs, including a waiter.

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One of the biggest selling points about Chuck Palahniuk’s book is the twist towards the end of the film, but the way in which David Fincher plays this out is excellent. Especially after the first watch, the following watches you become entranced in just how clever Fincher was in the build up to the twist.

This is in part thanks to the acting of Norton and Pitt as the duo, but also Helen Bonham Carter’s Marla becoming entwined in their relationship. Throughout the 130+ minute runtime, the film does divulge itself in it’s violence as we see Tyler beaten to a pulp as well as the Narrator beating Angel Face (Jared Leto) to a pulp, for no apparent reason.

Fincher mixed this in with Durden’s view on the world, that being very, very against anything mildly corporate. Brad Pitt plays Durden with excellence, really flowing with the carefree attitude that surrounds Durden. Norton does back Pitt up with his uptight white collar worker.

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David Fincher washes Fight Club in a sickly green tint which really relays the darker undertone that flows throughout the film, as the Narrator and Durden stories become entwined. The story takes a change of pace as Durden runs free with franchising Fight Club, whilst the Narrator struggles to keep up with Durden and his extravagant plans.

Fight Club is a definitely an exciting ride of a film. David Fincher manages to expertly play it out with Pitt and Norton lifting the story off the screen. Fincher washing the film in a sickly and darker undertone really worked for this adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s original book.

The use of violence throughout and the anti-corporate message seems to be placed at perfect intervals throughout Fight Club and doesn’t seem to ramming this message down your throat. My only gripe with Fight Club is the opening 20 or so minutes are properly slow burning. Once the Fight Club takes off, the film picks up it’s pace, but that opening is tough to swallow. That being said, the method is which Fincher delivers the plot twist is brilliant and subsequent viewings reveal the masterful touch on this story and it’s revealing of the plot. After recently re-watching Fight Club it’s clear to see why it ranks highly on peoples list and sits tenth on the IMDb top 250 list.

Before I Go To Sleep (2014)

To potentially combat the domination of Marvel and DC in the film market, there has recently been a ‘boom’ in films adapted from mystery thriller novels such as Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, Child 44 and Before I Go To Sleep. The latter seemingly fell by the wayside as Gone Girl came out around the same time as Before I Go To Sleep.

Memory loss being at the centre of a film is always difficult to convey and has only rarely come out excellently, the best example being Momento. Before I Go To Sleep has memory loss at the very centre of this tale, as Nicole Kidman takes on this challenging role of Christine.

Christine (Nicole Kidman) is a forty-year old woman who wakes up every morning not remembering anything. (Think 50 First Dates, but way more serious)
She wakes up in strange surroundings, and next to a strange man. Instantly she freaks out, only to be assured by the strange man that he is her husband, Ben (Colin Firth). He also informs Christine that she was in a car accident ten years earlier, which resulted in her memory loss.

It’s always difficult to construe memory loss convincingly on film, as the two most popular films to contain this are Momento and 50 First Dates and they are very, very different films. Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth shoulder this immeasurable task of convincingly act it out.

Not only would Kidman and Firth have to act out such a tough task, but the way Rowan Joffe has to keep the story interesting enough without ruining it within the first ten minutes. Having the inclusion of Dr. Nasch at this early stage and the small-scale cast keeps the story at the centre of the film, and of course interesting as it plays immediately on Christine’s suspicions about everyone.

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Dr. Nasch manages to convince Christine that he has been treating her for some months on her accident. He gifts her a video camera to keep a video diary and helping her remember information from the day previous. As the days and the treatment continues, Christine learns more, including that it wasn’t a car accident, but rather a brutal attack where she was left for dead.

As the film bores into it’s hour and a half runtime, Joffe keeps dripping other essences into the film and making us second-guess and triple-guess our assumptions made initially. And of course, what is a mystery thriller without a tense sense or two? Joffe plays out one of these scenes beautifully, gripping you to the very core.

I believe this comes down the culmination of the score, the setting and of course the acting from Kidman and Firth. Before I Go To Sleep manages to sustain the effectiveness of this memory loss through Nicole Kidman, but the surrounding Kidman with Firth and Mark Strong make up an excellent small-scale cast.

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Unfortunately for Before I Go To Sleep, Gone Girl outgunned it as they came out at similar points, yet it didn’t deserve to be as it manages to hold its own for the 90 minute runtime. Joffe creates a wonderfully tense piece of filmmaking, which is only helped on by the intimate cast of Kidman, Firth and Strong.

Before I Go To Sleep is deserving of being included in more conversations when compared to the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train (two films seemingly being compared with each other at this moment in time) as its beautifully tense and expertly acted out by the cast. Joffe manages to expertly dangle this tense thriller involving memory loss throughout the story with precision and still making it an enjoyable film to watch.

The Girl on the Train (2016)

From a jumbled, seemingly out-of-sync trailer, I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Girl on the Train. I had expected it to be driven through the titular ‘Girl’ on the train, which is Emily Blunt’s Rachel. Instead, it is centralised through three women whose lives are all intertwined.

Rachel commutes daily on the train to Manhattan and it goes by the idealistic Beckett Road. Rachel fantasies about the occupants of 15 Beckett Road, daydreaming that they lead the perfect life inside their home. This creates an incredibly murky picture of the aforementioned Rachel, especially when it pans two doors down and we see Rachel standing there.

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As Rachel catches the story up, she reveals that she used to live in that house with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) before he was found out cheating on Rachel with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Tom now lives with Anna in that house, with a child. We’re thrust back into reality when a passenger sits next to Rachel with a baby, she slurs compliments at the child, revealing she is in fact, drunk.

Rachel continues to commute to Manhattan and fantasises about Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) the aforementioned occupant of 15 Beckett Road, as she sees him cuddling with her husband Scott (Luke Evans). Until one morning, she sees Megan on the balcony with another man. This lights a raging fire within Rachel, that cannot be contained. The film then continues on a build-up to an event that sends everything in a downward spiral for the five involved.

That evening Megan goes missing, with Rachel seemingly the prime suspect as she stumbles off the train at the stop close to Megan’s house. She follows her to a tunnel where she witnesses the aforementioned event, which isn’t clear due to her level of intoxication. Rachel subsequently wakes up in the morning with no memory of the night before and blood caked over her face.

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The Girl on the Train does take a while to get going, but it is interesting in the way that it builds up to this event. It tells the story through not just Rachel, but Megan and Anna as well, giving a rounded perspective. It builds up in Gone Girl style with flashbacks of ‘6 months ago’ and ‘3 weeks ago’ etc, which works as it drip feeds the story giving it that mystery element, especially with Megan’s unrevealed past. Tate Taylor cleverly incorporated a ‘fuzzy’ filter over Rachel’s segments of the story to match her intoxication, giving the pictures a distorted feel constantly, which was really effective.

Megan probably has the most intriguing backstory, which is only touched upon briefly but alas, I did not care for her character, nor Anna and Rachel’s. Anna is seemingly hell-bent on painting Rachel as a terrible person and manipulating Tom’s (Who, remember, was Rachel’s ex) perception of her. That’s not to say the three women give great performances, as they were riveting as their respective characters, but I just did not like them, nor connect with them.

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Tate Taylor has incorporated some interesting elements into this film, unfortunately this isn’t enough to carry The Girl on the Train through the 112 minute runtime. The performances are captivating throughout the picture and Emily Blunt does steal the show alongside Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett, and backed up by the supporting cast excellently. Also Tate Taylor’s incorporation of the effects to distort the picture was effective throughout.

However, I left feeling largely disappointed in The Girl on the Train, mainly due to the pretty simplistic storyline that doesn’t offer anything different to the Mystery/Thriller genre that wasn’t already exhibited by Gone Girl, a film of similar nature. As mentioned above, Blunt, Ferguson and Bennett help the film through the 112 minutes with some interesting themes throughout (which I won’t divulge due to plot spoilers) the picture. Quite frankly, the despicable characters, simplistic storyline and the disjointed way the film threads it way through the runtime is quite frustrating and made (for me) a disappointing viewing.

Gone Girl (2014)

Wow.

Simply wow.

The difficulty about writing about this film is I’d have to be careful on what I say, considering that it might spoil the plot. Which is the last thing I would like to after a fantastic all round display from David Fincher. Everyone I have spoken to about Gone Girl have hailed and stated that it’s simply brilliant. David Fincher adapting the novel written by Gillian Flynn and the result is this extraordinary story with fantastic displays of acting from the whole cast. Not forgetting the harrowing story that is full of twists and turns in the quiet hometown of Missouri-born Nick Dunne, where the series of events takes place.

If you’ve been living under a rock anyway, Gone Girl features Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, who wakes up on his fifth anniversary with his wife stating asking what she’s thinking and he’s like to crack open her skull. Not painting an excellent picture, is it? He comes back home (after heading to work) to find his wife, Amy Elliot Dunne (Rosamund Pike) missing.

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After this unfolds, the media becomes a big part in storyline, with the constant media attention that surround Nick and eventually his twin sister, Margot. The constant snide comments that come from the Ellen Abbot show too, claiming he is a murderer and a scoundrel.

It’s quite hard to make talk about this film without making this post spoilerific. Amazing Amy as she is always referred to, due to a series of popular children’s books created by her parents, goes missing within the first ten minutes of the film. The next half is Nick fighting with the police, the media and himself about the disappearance of his wife. This is about as far as I can go into the story without major spoilers.

I began reading the book in anticipation and of course with all adaptations there are minute differences from what I read compared to what was on screen, but it’s from what I read to what I saw it all transferred decently.

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Okay, they’ll be some spoilers here, not crucial to the plot however.

The best part about the film, was the solid acting from both Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. From their loving relationship in the flashback scenes, to Ben Affleck’s villainous chin and eventually to the unsettling nature that becomes of them once the story unfolds. It’s also the separate stories that unfold, at some points I believe people believed Ben Affleck was the reason she has gone missing, with his mysteriousness and unknowing facts about his wife.

I think the genius of David Fincher comes from the trailers that he made for this film. Being careful to include sections that don’t give away the key points, which lets face it, happens in an abundance of film trailers nowadays. However, one big criticism that I have heard often comes with the ending and that Fincher offers no real resolution to what happens, and with that, you’d have to look at Fincher’s previous works including Zodiac, Fight Club and Se7en (with what happens to Mills). It’s not uncommon for Fincher to choose films that leave the audience hanging and begging for more.

The film itself stands at an average 2 hours and 30 minutes, but because of the compelling story you don’t feel the length in time. The story kept me fixed to the seat and was surprised when it found out the length of the film. Fincher has produced a fine movie, which is close to a perfect film. The acting is amongst the best I’ve seen for a while, coupled with the compelling storyline, but it’s also the transition periods where the story may drag, the audience is still guessing what will happen next and compelled to continue watching.

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A truly fine piece of work and as I mentioned, I couldn’t believe it when I watching it. It truly my film of 2014 as it stands. With the focal point not being Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne, but Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne, who was unreal. Alas, I don’t want to spoil it for you. I also thought David Fincher shot some beautiful scenes, such as the first kiss between Nick and Amy was translated beautifully from book to film. (Like the picture above, however the picture does not do the scene justice.)

I know this review is a bit late, however, I know select cinemas are still showing it and my one recommendation would be to see this film now, before you have to wait for the DVD release. It’s unreal.

5/5