Last week I compiled a comprehensive list of the children’s adaptations that irked me the most. After I had finished, I realized I had, in my frenzy, left several abominations off the list, and that I would have to pen a sequel. So here it is, the difficult second album.
1. Anne of Green Gables (Netflix’s Anne With an E)
Same, Anne / Via Fangirlish
Slate notes that Netflix’s ‘dark reimagining’ of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s practically perfect children’s book ‘has proudly aligned itself with the 2010s trend of the gritty reboot.’ This is as much as I need to reject the notion entirely. The magic of Montgomery’s book and the titular heroine lies not in any passed trauma or admirable resilience but in the hilarity and relatability of Anne as a character and in the genuine delight she takes in the world around her. It’s infectious. Though she is an orphan, the book doesn’t hint at anything like the traumatic past that is overtly referenced in Anne with an E.
The seven episodes of the first season (it has, miserably, been renewed for a second season) were, bizarrely, written by Breaking Bad’s Moira Walley-Beckett. Why Moira. Why bring your darkness here. “I wanted to dramatize it and I wanted it to feel visceral,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I wanted you to know exactly what her origin story was so that we could really understand her original wounding and the stakes that were at play for her.” Missing the point doesn’t even begin to cover it.
2. The BFG
Bunch of idiots / Via AlloCiné
With The BFG, Roald Dahl penned arguably one of the best children’s books of all time, and Steven Spielberg ruined it. I already wanted to have a conversation with Mr. Spielberg regarding how guilty he should feel given the suffering of the world’s shark population in the wake of Jaws, but now I have an additional bone to pick with him.
Why, Steven, did you inflict this film upon us. I won’t lie, I wept at the trailer. I thought it looked beautiful. It felt like he might actually have hit the nail on the head. But alas, no. While Mark Rylance is wonderful in the titular role, and his cave and dreamland are beautifully rendered, the problem lies outside of his living quarters.
Let’s start with London, where Sophie lives in an orphanage which she claims is awful and run by a cruel matron, but appears to be, like, pretty nice. Never do we see Matron, the other children, or feel that Sophie is anything but fairly content as she sits in her colorful, cosy dormitory, reading nice books. Unlike Anne with an E, this would be an appropriate time to depict a sad and suffering orphan, but for some reason, the film totally skips that part.
The England where she lives appears to be positively Dickensian, however the drunk stumbling passed the orphanage is wearing modern clothing. The setting is just all over the place and it’s really distracting. I could overlook all this if Giant Country had been accurately rendered, but alas. The giants in Dahl’s book are some of the most genuinely frightening and evil characters I’ve ever read. They have names like Bloodbottler and Flesh Lump Eater. They couldn’t be more terrifying. In the film, they are inexplicably modeled on Celtic warriors in appearance, but are lumbering, comical morons, who stumble around bumping into one another. One of the first lines spoken by any giant in the film is an announcement of a sore finger: “I has a booboo.” What. Ever. While there are some moving scenes, such as tea with the Queen, and a lovely soundtrack, this film just totally messed it up. Call me, Steven. We gots business to discuss.
Me, rejecting incorrect casting decisions / Via Replygif
Okay, there is really only one problem I have with this adaptation of one of my all time favorite books, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, and it is this: when I look at Andy Serkis, all I see is Gollum. Any role he has since played is tainted by the fact that he is Gollum, and the same problem occurs in Inkheart. He plays brilliantly evil and frightening villain Capricorn and it just doesn’t work for me. He’s also sort of lighthearted and comical and this irks me.The dumbing down of villains is so often a problem with adaptations of children’s books and I find it condescending to children and irritating for grown-ups. Let the bad guys be scary, otherwise there’s no real sense of threat or of victory when they’re vanquished.
Apart from Andy Serkis, though, the film is a pretty reasonable adaptation but the book is something special and you should all seek it out.
I wish that were true / Via Giphy
The main appeal of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland chronicles to today’s audience is its weirdness. The clothes it inspires look just, omg, sooo random in the window of Hot Topic. So it was only a matter of time before self-appointed King of Being Weird Tim Burton got his hands on it. Just as the Playing Cards paint the roses red, Burton paints Carroll’s work in his own trademark high contrast creepy crap. Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp. I’m not into it. It was unnecessary. The subsequent Alice in Wonderland make-up palettes by Urban Decay were the only good thing to come of the whole affair.
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