ISN’T THAT ILLEGAL?

It’s not, but it should be. The crime? Bad screenwriting.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. Or that I was counting down until the film. Or even, that I have no patience for people who without fail come out of a book-to-film adaptation saying, “It wasn’t as good as the book.” Of course, now I am going to look like a complete douche when I tell you how terrible the film was.

Before you jump to conclusions the actors were fine (actually, the guy that plays Grover was perfect) and the special effects were beautiful and seamless. What turned the film into a suckfest was Craig Titley’s screenwriting.

I thought the screenplay was so terribly written that I assumed, Craig Titley, was not a real name. Surely it was one of those legendary pen names that was whacked on to hide the identities of the writers really involved. Turns out I was wrong. Craig Titley has written Scooby Doo, Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and a single Star Wars TV episode. Hmmm…something’s fishy. How does someone go from writing slapstick rubbish like Cheaper by the Dozen and get handed Percy Jackson on a silver plate?

Either way, the writing speaks for itself. And it’s bad. Craig Titley broke the number one rule from writing101: Show, don’t tell.

I can’t even begin to describe how much exposition is in this screenplay. Mostly because it is the screenplay. I got nervous from the opening scene where Zeus and Poseidon deliver a menacing exchange which explains the entire movie. *winces* Shortly, I realised that when the characters spoke to each other they also gave reasons for why they were feeling that way, and unpacked their actions and emotions. WTF? No one does that outside of therapy. It was all downhill from there – right to the ‘yes, I am the bad guy because my dad doesn’t love me’ part. (I can’t remember Luke’s exact line but that was pretty close. Rarr! Bad guys don’t think they’re bad guys!)

For those that need it, the freedictionary describes exposition as ‘the part of a play that provides the background information needed to understand the characters and the action’.  Notice that it says ‘part’ of a play – not the entire thing. Now there’s a gazillion reasons why the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule exists but for me it comes down to emotion and respect for the audience.

When characters describe their actions and emotions only through dialogue it’s jarring. It takes me out of the magic of the story for the simple reason that it’s not truthful. (Note: that’s what you’re supposed to be bringing to your writing – the truth.) More so, if the characters are just empty husks for narration, then I can’t connect to them. If I can’t connect to them, then I’m not emotionally involved in the story and don’t care what happens to them. Do I need to continue?

As for respecting the audience? Well, I don’t like being treated like an idiot. I’m going to live dangerously and assume you don’t either. Even if I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t need the whole story neatly summed up… especially through dialogue exchanges. I read people’s body language everyday to see how they really feel and I’ve learned how to hide my most private thoughts and feelings from others.  If I can do all that in my day-to-day life, then I can definitely do it for a ninety minute film. I don’t need to be bludgeoned with the back story or character motivations. In fact, I shouldn’t even be thinking about them while I’m watching the film.

There are two things about all of this that I really take offense to. First, that every critic out there who hasn’t bothered to read the books is jibing about it being Harry Potter’s deformed twin. Read Rick Riordan’s books. It’s nothing like Harry Potter, except that it started as a YA series and has a boy in the lead (although that describes a whole lot of books).

Secondly, that his IMDB page claims that he is writing the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake for Sam Raimi. That’s right, one of my all time childhood favourites…

Excuse me while I hide under my bed and sob. Could someone please tell me when this nightmare is over?

THE BOOK TO FILM MUTATION

So, I’m wondering how worked-up you get when one of your favourite books is turned into a film?

Personally, I get crazy excited about the book-to-film transformation. It’s as though Christmas has come early and I’m googling for the IMDB page to tell me the casting and production rumours. My obsession with books and films is much the same.

It’s not to say I don’t get nervous or disappointed at times. I was nervous when I realised that the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events was to encompass the first three books. I thought that would rush the story and cut out too much for me to get involved with the characters. I was wrong. It was an amazing film that held the mood of the books and even incorporated some of my favourite lines from the series.

The reason I bring it up is that the film version of Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is coming to Aussie cinemas in January. As a whole, I loved this series; it was dark, adventurous and fun. I wanted to see it before I knew John C. Reilly was playing Mr. Creepsley and Salma Hayeck was playing Madame Truska, the Beared Lady. The casting of those two actors was a real hook for me to see this in the cinema.

This morning I watched the trailer for the first time. I find book adaptation trailers hard to judge because I already know the story so well, but I was intrigued by the comments from fans. With less than three minutes to go by, some Darren Shan fans are already angry over casting choice and even slight changes in storyline or additions.

I get worked up over books and films very easily but when it comes to the book-to-film-mutation, I think I’m a little more relaxed than other fans. During my uni days, I learned that film adaptations are not supposed to be ‘the book’. They are what they say, ‘an adaptation’ or even just ‘the inspiration’ to create the film. Some scenes that read well in a book just don’t translate on to the big screen and some sub-plots are more time consuming than they are worth.

What are your thoughts? Have you been pleasantly surprised or totally disappointed by a book adaptation? Is there one that you’re desperate to see?

Personally, I’m hoping that the film version of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies makes it to the cinema. The big screen needs more hoverboards…

GO OSCAR!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made a statement that there will be ten nominations for Best Picture category in the next Oscars, rather than the usual five.

I think this is great news and should open up the running for more popular genre flicks, musicals and foreign films. Too often these sort of awards dismiss popular film in search of some kind of notion of what high art should be. These ‘high art’ thingamajigs usually have no fantasy elements, no song and dance numbers and no car chases which cuts out a whole lot of amazing films.

I know the reasoning behind it all is about upping viewer ratings and already there are news articles telling us that nothing will really change but I guess we’ll have to see. To me, opening up the category to ten films, gives the best of popular cinema and genre films a chance to shine.

And while I’m on the topic of popular films, you really have to jump on to YouTube and watch Harry Potter the Musical. It is seriously brilliant and hilarious.

DISNEY KID

At the moment I’m editing my MS, leaving my job and about to start another, rehearsing a show and generally trying to prevent my head from exploding. The last few weeks have been really stressful but I came home today to the Lion King playing on TV and instantly I started smiling.

I’m a Disney kid and I can’t help it. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around me, a Disney animation always puts me into a good mood. Those animations make me want to act out the lines and sing and dance in the living room. Don’t ask me for my favourite film – it’s too hard to choose!
I was the same when I visited Tokyo Disneyland. Everyone who walks through those gates is a mad fan and it’s absolutely infectious. There are grandmas are wearing Stitch hats and teenage boys with skinny jeans and manga hair are queuing for a ride on Pooh’s Hunny Hunt.

This is the best ride in Disneyland and DisneySea. This is just a photo of the outside of the ride. Inside is more massive storybook pages, twisting and bouncing honeypot carriages, air cannons and animatronics. It’s beautiful!

I’ve always dreamed of writing a Disney animation, which is why I’m so excited about their next film The Princess and the Frog.

The Princess and the Frog is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans and will feature Disney’s first African American Princess. What’s even more exciting is that Disney are returning to their old school style with hand-drawn animation and a broadway-style musical soundtrack. Better still, the film is set to be released in Australia on December 26! Woot!

So, if you’re buzzing like me, then you can keep up to date with the wikipedia and the IMDB pages as well as the trailer.