Sunday, March 27, 2011

Movie Rant: Dumbed Down Dumas

Alexandre Dumas
This is exactly why I hate Hollywood sometimes. Not only do they rarely come up with an original concept, but when they do decide to borrow wonderful stories from people a million times more clever and articulate than they will ever be, they go and destroy their work. Rip it to shreds. Cheapen it in every way possible.

Alexandre Dumas is one of my favourite authors and The Three Musketeers is one of my favourite books ever. Period. That being said, it has never been adapted properly on film, which is a shame because, if put in the right hands, it could be epic. Instead, it's always played for laughs (which is odd because the book isn't exactly a slap-your-knee-hilarious piece of literature).

When I first heard that there was to be yet another remake of this classic, I cringed. But then I thought, it couldn't possibly be worse than that Kiefer Sutherland-Charlie Sheen-Chris O'Donnell fiasco from 1993, right? Apparently I was way off the mark. While I was too busy getting all excited about the prospect of the wonderful Christoph Waltz taking on the role of Cardinal Richelieu in this 2011 "re-imagining," I didn't stop to look at the rest of the film's credits -- Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich and director Paul W.S. Anderson, the man who gave us, ...wait for it ..., the Resident Evil franchise. Wow. Somewhere Dumas is rolling over in his grave, cussing in French.

The newly released trailer is one of the most blatant attempts at a quick cash-grab I've ever seen. The story of The Three Musketeers is butchered beyond recognition. Take a well-known (and much beloved) story, throw in slow-motion fight sequences and ...flying ships, apparently ...and you have an instant blockbuster, Dumas be damned ...

I propose banning all remakes of literary classics unless they have loyal scripts and are directed by (and starring) legitimately talented people. Until then, I'll just have to turn my back and hope that other film lovers will do the same. Out of sight, out of mind. If this makes millions and millions of dollars (which is, sadly, very likely) Hollywood will be laughing all the way to the bank, twirling their moustaches and thinking of the next literary classic they will massacre. And we will have learned nothing.


  1. My god!! This is a real conincidence because I just fininshed The Three Musketeers at 3.00am this morning!! True story!!
    I am absolutely with you in the fact it has never been faithfully adapted, true Hollywood style isn't it? Get a book and butcher it beyond all recognition and call it by the so called title. The problem with Musketters is Hollywood thinks it is all sword fights and no plot, and yet the plot is thick and the characters rich in history and personality. I can't believe hollywood can get a movie adaptation so wrong.
    The Count of Monte Cristo is also one asking for a good daptation but the recent Guy Pearce outing was a disgrace with nothing resembling the book.
    Of all the 19th century authors Dumas is by far my favorite too! His books translate very well from French and I'm about to start The Man inthe Iron Mask within the next week or so. They are well writen and I love the almost quaint ploiteness of the time and he always has good plot and interesting characters.
    Count of Monte Cristo is my third favorite novel of al time. If this is re-made I will definitely avoid it ,because again like you, the thing I hate most about Hollywood is its constant refusal to butcher the classics in the name of profit.

  2. I'm going on a slight tangent with this comment (not a Sid-tangent), but I'd just like to rant. There is little in the film industry that frustrates and angers me more than trailers. One of the key factors in the dumbing down of the average movie-goer is "the trailer" - from one side of the coin where the entire movie plot is revealed, to the other side where every funny/scary/action moment in a film is shown in the trailer... this has to stop! The last decent trailer I saw was the theatrical one for "Little Miss Sunshine" - one simple scene at the dining table, and it gave you a taster of the style of comedy, the actors in the film, and a hint at the synopsis - gloriously perfect. Compare that to the DVD trailer for the same movie, which showed every plot point, and even showed the final 'talent scene', and seriously, what do you have left to surprise you in the film?

    It is sad, but also probably quite funny to watch, but I have to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and hum to myself when trailers come on at the cinema. I'll catch the first few seconds in case it's some drivel that I don't want to see, but I wanted Lord of the Rings to all be a wow factor to me, and the same with every movie that I want to see. I avoided all of the Inception trailers, and having watched the trailer afterwards, was incredibly glad that I did. I'm currently doing my best to avoid the Source Code trailers (Duncan Jones = genius). NOTHING can replace the first time you experience something - it only happens once. And having the full experience of watching 100% of a move the first time is always tough. But watching it where every key scene is not the first time you've experienced it, well, it just seems very sad to me.

    Sorry it was off-topic - you did mention "trailer", so it was kind of on-topic, just not very much.

    But now you know that if you ever visit Chicago, and go to see a movie, and see a strange guy with his fingers in his ears humming to himself, there's a pretty good chance it's me. Or Kevin Bacon.

  3. @Brent: Thanks for your comment! That's such a strange coincidence. Weird how things like that turn out. I'm sure you'll enjoy The Man in the Iron Mask as well. It's interesting going from The Three Musketeers to The Man in the Iron Mask because 20 years pass between the two novels and the characters are all older and wiser. Anyway ...I, sadly, have not read The Count of Monte Cristo yet but I will! For some reason, Dumas has never been adapted properly. Even the Man in the Iron Mask with Leo DiCaprio is dumbed down (although, I like it when I was younger). Here's hoping Hollywood gets their act together and hires someone like us, who love the books, and let us write the screenplay!

    @Rich: Thanks for the comment! Love long discussions. I couldn't agree more on what you said about the trailer. It's like the studios think they have to sell the entire film in order to get people to fill the seats. I actually loved the original trailer for Black Swan because it doesn't give anything away and it just seems crazy. But all the subsequent TV spots gave plot points away. It's frustrating.

    What is Source Code? That sounds familiar.

    lol. Kevin Bacon.

  4. Source Code is Duncan Jones' new film - his first feature released in 2009 was "Moon", and if you didn't see it, it's a MUST see - amazing performance from Sam Rockwell, and a really stunning directorial debut from Jones (David Bowie's son!). He's also definitely worth a follow on Twitter: @manmademoon

  5. Quite agreed on that point! I'm not the world's greatest writer but I'm sure I could do a better screenplay than some of the attempts I've agonised through...might make a bit of money in the process!! Will start Iron Mask after finishing Uncle Tom's Cabin.
    I'll add my piece on trailers too! I hate them because I go to a theatre everyweek and have to sit through the same trailers week in week out ...I pull my hair out in having to sit through the same ones!!! But they are far too long and give too much away. I rememeber twenty five years ago when we virtually had no trailers and movies were spread by word of mouth

  6. I have to speak up for The Three Musketeers (1993). It definitely is a light-hearted take on the story which takes lots of freedom with the source material, however, it is a Disney movie. It was never ment to have the depts of Dumas' novel. It was ment to be a cheesy, family-appropriate adventure and that it was. I loved it as a kid and I admit, out of nostalgic reasons, I still love it today. I just had to get that off my chest. :)

    I do agree with you, though, that it is a real shame that nobody ever tries to make an honest adaptation of that novel. The trailer for the new film looks ridiculous and I can't think of a possible excuse for such a "remake". We can only hope that maybe someday the right person will try to tell Dumas' actual story on screen. There are rich characters and an intriguing plot; and in the right hands this could be a very engaging period drama indeed.

  7. @Rich: Thanks for the heads up! I have heard of Moon and Sam Rockwell's great performance in it but haven't had a chance to see it!

    @Brent: Iron Mask is a lot of fun, but doesn't have as much of the BFF bromance that makes The Three Musketeers so fun! Let me know what you thought of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I've never read that one.

    @Rina: Hey! It's been awhile. How are you? haha. Fair enough. It is a Disney movie, that's a good point. Even though I saw it as a kid I didn't like it much but I can definitely see how people would form an attachment to it. Unfortunately, with this new "remake" (if we can even call it that), I don't think Hollywood will touch The Three Musketeers again for a long time. We might have to wait 20 years for that (hopefully) great adaptation.

  8. I will do that!! I have just started a seperate blog dedicated to the fiction I read so I'll be writing up a review there soon. Be pleased if you take a look some time! Only five posts so far but that will steadily increase. Time is the problem.
    I prefer Roots to Uncle Tom's cabin. It may be heavily plagarised but it is more descriptive then Tom's Cabin, and easier to read. Am having trouble finishing it as it is hard going. I want to get it out of the way asap because I am eager to start Iron Mask!

  9. Haha, yeah, long time no see. I've been following your entries, even though I haven't been replying much lately. Sorry for that. Hope you're doing well.

    You might be right. But maybe if we wait all those years we might get rewarded with a satisfying adaptation in the end. Until then, we can always revisit the novel.

  10. @Brent: Sure, I'll take a look. What is it called? Or is it linked on your profile?

  11. It is linked on my right hand is still a very young blog and I have been having trouble updating it as often as I would like to have been. Would love an opinion on what you see. Be honest as to what you think. You are a professional writer whereas I haven't used my uni education wrting wise which is what I initially intended but haven't got around to doing. Am struggling very badly with Man in iron mask!! Will finish it soon but don't like it as much as Musketeers.

  12. @Brent: Agreed. The Man in the Iron Mask was no Three Musketeers! I'll take a look at your site now!