Inkheart – the adaptation of the book by Cornelia Funke, which I reviewed here – left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was inspired. On the other hand, it didn’t treat the original material very carefully and stood in its own way.
[This review contains SPOILERS!]
[Oh, and it kind of kept on growing, so it’s more of an in-depth analysis than a review.]
Plot and Ending
The story remains the same, mostly, as in the book. But they changed the chronology a bit and left out a lot. For example, the movie starts with the revelation that Meggie’s [Eliza Bennett] father, Mo [Brendan Fraser], is a silver tongue, but doesn’t know himself. This is done with a visually stunning floating red hood, while Mo reads to his baby daughter.
Every loose end is tied up and the story is definitely more finished than in the book. Dustfinger [Paul Bettany] gets his happy end. Resa [Sienna Guillory] even gets her voice back. As I haven’t read the other two books, I don’t know if it happens there at all, but it doesn’t happen in Inkheart, that’s for sure. I don’t object happy endings, but I thought the voice back thing a little over the top and it left me doubting that there are any sequels planned.
But the ending itself – with Meggie making up her own words and reading them, doesn’t make much sense. What the hell did they need Fenoglio [Jim Broadbent] for, if she can just finish the story written by somebody else?
The first thing that threw me, for two reasons, was the “a silver tongue” thing. 1) “a silver tongue”? Yes, it’s Mo’s nickname, given to him by the people he read out of the book. But it’s not a name for readers like him. In fact, in the book, they’re not referred to at all as a group. Darius is the other reader and Mo is Silver Tongue and Meggie inherited her father’s ability. 2) In the book, this is kind of a plot twist. I mean, most people know this about the book when they start reading it and its kind of the reason that most people read it, which is why I didn’t feel bad including it in my review of the book without the spoiler warning. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to start with it, right? Plus, it was a klunky piece of exposition.
And what the fuck is up with the talking books? Why do they start whispering? On the one hand, great stuff, like the effect, goose bump worthy. On the other hand, why? It doesn’t make much sense.
Another thing that had a pretty coll effect but didn’t make much sense when you thought about it, was the animals – Hook’s crocodile, the Minotaur, the Unicorn etc. They were read out of books but what for? To see Helen Mirren riding the Unicorn with a drawn sword in hand? Okay, admittedly, this was a sight to behold, but why would Capricorn ask Darius to read them out of the books in the first place? And if it was an accident, why would he keep them locked up?
What I really enjoyed was the people and animals read out of books by Darius had this writing all over their faces – because he couldn’t read everything out. That really was an inspired idea.
In the book, the first thing Meggie reads aloud is Peter Pan and she reads out Tinkerbell. Why change that to the Wizard of Oz and Toto? It didn’t really bug me that much, but I just didn’t understand the change.
What did bug me though, was that the movie came back again and again to Oz, while the book cherishes a variety of books and can never mention enough of them – something, which I thoroughly enjoyed and which is also very fitting for the setting.
Inkheart, the book itself, was beautiful.
Interestingly enough, the film focussed more on Dustfinger than on Meggie. On the one hand, I understand it – you can never focus enough on Paul Bettany [rawr] and Dustfinger is a great character. On the other hand, Meggie should be the main focus as it’s her story.
But lets talk about the characters one by one:
Mo suddenly is the Last Action Hero. Is only half as nerdy and bookish as he is in the book. And I didn’t like him that much like that. He’s a bookbinder, not someone who kicks ass for a living.
Dustfinger is a complicated character in the book and they didn’t change that for the movie, which is good. I like him. They added a family in the movie, who’s waiting for his return (his wife, btw, is played by Jennifer Connelly [if I’m not mistaken – no mention of it at imdb] in a super mini cameo. She is also Bettany’s wife in real life). I was a little disappointed by the scars – they were hardly visible. Which made the whole “he’s so hideous” thing a bit weird – Paul Bettany’s face, even with a few scars around one eye, can not be hideous. Especially if the scars can only be seen if you get really, really close. [Mmmh, close to Paul Bettany…]
Meggie is different. Not a lot, but the whole writing thing, that’s a bit weird. Maybe that’s something that will come up in the next books, but in Inkheart it felt forced. All in all, she felt a little Mary Sue-ish. And she didn’t feel like that in the book.
Elinor is just great. Perfectly captured.
Capricorn gets way too little screen time. You have someone like Andy Serkis playing him and then he’s seen like about 5 minutes, altogether. It’s not even enough time to be scared of him.
Basta was completely destroyed as a character. In the book, he’s an ass and he’s weird, but he’s also really, really scary. You want to make fun of him because of his superstitions, but you never dare. In the movie, he’s comic relief. Sucks big time.
Fenoglio was well done. Except that he suddenly doesn’t like children. Makes him a little less likeable.
Brendan Fraser was Cornelia Funke’s choice. She insisted on him being cast and I honestly don’t know why. Optically, he’s a fit, yes. But he couldn’t act if his life depended on it [well, it kind of does. Or at least his livelihood depends on it]. But what hurts this film most is that he’s not a good reader. One of the most intense scenes in the book is when Mo reads out loud to get treasures for Capricorn. The way his voice is described, you can hear it and you see all of them sitting there, being enthralled by his voice and at the same time, you see what he’s reading. It’s amazing. And then along comes Brendan Fraser and reads in a wooden tone. I wanted to scream in frustration.
Eliza Bennett looks way too old, as already mentioned. Other than that, her performance is okay.
Helen Mirren is wonderful, just wonderful. I love that woman. Is there some way to bottle her? She’s also really the perfect choice as Elinor. She made me laugh and cry and love her.
Paul Bettany is also the perfect choice. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. I think he’s one of the most talented actors around and I don’t know why he isn’t a superstar yet. Anyway, he’s brilliant as Dustfinger. Utterly brilliant. A-fucking-mazing.
Jim Broadbent manages to capture Fenoglio in his eccentricity. That hardly comes as a surprise. It’s Jim Broadbent after all: The guy you call when you need an eccentric supporting actor.
Rafi Gavron (Farid) is completely lost. You don’t remember him five seconds after you saw him.
The special effects were great. The Shadow was very impressive and very well done. But what was simply astonishing in its beauty was Capricorn’s death. The way he turned into a book just looked great. I actually held my breath while watching it.
Summarising, it’s a lot flashier than the book. While it could have done with a better main cast, it was fine and enjoyable except for a few little things. I’m sad that they so obviously don’t want to have a sequel. But at least, I still have the other two books to look forward to.