Re-Watch: Inkheart (2008)

Director: Iain Softley
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on: Cornelia Funke’s novel
Cast: Eliza Bennett, Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Sienna Guillory, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Rafi Gavron, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Connelly
Seen on: 1.1.2022
[Here’s my first review of the film.]
[Here are my reviews of the entire trilogy this is based on.]

Content Note: racism

Meggie (Eliza Bennett) and her bookbinder father Mo (Brendan Fraser) have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books, traveling around where Mo’s work is needed. This gives Mo a chance to look for a rare book. Just when he finds a copy, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up. It’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his men who are coming for Mo. Meggie and Mo immediately head towards her greataunt Elinor (Helen Mirren). But Dustfinger is right behind them as he desperately needs something from Mo: his ability to read things out of books. It’s that ability that Capricorn is looking for, too and that puts all of them in danger.

Now that I finally finished (re-)reading the trilogy, I wanted to watch the film again, too. It is still a sweet adventure film that captures the essence of the book very nicely, albeit overshooting the goal a little.

The film poster showing Mo (Brendan Fraser) reading from a book. A golden glitterwave curls up from the book, and in it are a unicorn and the other main characters.

When I saw the film for the first time, I was fresh off reading Inkheart and was preoccupied with comparing the two. Now, I only just finished the trilogy, but it’s been a few months that I finished Inkheart, so it wasn’t quite as fresh in my mind and that does help the film, I think, to stand on its own and to be judged on its own merits.

That being said, it doesn’t depart that much from the book, but in some ways it very much does. The biggest change, for me, are the many creatures from other books that populate it – especially from The Wizard of Oz. It’s still a puzzling choice for me to focus so much on a book that isn’t Inkheart. It is too much for the film, leaving a lot of things dangling. Plus, nobody ever disappears for all of these creatures coming out, and that contradicts the rules of this world. The other big change is that Inkheart the film finishes the story, whereas Inkheart the book is the start of a trilogy. That means that the Inkworld itself remains unexplored in the film, but getting an ending is appreciated.

Mo (Brendan Fraser) holding an opne book, surrounded by Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his men as golden coins rain down on them.

The film is definitely a very nice adventure movie that gets many things right, like putting Helen Mirren on a unicorn (still definitely badass) or casting Paul Bettany as Dustfinger (although I felt that the script doesn’t quite get his characterization right). When I saw it the first time, I was rather disappointed by Fraser as Mo, but on second viewing his voice and reading skills worked for me (that Mo is such an action hero is still the story getting ahead of itself though). Other things, it doesn’t get right at all. For example, that Farid (Rafi Gavron) talks with an accent is an othering, racist choice that the film should have done without. And the ending with Meggie writing herself (and increasingly just speaking and having it come true) is a bit too much deus ex machina.

But for the most part, it’s an entertaining romp that will delight book lovers in particular, but will also have enough excitement and fun for others. I enjoyed it.

Mo (Brendan Fraser) reading from a book as Elinor (Helen Mirren), Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) and Meggie (Eliza Bennett) cover their ears.

Summarizing: very nice.

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