The Desolation of Smaug, (the second installment of Peter Jackson's three-part interpretation of The Hobbit) opened in theaters yesterday. Despite my love of all things Tolkien, I was not among those who lined up to see it. Oh, I’m sure I’ll see it at some point over the next few weeks, and I’ll probably end up complaining bitterly about the interminable action sequences, the scenes that have been cut out or the extra characters that have been thrown in (all for no good reason, IMO) just as I did after viewing the previous film. But I’m not rushing out the door to see it—no matter how many Orlando Blooms are in it. To be honest, I’m much more excited about a movie that’s releasing next Friday: Saving Mr. Banks.
For those who don’t know, Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of PL Travers, Walt Disney and the making of Mary Poppins. As a writer, I can sympathize with PL Travers and her reluctance to allow her books to be made into a movie and I’m curious to see what it took to convince her and, even more importantly, what she thought of the finished product.
I find Mary Poppins to be a very curious film. The characters and events on the screen bear little resemblance to the characters and events in the books. That, in itself isn’t strange, of course. Most movies stray pretty far from the books they’re based on. But what makes it so special (at least to me) is that the two Mary Poppinses while clearly not the same, still manage to coexist quite happily in my head. They’re two completely different interpretations that somehow complement each other. Together they are, in fact, practically perfect in every way.
The thing is, however, I don’t know why that’s the case. It bugs me. I can’t really think of any other movie/book combination that I can say that about. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the movie stayed true to the spirit of the books—kind of the reverse of the travesty that is Disney’s 1996 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
In any case, I’m hoping Saving Mr. Banks will shed some light on the reasons. And, who knows, maybe I’ll take away some new insights that will allow me to better appreciate The Desolation of Smaug.
What movies do you find to be successful interpretations of the books you’ve loved?
PG Forte inhabits a world only slightly less strange than the ones she creates. Filled with serendipity, coincidence, love at first sight and dreams come true…it also bears an uncanny resemblance to Berkeley, California. Learn more at www.PGForte.com