Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inkheart…see the movie, but buy the books

Welcome to the Inkworld

Saw Inkheart last night as scheduled.  The theatre was half full which was surprising for an early Saturday night screening.

Basically the plot revolves around a man who can read elements of fictional stories into real life. Only when something comes out, someone usually goes in.  When Mo (Brendan Fraser) last read out loud, three dark characters came out of the “Inkworld” story and he lost his wife into it.  Thus the story develops as their daughter (and her aunt) learn the truth, Dustfinger (a troubled good-guy) searches out Mo to be read back into his world, and Capricorn and his henchmen try to force Mo into reading out ultimate evil into the “real world” from theirs for added power.

Overall it was a fun movie.  I would call it light fantasy/adventure.  It does bring a lot of family-friendly themes; father-daughter bonding, the love of a mother, family going extra miles for each other.

The danger never was too threatening from the “bad-guys” so the urgency of the plot seemed a bit weak.

Alvis really enjoyed it and Lavie and I had a great time escaping.

The only problem for us was that we had already read Cornelia Funke’s Inkworld trilogy.  And the movie takes incredible liberties with the plot, the characters, and the general tone of the story. In the Harry Potter book/movie series, the balance between film and page is handled quite well and both seem to co-exist amicably despite the liberties taken.  With Inkheart, sad irony considering the plot, making the fictional real might do more harm to the written word.

Funke’s Inkworld is a deep and layered series of fantasy books.  We have always read stories out loud at bedtime as a family, and when I learned of the plot of a father who reads out loud and things happen, well the storyline intrigued me.

Unlike the His Dark Materials (trilogy) which brought us The Golden Compass, this fantasy series brings no religious controversy or political baggage along with it.  The Inkworld series is as pure in its message of friendship, family, and overcoming darkness (within and without) as it is bold in creating another world, not unlike our own, but magically different.  All actions have consequences (even the best intended), and some are plainly brutal and final. But where there is hope and inspiration, there is always wonder and love.

Major characters in the book were glossed over or became minor ones in the movie.  Elements were added to the movie that were totally non-existent in the books.  The relationship between Mo, Meggie, and Dustfinger in the books is very rich and nuanced.  Something that didn’t translate at all in the movie with Mo being much more pensive and flighty than the character he was in the books.  I would say that only the characters of Farid, Fenoglio, and Elinor successfully translated honestly from their written to on-screen characterizations.

And for readers of the series, some things just stuck out horribly…like Farid’s acceptance of shoes (he refused to wear them in the books) and when Inkworld author Fenoglio gets an inspiration from Mo and decides to create a character called “The Bluejay” mid-way through the movie.  And by the way, Mo wasn’t a “silvertounge”, Mo is “Silvertounge.”   In the books, we don’t meet “The Bluejay” until the last volume, with complicated and lasting consequences.  I guess this “foreshadowing” is clearly meant to be a sign we can expect two more movies to be made.

Although marketed towards advanced youth readers here in the States, we found the Inkworld trilogy was much more adult-centered in tone and content.  The writing is very structured and heavy with details and descriptions.  After reading Harry Potter for years, the word-flow and rhythm was much more challenging to read aloud.  While both Funke and J.K.Rowling are accomplished and gifted writers, they provide a great comparison on how the author’s writing style itself contributes to the tone and timbre of their creations.

That said, all three books, Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath present a rare and rich read that demonstrates that there is power not just in the written world, but also in the spoken one as well.

See the movie for fun, then go and read the books to be amazed and captivated by the real Inkworld and its characters. 

You might just find it’s someplace you won’t ever be able to leave either.

Inkheart the movie – See it and forget it.

Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath the books – buy and read them and you will never put them down again.

--Claus V.

1 comment:

Nathaniel said...

My brother likes the series and wants to see the movie. I've only heard him talking about it and so am familiar with the read-in/read-out idea. Maybe I'll get around to reading them sometime. I'm reading the Eldest from the Inheritance series right now (Inheritance of Eragon fame).