I thought I had included this entry in the early days of this blog, but upon review I found that I merely found another tangent to follow on the topic. However, with the advent of my first interview on vampire lore, I find myself tasked with amping up my rant quotient. Thus, my rant (to date) to end all rants. Even though it was written over two years ago, my feelings have not changed -- though I will say that Nolan's 'Batman' trilogy has advanced some of the cinematic ideas regarding baddies and those who just want to watch the world burn.
Writer's Block Query: Is there a book you really loved that was subsequently turned into a movie? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?
Hoo boy... settle in, readers. You just opened the door for me to talk about 'the abomination' that is the film industry's attempt to ruin my favorite book. Over. And over. And OVER.(andaoveandoverandoverandover about 3,000 times -- number of times only slightly exaggerated).
For the newer peeps, random visitors, or those who just may not have been paying attention, my favorite book is Dracula. I blame my father. He told me at sixteen that this was 'the great unfilmed novel.' This is the last thing you want to say to a gothic-horror-loving teen who is a voracious reader, writer, film buff and has a passion for creative endeavors including film-making -- unless, that is, you want to create an obsessive monster.
Now, as movie adaptations of books go, I'm not a complete purist. I understand the need to clip some things, adjust others, creatively interpret descriptions and thoughts and situations. I get it. The execution doesn't always work for me, but I understand the need for it. So I want to make that clear before I start in on my rant. I also want to make it known there are some adaptations of books to film I think are great, one of which I'll close on after my scathing commentary. I love the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. I love (most of) the 'Harry Potter' movies (Seriously, what happened between OotP and HBP? How did the director go retarded in that short span of time? Different rant...). I adore the 2005 'Pride & Prejudice' film, as well as the miniseries with Colin Firth. There are also a lot of adaptations that make me twitch (*cough*Kubrick's 'The Shining'*cough*), but we'll avoid those this time since I'm about to go full-force snark on one of the 'greatest living directors' of American cinema.
Francis Ford Coppola, you raped my book.
What disturbs and angers me foremost about 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' is that it's the only film to carry the author's name in the title and is so obviously not the book. This is made worse by the fact that when you watch interviews or read literature on the film, Coppola actually thinks he DID film the book. Now tell me, scholarly director, where in that book does Mina go on a date to the movies with Dracula? WHERE? And when precisely does she profess her undying love for him and shaft her husband in favor of Drac's scary bouffant hair and red dress? You want to know what this movie is? It's the Karloff version of 'The Mummy' adapted with vampires along with the characters and some scenes from Stoker's novel. Granted it is, so far, the only version of 'Dracula' to include all three of Lucy's suitors. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of the characters, they aren't really the type of men they are meant to be (or, in the case of Billy Campbell's quite wonderful portrayal of Quincey, he's so 'actually the character' that he seems out of place next to everyone else's wackiness). Barring their titular inclusion, the characters are written and portrayed basically nothing like they are in the book. Mina's a blushing bride turned wanton love slave of Dracula. Lucy's a man-chasing whore. Van Helsing's a complete crack pot. Seward, a brilliant young doctor, can't possibly run an asylum on his own without being unbalanced himself (oh, and a morphine addict because everyone in Victorian society was addicted to sex, morphine, absynthe and/or opium). Jonathan Harker is a giant pussy (and Keanu? Seriously? WTF, casting directors?). Arthur is probably the only one besides Quincey who is somewhat true to character (and a complete waste of Cary Elwes who, in an ideal situation, would have been the PERFECT Arthur). Dracula himself is a whiny, manipulative, cuckolding bat-man who just wants to find love.
Excuse me? Dracula travels all the way from Transylvania to England to seduce and romance a girl who looks like his suicidal wife from 400 years ago? HE JUST WANTS TO BE LOVED?!? F that S! What the man wants is to settle in to a quiet life in England where he can blend in and kill people at his leisure in a society that, unlike those superstitious gypsies, embraces modern science and reason and therefore will dismiss his crimes as something rational and explainable. When this is threatened by the men in this book, he turns on the vengeance and wreaks havoc on their lives. Why? BECAUSE HE'S EVIL.
This is a huge problem I have with this movie (and a lot of movies, adaptations or not) -- the resistance to the concept of evil. It's not necessarily that bad people are glorified, or mistreated and misunderstood (though that happens), it's that there is a lack of ability in film-making, and in society as a whole: to believe that some things, some people, some entities simply desire nothing more than to kill, to hate, to destroy and ravage and wreak havoc. The reverse, sadly, is also true (though to a lesser extent) -- that no one can be good for the sake of just being good. No one is pure of heart. No one will fight for goodness simply because they are good and believe in the goodness of others. (Anyone understanding now one of the reasons I love Doctor Who?) Everyone has to have dark motives, want something selfish, be an addict, covet their neighbor's ass and go for it. I'm not saying people should be portrayed without flaws or dark deeds and always taking the moral and ethical high road. What I'm saying is there aren't enough Aragorn's and Samwise's in our media.
Those being the major issues -- and they are MAJOR -- there are lesser problems I have with the movie. For instance, the Dracu-babes making time with Harker in the castle, biting on him and nearly giving him a BJ... yeah. Never happens. Not even close. There are also so many minor-seeming adjustments to situations, and how characters react to them, that when you know the story simply point to the creative minds not knowing how to portray a moment and so masking it with over-the-top constructs (Dracula as the giant talking bat, anyone?).
I could keep going. For hours. Some people have seen/heard me do this. However, I'll spare you the minutiae of everything that's wrong with this movie. As a film, it's not terrible (it's not particularly good either). As an adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, it's an abomination.
This is however, par for the course with Dracula interpretations. There is no film in existence, of the hundreds that have been made which are somehow connected to the source, which even remotely begins to resemble the actual novel. I attack this one the most because it's the highest profile, the most recent 'straight interpretation' of the novel made for wide release, and because its title should be stripped from the record and replaced with "Francis Ford Coppola's The Mummy with Vampires and Characters Loosely Based on Bram Stoker's Dracula."