Two film adaptations of award winning novels debuted trailers recently.
One for Yann Martel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Life of Pi and the other for David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, winner of the British Book Award.
Both books are modern classics and have sold millions of copies -- a rarity among literary fiction -- and have garnered a wide and emphatic fan base.
Because there are fantastical elements to both books there’s something about them that adds extra anticipation to their turns from page to screen.
The excitement among fans already has a lot of buzz more similar to that of teen-books-turned-movies -- like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games than a film like the recently adapted version of Kerouac opus On The Road.
Life of Pi
Ang Lee has made some of my favourite movies.
His turn at Austen is one of the only movies I have to put the rest of my life on hold for if it shows up on basic cable.
I will watch Sense and Sensibility from any point, whether beginning, middle or end, and the farther into the film I am the more I lament the scenes I’ve missed.
He’s tackled literary adaptations before.
Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm, Ride With the Devil, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Taking Woodstock and Lust Caution are all based on books.
The man is kind of a literary-adaptation master and it’s no surprise he chose Life of Pi.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell if his magic is working this time around. The trailer doesn’t make this seem like a sure fire winner.
Yes, it’s got visuals on its side. The special effects and CGI are big and bold and in a at times distracting.
Animals and lights and magic that flash and slash and burst from the water in vivid swashes of colour.
It’s pretty and the soundtrack is perfectly designed to kick your heart into feeling the swells of high emotion.
The trailer serves as a teaser of high-action points. Instead of the darkness and slowness that the book often exhibited this comes off as a flashy adventure.
Also, the trailer gives off a happy, life-affirming, everything is going to be peachy keen once we get out of this desolate life boat vibe that I’m not sure suits the source material.
Not that it needs to be overly negative or depressing, but c’mon. Living on a lifeboat with a tiger, unless you’re a Disney character, is not the most fun-time life experience.
Onto Cloud Atlas.
Directed by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski, the trailer is six minutes long to visually capture each of the book’s six sections.
It’s a much longer and more demanding book, as both a reader and a filmmaker. It jumps in time and place, contains a multitude of characters and has a more complicated structure.
Tykwer is the director of the innovative and aesthetically beautiful Run, Lola, Run and he’s also tackled a literary adaptation, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.
The latter, again a visually stunning piece of cinema, wasn’t quite the masterpiece it aimed to be and was prettier than it was cohesive.
Can we trust the Wachowski siblings, makers of The Matrix to deliver the Cloud Atlas movie bibliophiles have been waiting for?
They have handled the heavy subject matter of a graphic novel adaptation, V for Vendetta. We’ll have to wait and see but until the full film arrives we’ve got this really long trailer to tide us over.
Tom Hanks is in it. A lot. And wearing lots of costumes and hair styles of different eras.
Halle Berry is also sporting all manner of clothes and accessories, and as usual delivering lines in her whispery, serious acting voice.
Meh. These casting choices are perhaps not the best. But, in other segments, Ben Wishaw and Susan Sarandon and Doona Bae and Jim Broadbent appear and I feel my faith restored.
It covers more beats, more intrigue, big ideas, history, the future.
This is the kind of trailer to watch obsessively. Maybe the extra four minutes just makes for a more emotionally satisfying trailer.
The kind that inspires a person to question their life. Ok, dramatic, but possible. It’s a breathtaking snippet of cinema.
If It's a Competition, Lee's Losing
Lee seems more suited to this adaptation and yet if this were a competition, I’d say he’s losing so far.
Cloud Atlas looks like the more compelling prospect. It’s tough to say which is more beautiful, though, as they’ve both got sensational images and stellar cinematography.
Trailer-wise, Cloud Atlas brings the game when it comes to mixing the visuals with the story, the special effects and magical or science-fiction elements with grounded, real personal stories.
Outrageous moments and instances are made relatable.
But really, these are just trailers. Advertisements to convince us that we believe in these brief moments enough to spend a lot longer with them.
Come fall we can decide which is better, make our judgements. And, we hope, people will buy more books too.