The Angry Jungle

I question Jena Malone's acting choicesMy latest Sympatico/MSN DVD column is up, exploring the twisted complications of “The Ruins” — a terrific, terrifying novel rendered utterly uninvolving on screen.

The movie’s not bad, exactly, but it fails completely as a scary thriller: It’s neither scary nor thrilling. But it makes for a fascinating case study in cinematic adaptation. (And, of course, the Onion AV Club has already treated it as such.)

Just read the book, okay? The book’s really good.

5 thoughts on “The Angry Jungle”

  1. (Spoiler alert) Why do movies tend to shy away from bleak, everybody dies kind of endings? They’re not planning a sequel are they – Amy heads back to the jungle like Ripley back into space to deal with this monster once and for all. One of the most unsettling movies I’ve seen in the past few years is Open Water, which took things to their logical conclusion. Roger Ebert wrote something about it being about what happens when you survive longer than you want to. That’s interesting psychological stuff. It may be easier to show on the page, but it can be shown on the screen.

    Sorry Norm, I tend to run on and on, but this topic hits both movies AND books – my two favorite things.

  2. Chris,

    The ending of the movie version of “The Ruins” just seems like an arbitrary change-up aimed at people who’ve read the book — just like the fate-swapping that goes on throughout the film.

    It feels deeply cynical and kind of mean-spirited, both towards the readers and to the characters themselves, who now turn out to be so indistinct from one another that it doesn’t matter who falls down the mine shaft, or who becomes the cutter, or who (spoiler alert) escapes.

    It’s almost like Scott Smith is trying to short-circuit the adaptation with his own screenplay. I’d love to talk to him about it someday.

  3. Life is arbitrary. Art shouldn’t be. Even if a book, screenplay, play, painting etc., is about the arbitrariness of life – and it could be argued that anything where people are picked off one at a time just for being in the wrong place is about just that – it should have an internal cohesiveness to accomplish its goals. Waiting for Godot isn’t just random words on a page. The kid in My Kid Could Paint That is not painting anything profound. And there should be a special circle of hell for writers or directors who ruin (no pun intended) their own work by remaking it with more commercial aims. Great example, the director (I forget who) who did the excellent Dutch film The Vanishing – one of the other films like Open Water that was deeply unsettling – only to remake it for Hollywood and butcher his own work.

    There. Rant over.

    The Ruins – and A Simple Plan – was a fun, relentless read. If you DO get a chance to ask Scott Smith about it, please write about it in your blog. I’m curious about the rationale for the changes.

  4. Books and movies evoke emotional responses through different means. As you pointed out, the book has more time and can relate a character’s thoughts directly.

    The simple observation is that a novel and its screenplay will be constructed very differently from each other. And a visual, of course, may never equal your own imaginings.

    (My disappointment dates back to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, by the way. I like the book…)

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