It's a film now. The books were great, and someone finally decided to do something about the noticeable lack of movie. It's been out for a week and a day so far, and it's already grossed $AU5m. As you can expect, from such a fantastic series of books (well, at least the first three) the movie version has to be absolutely epic to match it. High expectations, hella pressure, on the cast and crew. So, how did it do?
I'm not going to bore you with the synopsis. It's almost exactly the same. It would be word-for-word if not for a few minor little tweaks - updating to the 21st century with mobile phones and broadband, a few little jokes that were never in the books, third-person point of view throughout most of the film and almost no narration, etc. The things that Hollywood likes. You expect that coming from a film adaptation anyway.
Characters: Bear in mind that everything from here on in is my opinion and based purely on my imagination as I read the books. YMMV. Also, spoilers follow.
Ellie Linton: Ellie was almost dead perfect. A tweak to the storyline saw her see the face of the soldier she killed with the lawnmower bomb, which IMHO changed her too quickly, too early. She still had the gritty determination that the Ellie in my head had, and the Ellie in the books had. She was also shown to have a much more realistic life pre-war than the books showed, but there's not much a book can do without rambling on. During the war, she was brilliant. When Chris fell asleep at his post, the sequence following was - hands down - the most powerful sequence in terms of character development. Ellie is afraid, but she's sure as hell not taking it lying down.
Homer Yannos: Word association meant that I pictured Homer initially like Homer Simpson. When I got over that, I imagined him a lot more Greco-Australian than the actor, and a lot balder. So, yes, he looked different. But that aside, he was very outback Aussie, which is exactly what he was supposed to be. He was pictured as being a lot wilder pre-war than the book's equivalent, but that's more of a comic relief bit. I enjoyed seeing him walk out of the cop shop wearing a T-shirt saying "F*$K THE POLICE". I also appreciated the rapid change he went through when he realised the war was happening. I would have appreciated him more if they'd have included a sequence in the book involving him smashing a mug in the fireplace. Maybe that's my testosterone talking.
Kevin Holmes: Oh yes, they got this guy down pat too. I imagined Kevin being bulkier but the Kevin in the film was a lot more appropriate for this weasel. Yes, I said weasel. In fact, the film probably made him more weaselly. For one, running away from Ellie and Corrie just after the Showgrounds scene; for two, refusing point-blank to be proactive. He was always a different kind of afraid - the kind of afraid I'd likely be if war suddenly broke out.
Corrie Mackenzie: One thing about reading the book first is that the ending is spoiled. I knew her house was doomed, and I knew she was a dead girl walking. That might have ruined Corrie a little bit for me. Corrie's character didn't quite feel captured on the silver screen, but she did a pretty good job of it. I didn't see much of the farm girl that was present in Corrie in the books. Otherwise, not a bad job; again, another transformation that the war made. Near the end, she wasn't as unconscious as she should have been, but having said that, it seems more powerful this way. I could be wrong.
Fiona Maxwell: Fifi? FIFI?!? Really? She's not a poodle FFS. Again, I had a different idea. The Fi in my head was a lot more timid. Spoiled a little, yes, but timid. And she seemed less graceful in the movie as she was in the books. Dainty: yes, though I didn't like the accent. I did, however, like the two-minute noodles bit. So, less right than the others but not a bad effort.
Lee: Lee wasn't given a surname in the books. He's been given a surname for the movie, but I'm not putting it here. Anyway. Unfortunately for Lee, his best bits come in later books, after he finds out his family has been killed. Otherwise, he was more or less dead perfect as well. I can't remember if Lee was ever in a war before the one in the books (i.e. in his childhood), but he sure as hell acted like he had, especially early on when the kids (yes, they're kids, even to me) were still sussing out Wirrawee.
Robyn Mathers: Robyn was the least like my imagination. I always thought Robyn was stronger, more athletic, and less dainty than she was portrayed. They got the religion and pacifism down well. One bit I was very disappointed with was when Homer and Ellie discover her and Lee, and she was using her Dad's walking stick instead of a gun to scare people off. I suppose that Ellie needed to figure out Robyn's identity real quick, and you can't capture Marsden's explanation well on film. It slows the sequence down. I liked her twisting her own dad around her pinkie; it annoyed me that Ellie didn't, because I feel that in the book, this was pivotal in Ellie's early development was a leader.
Chris Lang: Again, Chris looked different in my head; now that I've seen him, however, the Jack Black lookalike is perfect for him. Yes, he was good. The stereotypical stoner who has luckily escaped capture so far, is mostly apathetic about the war (a side effect of the weird shit he smokes, no doubt) and doesn't do anything proactive (there's that word again...) until the end. Good work.
Wirrawee: Could have been downtown in any farming community. I was impressed.
Hell: I imagined Hell to be bigger somewhat. It was beautiful, though.
The Showground: What can I say? Chronologically, it's the first really gripping part of the dystopia that Wirrawee has become. And yes, it was powerful. One scene involved a man being shot dead at point-blank range for simple disobedience. We never saw that in the book. It really nailed the whole idea of the war in fifteen seconds flat. I looked away. I don't look away from movies for much, if I'm in the cinema. (Otherwise I don't have a very good attention span for movies, except recently for Dr. Strangelove. But I digress.)
As I said, the plot was almost word-for-word. They left some bits out, changed some bits, and added some bits. That's usual. Of the bits they left out, I think the worst loss was the Hermit and his hut. The book gives a great parallel of how the Hermit, like the kids, hides in Hell, away from his past life and away from the devastation (although, unlike the Hermit, the kids actually do something about it). If sequels are made, I doubt the Hermit will be touched on. Pity.
Of the bits that were changed, the worst was the lawnmower bomb sequence, as I said earlier, and the fact that all eight of the kids went to blow up the bridge (although it did make for good character building, particularly Robyn and Chris). The whole idea of that sequence was for Ellie and Fi to gossip about Homer - juxtaposing war and peace - and for triumph to be brought swiftly down by the harsh reality of war (as opposed to having the two mixed together). To put it another way, the audience isn't supposed to know about Corrie being shot before Ellie does. The best bits were both sequences where the kids are put under pressure from extra bullets flying at them; first at the Showground, second at the Heron Bridge. It gave the movie a sense of panic that the books never gave. Ever. (That's not to say that the books didn't convey panic in their own way, though.)
Of the bits that were added, I enjoyed Homer's comic relief most. This was all confined to before the war (surprise surprise) and kept in good taste. I didn't enjoy Kevin bringing Flip along everywhere, mostly because this shows him as being a bit stronger than he was in the book (i.e. defying his friends' best suggestions).
Of the rest: well, there's not much else I can say that hasn't already been said. My testosterone nagged at me the whole time the Heron Bridge was being blown up - in a good way, mind - and I would have loved to have seen the kids doing the wheelies on the golf course. A sad loss, but a minor one. I also saw every single catastrophe coming, but then, that's not what the film is about. Much like the Harry Potter series, the assumption is that everyone has read the book to begin with. This is not an exaggeration. The books are mega among the 15-to-21s, and also very popular in other age brackets. (Hell, I first heard about them when I was 10.)
If you had high expectations for the movie, they should be met. If they're not, that's not a bad thing, because the books were incredible. Still, it's worth going to watch, if just for the explosions. I give it 9/10. Great acting, great progression, and way too overdue.