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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
November 15, 2003 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World The Russell Crowe film adaptation of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels, opens this weekend (the film was previously part of this discussion). The critics love it (though some find it boring). Patrick O'Brian fans are legion, and often passionate. (Good fans sites include Dr. Maturin's Natural History and The Gunroom, The Patrick O'Brian Compendium, and the page of Patrick O'Brian Web Resources.) The upcoming Cold Mountain looks to be another promising film adaptation of quality historical fiction. What other historical novels have made a smooth transition to film? Which novels would you like to see make the transition? (Flashman?)
posted by jdroth (44 comments total)

 
I love the O'Brian novels and can't wait to see the movie (which sounds like an excellent job). As for other historical novels: if it were well done (I guess we can take that as a general precondition), I'd love to see The King Must Die (or any others of Mary Renault's wonderful novels of ancient Greece).
posted by languagehat at 11:09 AM on November 15, 2003


A lot of W.E.B. Griffin's military historical novels would be good movie fodder, I think. But then, I fear there are few directors, producers and screenwriters around who would respect and understand the material and the subject matter's context well enough to translate it effectively to the screen.
posted by alumshubby at 11:24 AM on November 15, 2003


I'm not a Russell Crowe fan, but I'm curious to see what they've made of O'Brian's characters and settings (not his book, since the movie takes bits and pieces from all over the canon rather than adapting the first book in the series). I'm looking forward to Cold Mountain more, though I doubt they can do the book justice.

I want to see a good adaptation of Spangle.
posted by rushmc at 11:35 AM on November 15, 2003


i would love to see a good adaptation of one of jeanette winterson's novels. unfortunately miramax has purchased the rights to the one film-friendly novel she's written (that would be the passion) as a slinky piece of oscar bait for gwyneth paltrow. i am not optimistic.

now that lord of the rings has run its course, i would love to see a good film version of the gormenghast novels.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:47 AM on November 15, 2003


What, didn't you like the BBC version?
posted by rushmc at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2003


I fear this one is going to suck. I'll admit that Ferrell makes me laugh sometimes, but I think he might be in over his head on this one.
posted by emelenjr at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2003


I'm not familiar with the books - but is it true that the "bad guys" in the novel "Far Side Of The World" are American, and in the movie they are French? Is that really what you call a smooth transition?
posted by pascal at 11:56 AM on November 15, 2003


I'd like to see just about anything having to do with Rome. With today's special effects, virtual sets and whatnot, a long televised saga--much longer than I, Claudius--would be quite "easy" in comparison to what could be done 30 years ago.

Huh. What do you know.

Never mind. [/Emily Litella]
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:05 PM on November 15, 2003


there was a british gormenghast?! thanks for the tip, rushmc.

though i would still love to see gilliam do it.

speaking of sir gilliam, his version of "the brothers grimm" looks quite smashing, in spite of some questionable casting.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:09 PM on November 15, 2003


Damn, what's with all the advertisements on the front page recently?

Sick.
posted by Espoo2 at 12:12 PM on November 15, 2003


emelenjr, with David Gordon Green directing you can bet Confederacy will be pretty good.
posted by dobbs at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2003


I fear this one is going to suck.

Will Ferrell? Lily Tomlin? In Confederacy of Dunces?!? Geez, if he hadn't already killed himself...

You have made me cry this day, emelenjr. :(
posted by rushmc at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2003


I agree re: CoD. I was unsettled to see the news that Ignatiious O'Reilly was to be essayed by Mr. Ferrell about 45 seconds after I first saw an ad for 'Elf.' This conjunction of events was disheartening.

Expect the pyloric valve to be featured prominently, perhaps co-starring.
posted by umberto at 1:14 PM on November 15, 2003


Will Ferrell? Lily Tomlin? In Confederacy of Dunces?!?


Oh Good God. I had no idea they were trying to make a movie - and that list of actors sends a chill down my spine..... I can see the movie reviews now...


"Old School meets Forest Gump! " Peter Transmith, Highlights Magazine

" Come see the funniest feel-good movie of the year!" Tara Bankhart, Thrifty Nickel Classifieds.

"Funnier than The Matrix!" Bob GIllheart, Chick Tracts.
posted by bradth27 at 1:31 PM on November 15, 2003 [1 favorite]


I saw the movie last night. Fantastic photography, amazing design and really convincing sound. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't win a handful of technical Oscars. The storm scene rounding Cape Horn is especially well done.

Unfortunately, as movie, it was very disappointing. Utterly two-dimensional characters... but worst of all, the plot. Or, rather the lack of one: British ship gets attacked and escapes. Goes after French ship. Drunken interlude. Contrived and boring visit to Galapagos. British ship finally catches French ship. Battle. Cliched 'twist' ending. Could have easily cut out the middle half of the movie, plot-wise.

Left the cinema with an 'Is that it?' feeling.
posted by normy at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2003



Jack White has a cameo in Cold Mountain


posted by matteo at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2003


I thought Cold Mountain was wonderful, and I'm looking forward to the movie. Some of it was filmed here in Richmond.

I haven't seen David Gordon Green's All The Real Girls yet, but it's on my list, dobbs.

If I were going to cast an SNL alum as Ignatius, I wouldn't have picked Ferrell. I could see Belushi or even Farley in the role, but both of those are obviously out of the question. I'd sooner cast Horatio Sanz than Will Ferrell.
The rest of the cast doesn't sound bad, though.

The actress playing Myrna isn't listed there. Any ideas?

posted by emelenjr at 1:51 PM on November 15, 2003


Crap. Should have looked at the preview for longer than a second.
posted by emelenjr at 1:51 PM on November 15, 2003


Unfortunately, as movie, it was very disappointing. Utterly two-dimensional characters... but worst of all, the plot. Or, rather the lack of one: British ship gets attacked and escapes. Goes after French ship. Drunken interlude. Contrived and boring visit to Galapagos. British ship finally catches French ship. Battle. Cliched 'twist' ending. Could have easily cut out the middle half of the movie, plot-wise.

Umm. Please don't pay attention to this. Not only is it a spoiler, it's not really a very fair assessment.
posted by Hildago at 1:56 PM on November 15, 2003


Hildago: I thought for a micro-second about spoiling accusations, but decided that with a plot that thin, there's not much to spoil. As for the fairness or otherwise, I'm sure others can make up their own minds without your help.
posted by normy at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2003


I would love to see The Impressionist, but can't imagine how it could be condensed into a single film.
posted by taz at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2003


When I go to the pictures, I alway enjoy the show with a refreshing 64 oz Pepsi Blue®.

That said, though the casting for Dunces is a bit sketchy, I have no doubts that Green can pull it off. I went to (high) school with him, and the boy has talent.
posted by item at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2003


As for the fairness or otherwise, I'm sure others can make up their own minds without your help.

...He said, after telling everybody what to expect before they see the movie.

It wasn't a brilliant effort at characterization or plot, but I get the feeling you might have missed what little was there, and I don't want your opinion to prejudice other people against what was, all in all, a pretty good effort. That's all.
posted by Hildago at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2003


I don't want your opinion to prejudice other people against what was, all in all, a pretty good effort.

You disagree with me, no problem, so do lots of people. But what I don't understand is how you decide what people should pay attention to. Work for 20th Century Fox, by any chance?
posted by normy at 2:38 PM on November 15, 2003


I've seen the movie and I'd like to make several bullet comments.

Realism. Finally, a movie for adults. A decided lack of swashbuckling.

Borderline claustrophobic below decks.

The only noticeable anachronism was the lack of smoking in the officers wardroom, the galley or on deck. The officers didn't miss a bet to get snockered, though.

Extreme violence to young boys. Extreme violence by young boys. Excellent acting by a young boy.

Scary freaking suicide.

As the director noted, there are no "Kodak moments" among the ship's crew, all of whom are really working.

Some terribly difficult camera shots.

Russel Crowe acts like he thinks he's a real Captain.

Almost no "active" blood, very little bandage and surface blood.

A strikingly different soundtrack.

Lots of open ended and unresolved situations and emotions. In another movie you would assume they were groundworking for a sequel. Here, it just makes the scene more natural.

AS FAR AS THE NEXT HISTORICAL NOVEL:

"The Long Ships", by Frans Gunner Bengtsson, which they have tried and failed to make into a movie, what, three times? Four? The masterpiece of Viking life & times. One of my Top 10 best novels.
posted by kablam at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2003


You disagree with me, no problem, so do lots of people. But what I don't understand is how you decide what people should pay attention to. Work for 20th Century Fox, by any chance?

What the fuck? You're telling people what is good and bad with the movie, I'm telling them that it's quite possible you don't know what you're talking about, so they should make up their own minds.

Yes, I am a highly-paid shill for the movie studio, but that's totally beside the point.
posted by Hildago at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2003


Having not seen the film, the most amusing thing about it for me is the insane URL http://www.masterandcommanderthefarsideoftheworld.com/
posted by kokogiak at 4:11 PM on November 15, 2003


I'm telling them that it's quite possible you don't know what you're talking about

Er, isn't that always the case, with everyone? Therefore...warning unnecessary.
posted by rushmc at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2003


I just saw it, sort of on a whim but mostly 'cause I was at the Mall of America. I needed a sanity break from the human cattle herd before I lost the fight against the urge to pitch the really slow people over the railings. I really enjoyed it, but I've never read the books so possibly if I had read the books I wouldn't like it as much. I didn't learn anything history, but I also didn't know it was based on a novel. Like I said, this really was a whim. I hadn't heard of it but had overheard a couple of people saying they enjoyed it.
posted by substrate at 5:49 PM on November 15, 2003


Founding Brothers would make a great sitcom.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:52 PM on November 15, 2003


And btw just got back from seeing MC:FSW and it was pretty good. Simple but effective. Hearty and rousing. A floating, creaking testoster-fest. Great sound effects - great effects period. Definite homoerotic subtext, all those angelic-faced little martyr-boys.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:56 PM on November 15, 2003


Wow, I just saw it! Very impressive. My timbers were duly shivered, and I loved the Galapagos subplot. I've never read the books and now I'll have to endure the embarassment of getting a copy with Russel Crowe on the cover.

Personally, I saw only a managerial subtext, and not so much a homoerotic one. Maybe between the doctor and the captain, but the boys seemed pretty platonically presented. (in the Joyce DeWitt sense) You're the one drawing the dirty pictures, doc!
posted by condour75 at 9:32 PM on November 15, 2003


but is it true that the "bad guys" in the novel "Far Side Of The World" are American, and in the movie they are French?

I haven't seen the movie yet, but my impression is that's correct (I actually commented on it to my wife while watching a trailer). I'm actually in a fresh re-reading of the series, currently reading TFSotW, and the ship they are chasing in the book is the Norfolk. Also, unlike the "twice our guns and twice our men" of the movie, the norfolk is in fact similar in size to the surprise, and in fact this is one reason the surprise was sent. (Actually, the norfolk is slightly heavier than the surprise, but mostly carries carronades, which aren't as effective at a distance as the long guns the surprise carries).

My assumption here is they're sorta taking the plotline of TFSotW and mixing it with the major confrontation of MaC, where Jack takes his small sloop against a significantly larger xebec, and takes it. (Although the name there doesn't match up either, since the xebec was the Cacafuego (spell quite possibly off), and I believe was Spanish. Anybody know if the Archeron actually was a french ship? You'd think they'd at least get that right.

Nah, I don't like this series, really. Hoping to maybe get a chance to see the movie on sunday.
posted by piper28 at 11:17 PM on November 15, 2003


I'll have to endure the embarassment of getting a copy with Russel Crowe on the cover.

In my opinion that's the biggest crime out of this whole movie. The artwork that's normally on these books are very nicely done pictures of naval scenes, and it's absolutely disgusting to see them with crowe on the cover. Course, I've always been a sucker for tall ship artwork, so maybe I'm biased.
posted by piper28 at 11:20 PM on November 15, 2003


Actually i checked amazon and it looks like the series is still sporting its old covers. So maybe I can hold my head high, go to the local bookseller, and say in a clear and resounding voice, "I want to buy Master and Commander."
posted by condour75 at 12:03 AM on November 16, 2003


Barnes and Noble has both--the ship covers and the Crowe covers, though the downtown Seattle one had mostly Crowe, making me wonder if the lone ship cover was just left over from before the movie versions arrived.

I hate new covers on books you like. I loved the old drawing-cover on "Harriet the Spy," and then suddenly they modernized it and it was all Glamour Magazine.
posted by GaelFC at 12:34 AM on November 16, 2003


Cacafuego (spell quite possibly off)

Would not the good ship Cacafuego translate badly as Shitfire?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:50 AM on November 16, 2003


Well, speaking for myself, I'm really looking forward to "The Last Full Measure." If "Gods and Generals" is any sorta barometer, the whole thing will be a 7-hour non-stop sermon on how God will protect and defend both sides of the armies who are murdering each other, and He will assure victory to both sides, and the whole war was essentially God's fault in the first place.

Maybe in the last 3 minutes, somebody will fire a capgun, and someone will sing something Gaelic.

That's the kind of film I like.
posted by Perigee at 6:45 AM on November 16, 2003


Actually, it translates quite well as Shitfire (and the spelling is correct). One of P O'B's little jokes. The event is based on Thomas Cochrane's account of his attack on the much stronger Spanish frigate El Gamo while he was commanding the Speedy in 1800-01. Cochrane (1775-1860) wrote in his Autobiography of a Seaman (1860):
In difficult or doubtful attacks by sea—and the odds of 50 men to 320 comes within the description—no device can be too minute, even if apparently absurd, provided it have the effect of diverting the enemy's attention whilst you are concentrating your own. In this, and other successes against odds, I have no hesitation in saying that success in no slight degree depended on out-of-the-way devices, which the enemy not suspecting, were in some measure thrown off their guard.
posted by languagehat at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2003




I have to agree with Hitchens' comment that the film jibes (pun intended) wonderfully with a tour of the Victory. I saw this a few years ago and the guided tour was fantastic. You could see the potential for film adaptation in every anecdote and cramped corridor. Disney likes making movies about its attractions; maybe Britain should do the same.
posted by condour75 at 9:57 AM on November 16, 2003


Which novels would you like to see make the transition? (Flashman?)

Already done, in the 70s. Royal Flash, with Malcolm McDowell in the lead and Oliver Reed as Bismark. Good adaption, I seem to remember.
posted by MattM at 11:46 AM on November 16, 2003


Hitchens seems to meander in his complaint. I gather he thinks the movie isn't anti-war enough, isn't deep enough, doesn't express the complex relationships of a dozen O'Brian novels well. Isn't that asking a heck of a lot out of a 140-minute movie?

I agree that trying to read something into the movie from today's headlines is a stretch, using other critics' "Well, they were at war and we are at war so there must be parallels" bad logic. But O'Brian novels are special.

There are web sites devoted to the foods he wrote about. The music and songs he mentions in his novels. Sites with maps tracing the routes his ship takes, etc. The history part of his books is good enough to be a straight history.

A truly unique author, who when he died was memorialized at both the British Admiralty and the US Dept of the Navy.
posted by kablam at 1:06 PM on November 16, 2003


Which novels would you like to see make the transition?

I'm a SF/Fantasy buff here, so you'll have to live with my obviously biased suggestions:
  • Anything by Iain Banks
  • Daniel Keys Moran's The Long Run
  • Stephen King's The Talisman
  • Patricia McKillip's The Riddlemaster of Hed

    ...and many more.

  • posted by thanotopsis at 9:45 AM on November 17, 2003


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