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Trailer for Where the Wild Things Are
March 26, 2009 11:41 PM   Subscribe

The trailer for producer Spike Jonze's troubled adaptation of the award-winning children's story Where the Wild Things Are has been released. It's been a long time coming. If you don't have time for the videos, here's the poster.

I'm very excited about this. I'm a parent, and viewing the trailer made me understand why this is such a great book - it's as much about Max's parents' fears as about Max himself.
posted by Joe in Australia (148 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I came to write the usual sort of "you sons of bitches if you fuck this up I will burn down your house and feed your heart to a dog" sort of thing. I realized, though, that in fact many of the adaptations I feared have turned our really quite good - Watchmen, LotR, SpiderMan, Batman Begins...I'm beginning to wonder if I need to question my instinctual reactions to things and reign in my snap judgements!


Hah. Right.
posted by freebird at 12:05 AM on March 27, 2009


Wow - that early Disney proof-of-concept CG "pencil test" was directed by Pixar's John Lasseter. It's also pretty clear why they didn't end up greenlighting that project, although it was really polished for when they did it.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:09 AM on March 27, 2009


I only vaguely remembered the book, so I brushed up on it by scanning the Wikipedia article. I lol'd at this bit:

The original concept for the book featured horses instead of monsters. Sendak said he switched when he discovered that he could not draw horses.

Also, previously.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:13 AM on March 27, 2009


I like Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. I like Jonze's Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I haven't seen this movie, I haven't been following news about it, and the last thing that would please me is more trash media aimed at the receptive, uncritical youth audience.

But we have a hundred and fifteen million dollar, hour-long film made from a fifty-page picture book written for ages 4-8. I guess could go off on how amazingly optimistic one would have to be in light of the long history of film adaptations of children's classics, but I'm sure this is already on everyone's minds.

Instead, I'm curious why with all the criticism of over-protection and over-parenting, there don't appear to be any pushes to improve the quality of media aimed at children. I would have thought these so-called helicopter parents, who have shown themselves to be intensely interested in the breadth and quality of their children's experiences, would be equally interested in the quality of the media their children consume. Couldn't these parents, with their more sophisticated, adult tastes as well as greater experience with the classics of their own generation, easily help their children filter the good from the bad and push the media industries for better products?

Maybe I'm just bitter, having sat through twenty episodes of The Clone Wars, frustrated that the show, clearly aimed at a much younger demographic, is immune from criticisms of trite, awful, lazy writing, just because we believe its audience is young, uncritical, and unsophisticated. But even I can feel the show making me dumber - how could I live with myself after inflicting this on a defenseless child? Don't they deserve better?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:31 AM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Another video, using the original book's art.

Also, some test footage has leaked out. It's very rough -- cheaper costuming, different actor for the kid -- but the monster looks pretty fleshed-out, and the feel is similar to the trailer.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:34 AM on March 27, 2009


I thought the Wild Thing's dialogue in the beginning of the trailer was odd... really more of a father to a son, which isn't the relationship I'd expect.

The rest seemed good.
posted by alexei at 12:35 AM on March 27, 2009


Maybe I'm just bitter, having sat through twenty episodes of The Clone Wars...

Well buddy, I hate to say it, but the joke's on you.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:40 AM on March 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm wondering why Wild Thing hasn't been arrested.
posted by Mblue at 12:43 AM on March 27, 2009


I noticed another of my favorite childhood books is getting a movie adaption, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"
posted by Tenuki at 1:11 AM on March 27, 2009


Don't they deserve better?

Yes, yes, they do.
posted by rodgerd at 1:13 AM on March 27, 2009


Don't they deserve better?

Yes, yes, they do.


Then you'll just have to wait and see, or trust in Jonze and Eggers. Last I checked neither of them were slouches.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:33 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Don't they deserve better?
first time i've ever posted one of those -- hooray for me!

I'm tired of movie adaptations, I feel they inevitably reduce the impact of the original work, regardless of how good the adaptation is.

As P.o.B. says neither Spike Jonze nor Dave Eggers are slouches, I bet they could come up with something really cool & creative for kids.
posted by askmehow at 1:56 AM on March 27, 2009


I read somewhere that eggers actually wrote a novelization of the screenplay for adults.
posted by empath at 3:27 AM on March 27, 2009


I find Spike Jones' films as a whole to be overrated, or maybe I just find Charlie Kaufman to be overrated, but Jones' visual style is top-notch. In that regard, at least, this trailer doesn't disappoint, and with a Dave Eggers script I am optimistic.

And may I please preempt any "they're-ruining-my-childhood!" comments by pointing out this isn't so much an adaptation but an entirely new work of art that will live or die by its own standards. I mean, the book is great but it's what, 20, 25 pages? A 90 minute movie will necessarily be, yes, entirely different. Freak out about something else please.
posted by zardoz at 3:28 AM on March 27, 2009


Couldn't these parents, with their more sophisticated, adult tastes as well as greater experience with the classics of their own generation, easily help their children filter the good from the bad and push the media industries for better products?

Don't have kids, do ya?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 AM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maybe I'm just bitter, having sat through twenty episodes of The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars looks like they used a video game engine to do the animation - and nobody seems to even notice anymore.

Don't they deserve better?

Try Ponyo on the Cliff; hand-drawn, and pretty magical.
posted by progosk at 3:41 AM on March 27, 2009


zardoz The book is ten sentences long. Even reading slowly and taking time to talk about the six page party scene where there are no words, and to roar our own terrible roars, it takes less than six minutes to read the book to my two year old.

As you say, the movie is basically a completely new thing, you **CAN'T** turn ten sentences into a two hour movie.

Of all the things that could bug me about this, there's one that's really weird. I hate that they changed the name of the Wild Thing that Max is seen with in the earlier leaked excerpt. They aren't named in the book but Sendak, in other places, said that they were caricatures of his various uncles and were named after them. The Wild Thing with the broad stripes on its belly is Moishe, not Carol. Like I said, given everything else they've done I know its weird that I'm so bugged by that, but it drives me up the wall.
posted by sotonohito at 3:55 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The leaked footage is just test footage, sotonohito. That the wild thing is apparently called carol in that footage is as likely to indicate the naming of the creatures in the movie as the fact the kid is wearing a lamb costume in that clip indicates Max is wearing a lamb costume in the finished movie. He's not, he wears the wolf costume.

The actor inside the suit was probably named Carol or something.

Chill.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:21 AM on March 27, 2009


Carol instead of Moishe?! WTF? I need an explanation for that. That will drive me batshit until I hear a cogent explanation from the screenwriters & Sendak too (since he hand picked that clown Jonze).

Henry C. Mabuse, on the IMdb page, the character's name is listed as Carol. At this point in the film's production I would expect that to be an up to date cast/character list.
posted by zarah at 4:31 AM on March 27, 2009


As you say, the movie is basically a completely new thing, you **CAN'T** turn ten sentences into a two hour movie.

Exactly. And this is what makes it unlikely to be good. Not that a new thing can't be a good. A new thing can be very good. But that new thing won't be Where the Wild Things Are. Which is also fine, because there are a lot of good things that aren't Where the Wild Things Are. However, and this is the point I want to make, they still called it that. They called it something that it won't be and the reason they did that was to generate hype and earn money.

That's a very bad sign.
posted by DU at 4:31 AM on March 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm guessing that, like Horton Hears a Who and The Polar Express, Where The Wild Things Are could plausibly be the basis for an enchanting half hour TV special or DVD. I had several problems with both HHaW and TPE, but the padding necessary to make a 90 minute film was easily the biggest of them.
posted by Scoo at 4:41 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am a children's librarian. With a son named Max. I have assiduously avoided any information about this movie, for fear that it would just make me sad and angry, but I broke down and watched the trailer. Color me intrigued. I was afraid it was going to be some cheesy "Max and the Wild Things band together to save Wild Land from evil developers" lunacy, but it is clearly a little more complicated and dark than that.

I will now go back to patrolling the stacks with my fork to keep my other childhood favorites safe from unscrupulous movie executives. Don't worry, Giant Jam Sandwich, I will protect you!
posted by Biblio at 4:43 AM on March 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


it takes less than six minutes to read the book to my two year old

Yes, but you'll end up reading it approximately 500 times in the next couple of years, so it evens out.

Seriously though, I watched the trailer yesterday. It looks really good- so much so that I'm concerned I get a bit verklempt while watching it in the theatre (although I am rather a sentimental fool).

Good children's entertainment? Try any Miyazaki movie (well, except maybe Princess Mononoke, which gets kind of violent and is probably more suitable for young adults).

The recent adaptation of Gaiman's Coraline was also quite good.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:43 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


The trailer is wonderful, I love the the Arcade Fire track:) With Karen O doing the score, I think I'm definitely going to love the soundtrack.

Creating a feature length movie from a 10 sentences sounds like a creative challenge and I'm looking forward to see how well Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers does this! There must be bag loads of imagination and creativity between the two minds...:)
posted by tokidoki at 4:48 AM on March 27, 2009


"on the IMdb page, the character's name is listed as Carol"

Yes, it does indeed, but IMDb is not well known for incredible accuracy about upcoming movies.

Either way, as has been pointed out, the wild things are never named in the book, and Sendak worked closely with Jonze, so if the names are as they are listed at IMDb, then you will have to deal with it.

Getting upset over the fact that Moishe is not named Moishe when it was never actually named that (except in Sendak's private creative process) is rather absurd. What you should be rejoicing in is the apparently very faithful recreation of the creatures' appearances and ability to convey emotion -- which is far more fucking important than some pedantic little bullshit detail that has no bearing on the story you read in the book.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:53 AM on March 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sounds like some people in this thread need a night with the Wild Things to even them out.
posted by nosila at 5:20 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Exactly. And this is what makes it unlikely to be good. Not that a new thing can't be a good. A new thing can be very good. But that new thing won't be Where the Wild Things Are. Which is also fine, because there are a lot of good things that aren't Where the Wild Things Are. However, and this is the point I want to make, they still called it that. They called it something that it won't be and the reason they did that was to generate hype and earn money.

I don't want to scare you, but you might want to sit down. A significant chunk of EVERY type of media created has been adapted from a previous source. Some of it turns out to be good, some of it bad. Four of the five best picture noms were adapted works last year. Welcome to the wonderful world of adaptations.
posted by graventy at 5:39 AM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


More to your point, I guess, a name change would upset fans just as much as added content will.
posted by graventy at 5:42 AM on March 27, 2009


I love Spike Jonze's work, like in a want-to-have-his-biologically-impossible-babies kind of way. And I can't wait to see this movie. But who could possibly believe that giving him $115 million to adapt a children's book is a profitable business venture. There can't be that much coke in Hollywood.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:46 AM on March 27, 2009


As you say, the movie is basically a completely new thing, you **CAN'T** turn ten sentences into a two hour movie.

Not literally, no. But those ten sentences can certainly be used to construct a world and have a 2 hour movie take place within that world.

If the movie bothers your precious, precious memories of the story then don't see the fucking movie. If you're upset that a newer generation won't be experiencing the story exactly as you did, thus reminding you of the fact that you're not a unique snowflake and time passes you by, then don't see the fucking movie and grow up. If you're bothered that it won't be an exact, line for line, frame for frame, recreation of the childhood feelings you had towards it, then don't see the fucking movie.

If you'd like to bitch and complain and tear something down and rage against the dying the something something something, well here you are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 AM on March 27, 2009 [13 favorites]


The odds are against it IMO. It's got a number of strikes against it: 1) it's of one of the most famous/best loved children stories of all time, which is loved especially for its uniqueness, and if there's one thing the Hollywood sausage machine can kill its something unique. 2) It was filmed 3 years ago, which doesn't bode well at all. This means they've been trying to fix it for years. It's had major production problems. 3) Dave Eggers wrote the script, and he's a great stylist but can't tell a story. My guess is 3) is the reason for 2).
posted by dydecker at 5:58 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Snowflake.
posted by Byun-o-matic at 6:01 AM on March 27, 2009


A significant chunk of EVERY type of media created has been adapted from a previous source.

But source with a significant amount of content.

More to your point, I guess, a name change would upset fans just as much as added content will.

Why did you use the word "change" here? That implies that the book and the movie are the same thing but called different things. My charge is exactly the opposite.
posted by DU at 6:03 AM on March 27, 2009


What you should be rejoicing in is the apparently very faithful recreation of the creatures' appearances and ability to convey emotion -- which is far more fucking important than some pedantic little bullshit detail that has no bearing on the story you read in the book.


Do you need a nap, Henry C. Mabuse?

With the original work being a masterpiece of compression and poetry, that are NO "pedantic little bullshit detail[s]" as you put it - even if a stray detail lurks outside the text.

The trailer looks intriguing. However the test will not be whether the movie's creatures convey emotion - but whether they can evoke emotion.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:19 AM on March 27, 2009


This is one of my favorite books, still, and I'm mid-20s. I'm sure a lot of you share in that.

That said, I know this movie isn't going to be the book. I know, as has been mentioned upthread, that they're stretching an incredibly short children's book into a full-length movie, which means a lot of padding and a lot more stuff that really wasn't addressed at all in the book (I'm noticing a lot of Max's family in here...).

If the movie's bad, it's bad. But if the movie is good, even if it's not really Where the Wild Things Are, the book, I am going to be exceedingly happy, because really anything that lets me remember and relive the story-- even altered-- is a nice experience. I don't mind people tweaking my imaginary universes and stories. Sometimes you get amazing and even better results. A change won't ruin it for me. The original story still exists, after all, and I think most of us can keep it separate and unsullied by the various incarnations if we don't like them.

I noticed another of my favorite childhood books is getting a movie adaption, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

OH MY GOD YES. Pardon me while I go dance a little bit.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2009


As you say, the movie is basically a completely new thing, you **CAN'T** turn ten sentences into a two hour movie.

Exactly. And this is what makes it unlikely to be good. Not that a new thing can't be a good. A new thing can be very good. But that new thing won't be Where the Wild Things Are. Which is also fine, because there are a lot of good things that aren't Where the Wild Things Are. However, and this is the point I want to make, they still called it that. They called it something that it won't be and the reason they did that was to generate hype and earn money.

That's a very bad sign.
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on March 27


I heard Tom Stoppard turned some throwaway lines in a Shakespeare play into an entirely new play. I can only assume he did that to generate hype and money. A bad sign too I assume?
posted by vacapinta at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Good god I hate them using the Arcade Fire in the trailer. I like the band and the film looks interesting but I hope that song's not in the movie.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:27 AM on March 27, 2009


I can only assume he did that to generate hype and money.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern weren't recognizable names to the buying public, so I don't know why you would assume that. Also, R&GRDead doesn't claim to be Hamlet whereas WtWTa explicitly *does* claim to be WtWTa. Kinda my point, in fact.
posted by DU at 6:32 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know a single kid who read that story and then DIDN'T want pajamas just like Max.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:32 AM on March 27, 2009


I don't know a single kid who read that story and then DIDN'T want pajamas just like Max.

The best I could do was make them as a Halloween costume. I will admit that I tried to wear them as pajamas a few times, but I was not a very good tailor and the safety pins holding the tail on tended to poke.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:33 AM on March 27, 2009


Also, to be clear, I'm not hating on the movie and I'm certainly not hating on it for "ruining the book". The book still exists and if people hate the movie, they just won't have their kids watch it. (cf Cat in the Hat) I'm just saying that the obvious profit motive is a bad sign.
posted by DU at 6:36 AM on March 27, 2009


DU: I'm trying to understand your point. Is your point?

1. No adaptation can ever be great.
The amount of content doesn't matter since I can conjure up many great works based on say Greek myths which are bare outlines.

2. You are angry that in the future when people think of "Where the Wild things Are" they'll think of this movie instead of the book. That one will replace the other.

If 2) well then that remains to be seen no? Dr. Seuss books were adapted into many films and cartoons most of them forgotten except for the best ones.
If 1) well then I think you're wrong.
posted by vacapinta at 6:37 AM on March 27, 2009


Ooo. Good choice of music. Very nice fit.

Of course, I used the same song in film class for a 6 minute adaptation of Lolita, so YMMV.
posted by The Whelk at 6:41 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


This debate is exactly why I hate when people dismiss "Hollywood" movies out of hand. This is a film written by Dave Eggers, directed by Spike Jonze, and based on an elegant masterpiece of a children's book. In the absence of studio interference and despite the vast number of people involved, moviemaking is very much an auteur art. Hollywood is financing (and seriously, the visual requirements meant this movie could not be made for cheap), moviemaking is done by people. Sometimes those people are hacks who do what the studios tell them or just phone it in for a paycheck, but sometimes (like here), they are extremely talented people who I trust to make things that are at the very least interesting.

Also, on a separate note, adapting a material is more than filming the content of a book. Excellent books are well tuned to the medium of the page, with its role for imagination and unique pacing. A movie that conveys the same themes and evokes the same feelings needs to be tuned to a different medium, and this almost always requires tweaking the details to be faithful to the core.
posted by Schismatic at 6:45 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Complaining about the music seems churlish. I think that a dum-dum bullet was dodged there. You just know that some studio suit was pushing real hard for his original idea, where the trailer starts with Moishe/Carol turning a baseball cap backwards and saying "Let's get wild" a beat before the Tone Loc kicks in.
posted by No-sword at 6:46 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sendak saying he was "thrilled" with the movie in the Times last September.
posted by mediareport at 6:47 AM on March 27, 2009


They called it something that it won't be and the reason they did that was to generate hype and earn money. That's a very bad sign.

DU,
I do not get your point!
If the film is not a prequel, or a sequel but follows the narrative of the book as far as the latter exists - what should they have titled the movie version?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:50 AM on March 27, 2009


I can't be the only person, not knowing about the film project, who read this as "Spike Lee's Where the Wild Things Are".

If the movie bothers your precious, precious memories of the story then don't see the fucking movie.

*begins re-working trailer to Fight the Power*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:53 AM on March 27, 2009


1. No adaptation can ever be great.

No. There are many great adaptations.

2. You are angry

No.

that in the future when people think of "Where the Wild things Are" they'll think of this movie instead of the book. That one will replace the other.

Also no.

But seriously, I don't care enough about this movie to try to explain it a third time.
posted by DU at 6:55 AM on March 27, 2009


But seriously, I don't care enough about this movie to try to explain it a third time.

Sounds like a reaction from someone who doesn't read bedtime stories to kids much, DU:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:17 AM on March 27, 2009


Re: Moishe vs. Carol - all the current (and past) WtWWA collectibles have the original names on them, which will be a weird little conflict when the movie merchandise comes out with the new name. Funny these particular movie folk aren't big on continuity.
posted by zarah at 7:18 AM on March 27, 2009


WtWWA = WtWTA. (been working on a project for almost 36 hours straight, am a bit wonky heh)
posted by zarah at 7:21 AM on March 27, 2009


DU--

I understand what you're saying, but I think you're overlooking the complex situation that is filmmaking. Imagine that you are a film director with some clout-- let's say Spike Jonze. Then let's say you really, really love Where the Wild Things Are: You love the look of the wild things, you love Max's pajamas, you love the feel of dancing all night long. You would love to create in that world, because it would bring you closer, you feel, to the core of the book you love, and you want to see the Wild Things actually dancing. The thought of this makes you unable to sit down, because of the funny light feeling in your feet.

Now imagine that to create in this world, in your already-chosen medium (motion photography), in the way that you're hoping and longing for, you are going to require upwards of a hundred million dollars. And having clout isn't the same thing as having a disposable hundred million dollars on hand. You think: If only there was some way to convince a major Hollywood studio to simply give me the money. Hmm, perhaps if I pointed out that this world I want to create in is originally from one of the most-beloved and highly-praised childrens' books of all time. But in order for the suits to be convinced that they'll recoup their expenses, they're going to have to know that people will immediately associate this film with the book: An easy way to do that would be to give it the same name.

Now imagine that some dunderhead on the internet wails about how all you care about is making money, and as evidence he points to your supposed exploitation of the title of Sendak's book. Would you feel that this dunderhead is correct? Or not?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:23 AM on March 27, 2009


Brandon Blatcher Jeez, chill out. Did I piss in your Post Toasties or something?

I said two things.

1) This movie can't be an adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, because the book is too short to adapt. Therefore its got to be a new thing.

2) Calling the critter that looks remarkably like Moishe "Carol" bugs me irrationally.

What the fuck about either of those comments pissed you off so much?

I didn't even comment on whether or not the movie will be good, bad, ugly, or anything else. Just pointed out that it is not, and cannot be, an adaptation of the book. It might be quite good. It might be terrible. But I'm hardly pulling the ZOMG they're ruining my special snowflake memories! crap.

Now, I do think there's reason to suspect it'll be terrible. Starting with the fact that its new, that its physically impossible for it to be an "adaptation" of the book by any meaningful definition of the term, so therefore what they really mean is "we didn't think we could sell our story without hooking onto something already popular". To me this sounds like the setup for a failure much like the movie "Starship Troopers".

If the story that Jonze and Eggers came up with was really worth anything they should have been able to sell it without putting a famous name on, and, given that the source of their title and some of their visuals can't be any significant influence on what they've come up with I think it looks very much like they're trying to hitch a mediocre (at best) screenplay to a famous name to pull out some money.

And I haven't seen very many movies that followed that pattern ("our story is meh, let's tack on a famous title and change a few names to pull in the viewers") that were worth much. It'd be nice if I'm wrong and this turns out to be a good movie. But I've got my doubts.

Especially given Jonze. I mean, I just looked at his IMDB page and he's a fucking MTV music video/"documentary" director. Yeah, this is going to be *GREAT*!
posted by sotonohito at 7:29 AM on March 27, 2009


where the trailer starts with Moishe/Carol turning a baseball cap backwards and saying "Let's get wild" a beat before the Tone Loc kicks in.

The Tone Lōc (preferably "Wild Thing" though "Funky Cold Medina" will do in a pinch) kicks in, immediately followed by the "Failure to Launch" record needle scratch effect.
posted by blucevalo at 7:32 AM on March 27, 2009


I had a pretty strong reaction to this trailer. Which is weird, because Wild Things was never particularly sacred to my childhood. But last semester, I took a graduate seminar on Sendak and read quite a few of his books (personally? I think Night Kitchen and the spooky spooky weird Outside Over There blow WTWTA away) and he struck me as someone who always, always respected his young audience--catering to them, without talking down to them.

My biggest concern is that I've seen quite a few people on the blogosphere comment on this trailer along the lines of "I'm so glad this won't be a kid's movie!" And they're right; it doesn't particularly look like a kid's movie. It looks more like a Wes Anderson flick or maybe The Science of Sleep. (Of course, it's hard to say, based on a trailer. Maybe this is just meant to hook the internet surfing crowd. But I'm uneasy, especially with what looks like a fairly Freudian subplot about Max being jealous of his mother's boyfriend [?]).

I like those movies. I just don't see what's wrong with making a movie for kids. No 'ffense, Joe in Australia, but I really didn't see very much at all in the original book that was about parents' fears, and that's one of the strengths. It was about a little boy being "bad" and reveling in being bad. And (uh, spoiler alert?) still having a mother who loves him enough to bring him dinner. As much as we talk about how important it is for media to appeal to multiple generations, because we're grown-ups and want to enjoy stuff our kids are reading, too, there's something to be said about works created by adult artists that are really intended to talk largely to children and that do it well. I guess, mostly, I'm worried that this will miss Sendak's original intended audience: kids. I think that would be a disservice to the original work.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:35 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Being John Malkovich" was a documentary? That explains a lot.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:37 AM on March 27, 2009


I mean, I just looked at his IMDB page and he's a fucking MTV music video/"documentary" director. Yeah, this is going to be *GREAT*!

I just looked at your profile, and you live in fucking Amarillo. Yeah, *you* know what you're talking about.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:48 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


he's a fucking MTV music video/"documentary" director

That's a pretty standard career path for directors these days, isn't it?

(Seriously, what better way to hone your directorial skills than by shooting dozens of short, relatively affordable, visually distinct films?)
posted by ook at 8:01 AM on March 27, 2009


On reflection, I think I'd better amplify on my comment, because I'm not as big a jerk as it makes me sound. Spike Jonze got his start in music videos (as did David Fincher and Michel Gondry) but his videos are widely regarded as masterpieces of the form. He's since gone on to direct the brilliantly inventive and original features Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Dismissing him as "music video" director is as silly as dismissing someone's opinion because they live in Amarillo. And if you haven't seen his movies yet, you're missing out.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:05 AM on March 27, 2009


But I'm uneasy, especially with what looks like a fairly Freudian subplot about Max being jealous of his mother's boyfriend [?]).


Hello - Hamlet!



( mind wanders to Hamlet's trip to deal with the Wild Things in the country where they were all mad anyway...)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:12 AM on March 27, 2009


What if, instead of adapting the book WtWTA, they're adapting the story? That is, if you take the story of a boy who is bad, and revels in being bad, and then goes off on an adventure where, instead of being punished for being bad is made king of all the wild things. Then he decides that being wild isn't all it's cracked up to be so he leaves the wild things and comes home and is forgiven by his loving mother and everythign is going to be okay.

That's the basic story, and I could see someone taking that story and turning it into a 10-sentence kids book or a two hour movie. You could explain why Max is bad: maybe he's trying to keep his parents from fighting by redirecting their focus on him. Maybe the wild things will help him to be okay in a scary world where grown-ups don't know all the answers and can't keep him safe from everything all the time.

I understand how adapting the book would be impossible, but if you had a creative team who wasn't willing to dumb down the material and instead decided to make a film that told the same basic story but did it with respect for the story AND their audience (kids and adults alike) you could end up with something wonderful. Spike Jones and Dave Eggers are many things, but they're not hacks. I'm hopeful they'll do this right.
posted by nushustu at 8:25 AM on March 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


However, and this is the point I want to make, they still called it that. They called it something that it won't be and the reason they did that was to generate hype and earn money.

To be fair, the reason they CAN call it that is because the original creator happily took a wagon load of money and gave them the right to do it. The very guy who chose the exact medium in which he believed it to be originally presented made the decision that someone in Hollywood could use the name of his work for their purposes. Now, if there's some history where he lost the intellectual property rights and had no control over the rights being sold to Hollywood, then ignore everything in this post. Otherwise, it's a bit far fetching to believe that a movie, explicitly based on a book, using that book's title with the creator's permission, is wrong because of the economic benefits to be gleamed from the use of said title.
posted by Atreides at 8:27 AM on March 27, 2009


You know what, I'm gonna call it: This movie will ROCK YOUR FUCKING SOCKS OFF!!!
Because the book is awesome, Eggers is awesome, Jonez is awesome, and thus the movie will be SOMETHING OF AWE!

In a few short months you'll get to sit down in that crappy movie theater and expect to be underwhelmed as you sip flat soda and chew on rat-poop-infested-stale-popcorn. You may even him & haw a bit as the movie begins to weave it's magical child-like tale. Then it will hit you, you'll be snapped out of your eye-glazed seduction by a tear. First one, then another. Soon it'll be Niagara. 'Effin. Falls. The movie is over and your nose is like a leaky faucet of snot spilling into the half-eaten popcorn tub in your lap. "That's right, let it all out" the parental voice in your head says. Because you just saw the beauty of your childhood dreams replayed on 60 x 40 feet of matte white vinyl. Dreams spawned from the floor of your 3rd grade homeroom as your teacher read the book during story time. Then you'll dry your eyes, clean your nose, unstick your feet from the grimy floor, and you'll leave the theater feeling like a million bucks. That's right, you paid $12.50 to recapture your childhood and get $999,987.50 back in good-feeling-change.

So stop complaining. It'll just be that much more you'll have to repent for in tears of awesomeness.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:29 AM on March 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Couldn't these parents, with their more sophisticated, adult tastes as well as greater experience with the classics of their own generation, easily help their children filter the good from the bad and push the media industries for better products?

Let's not overthink it. Just read toddlers the Illiad and the Odyssey. It worked well enough for Aristotle, Plato, and the rest of them when they were growing up, it should be good enough for your li'l tikes.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:33 AM on March 27, 2009


Hello - Hamlet!

Yeah . . . Hamlet's not exactly a kids' play.

Spike Jones and Dave Eggers are many things, but they're not hacks. I'm hopeful they'll do this right.

My only exposure to Eggers was AHWOSG, which I wasn't really into. Again, I think what really remains to be seen is whether these guys can make a great movie for kids. I'm not saying that this shouldn't be complex (Henson made all sorts of complex and wonderful kids movies--ones that were even sort of scary sometimes, in all the right ways) but that it should speak to their concerns, not what we, as adults, think that their concerns should be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on March 27, 2009


I said two things.

No, you repeated the tired mantra of "OMG, they're making a movie of it, that's awful, they can't, they just can't, it'll be terrible" while breaking it down into a completely narrow mindset of "It's only X number of sentences! They can't make a movie out of that."

Well yeah, they can, they've done it in the past and they'll do n the future. It's an adaptation, they can and will add or cut things as they see fit. That's the whole point of an adaptation. Insisting that's it's Where the Wild Things are because it's longer and has more sentences is pretty silly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on March 27, 2009


You could explain why Max is bad: maybe he's trying to keep his parents from fighting by redirecting their focus on him.

You know, I really hope they don't do something like this. I'd say that is mistake no.1 that adults make when they write about children: suddenly all of a kid's behaviours are all about parent. You know those scenes: Acting up? No, it's not because you two are getting a divorce, it's because I want to watch that show on TV, dammit.

Just because parents are all about kids, doesn't mean kids are all about parents. I think the book got this across.
posted by dydecker at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Especially given Jonze. I mean, I just looked at his IMDB page and he's a fucking MTV music video/"documentary" director. Yeah, this is going to be *GREAT*!
posted by sotonohito

Heh. Nice one. You might want to delve further into Spike Jonze's catalogue before you say that in public. His music videos are excellent and rather influental. But that's beside the point: his first feature film was about a door in an office that takes you into the head of John Malkovich for 10 minutes before spitting you out near a turnpike in New Jersey. His second movie was Adaptation, which is a highly fictionalised autobiographical account of him trying to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film script. I can just see the dollar signs light up behind the producer's eyes after the pitches for both these movies. McG he ain't.

It's been 7 years since he made Adaptation. The guy doesn't exactly run after the first movie script he can churn out some cheap cash with.

Full disclosure: I think I read WtWTa when I was younger. Didn't make much of an impression. The trailer for the movie was sublime and made me really interested in seeing the movie. You're obviously invested in the source material, but at least look at the person making the movie before frothing at the mouth.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:49 AM on March 27, 2009


So... I assume this movie won't have a lesbian sex scene then?
posted by Aversion Therapy at 8:52 AM on March 27, 2009


I suppose, if one thing really worries me about this film (and the trailer looks great, imo), it is that of narrative arc. The book itself has, as its climax, several pages of wordless pictures of the monsters and Max dancing or otherwise making loud but harmless mayhem. The "tension" moment is that of Max staring, unblinkingly, into the Wild Things' eyes to tame them. I mean, really, there isn't a lot to hang a movie on.

What I will loathe, hate, and despise will be if the PLOT of the movie somehow rings untrue to the core of the book. The question is, how do you make a movie about a child's temper tantrum?

I do like that Max is NOT too young. That gives me hope that they will delve into deeper psychological topics and not do some awful "Home Alone with Muppets" film.
posted by hippybear at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Atreides: To be fair, the reason they CAN call it that is because the original creator happily took a wagon load of money and gave them the right to do it.

That wagonload of money may have gone to the publisher and not the original creator. I've been reading quite a bit of Stephen R. Donaldson's "Gradual Interview", and he addresses repeatedly that, as an author, he holds none of the option rights for any of his work, and those deals are made with the publishing companies, often without the author's consent.
posted by hippybear at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2009


Aw, MeFi, relax the nerd critic filters for once. That trailer was pure poetry and made me want to cry.
posted by naju at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh. Jonze, Eggers, & Sendak are okay, I guess, but I was really hoping for something a little different:

From Tyler Perry Films comes a Tyler Perry production: Tyler Perry's Where the Tyler Things Are, starring Tyler Perry as Tyler Perry. In a world where a young boy's dreams are forever in danger of being dashed against the jagged rocks of family drama, young Tyler turns inward and discovers a pathway to the Ancient Island of Medeas. Where he is promptly eaten. Tyler Perry.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Here's a link to a little HTML version of the book
posted by dydecker at 9:13 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, to be clear, I'm not hating on the movie and I'm certainly not hating on it for "ruining the book". The book still exists and if people hate the movie, they just won't have their kids watch it. (cf Cat in the Hat) I'm just saying that the obvious profit motive is a bad sign.

Profit is ALWAYS a huge factor in stuff like this, of course. But this situation seems a lot different than Cat in the Hat. Eggers and Jonze are fairly independent and quirky people, and don't seem like the kind of individuals who would get involved in a movie for a giant paycheck. Plus, Sendak had input.

Judging purely from the trailer, this seems to be more of a pet project/labor of love type adaptation than a "kid movies are lucrative" decision, at heart. Hopefully. We'll see.
posted by graventy at 9:15 AM on March 27, 2009


Well, look, I'm as concerned by the guy playing Ozymandias as the next nerd, but I still think the telepathic squid is an awkward ... wait, what? Oh. My mistake.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:26 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just need to say that I am still steamed about Mary Poppins. A spoonful of sugar? Missed the whole goddamn point.

And Pooh. They fucked the bear up too.
posted by pointilist at 9:27 AM on March 27, 2009


And Pooh. They fucked the bear up too.

I know you're kidding, but don't get me started about Darby (or, really, anything Disney's done with the Pooh franchise since the 80s).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on March 27, 2009


The Little Mermaid is the worst offender. The Hans Christian Anderson story has a downer ending, the whole thing is bloody and painful, and the moral, which is reversed in the film, is be happy with who you are.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2009


Yay for the trailer w/ the Arcade Fire song - it makes you all tingly!
posted by PuppyCat at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2009


I wasn't kidding about the Barnification of Pooh. It is so sad when a travesty becomes a later generation's treasured memory.
posted by pointilist at 9:59 AM on March 27, 2009


But we have a hundred and fifteen million dollar, hour-long film made from a fifty-page picture book written for ages 4-8.

Usually, a page of script translates to a minute of film. To adapt Where the Wild Things Are (and, hey, look who's doing the "Adaptation"), you could just take the text on each page of the book, expand on it just slightly, add a detailed description of what's happening in the picture, and hey presto, a full script.

Plus, most screenplays are apparently written for ages 4-8.

The book might take six minutes to read, but that's completely irrelevant. I'll bet there's also a discrepancy between the time it takes to read War and Peace and watch the movie. All that really matters WRT time is how long the story is, i.e. the timing of the events.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 AM on March 27, 2009


Horace Rumpole I don't know shit about movies beyond watching them. I've seen Malkovich and thought it was pretty good. I was less impressed with Adaptation but I'll admit it was a good film. Thats two hits, a collection of Rockumentaries, and credit (blame?) for helping co-create Jackass.

"Where the Wild Things Are, from the co-creator of Jackass!"

That doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement of him as a creative mind. Think about that for a moment. Jackass. A TV series / movie that is, quite literally, nothing more than a collection of idiots hurting themselves.

Again, and as I said before, his WTWTA may be good. But I do know it'll be nothing like the book. Leaving aside that it physically can't be, his two big hits are nifty/creepy adult films, and from the preview he seems to be bringing that vibe to this project as well.

But what really worries and bothers me is that since it is physically impossible for this to be an adaptation, since it therefore must be, at absolute best, "inspired by" [1], the fact that they're slapping the name on still sounds like it probably means "our screenplay couldn't make it without the big name". And I've never see a good movie that did that.

Brandon Blatcher wrote No, you repeated the tired mantra of "OMG, they're making a movie of it, that's awful, they can't, they just can't, it'll be terrible"

No I didn't. Go back, read what I actually wrote instead of what you think I wrote and you'll find that I didn't do what you said. Sheesh.

while breaking it down into a completely narrow mindset of "It's only X number of sentences! They can't make a movie out of that."

Well, you can't. Anymore than you could make a 5 minute short film say its a Lord of the Rings movie. You might be able to find some nifty stuff to do that's kind of, vaguely, in a way, related to the books for both projects, but you can't seriously say that either a two hour WTWTA or a 5 minuts LotR is really an "adaptation".

You can be "inspired by" ten sentences, but you can't make ten sentences into a movie that's more than a few minutes long. What we'll be getting is "stuff Jonze and Eggers think is cool". And that might be fantastic, it might be amazing, it might be the best fucking movie ever. But it simply can not be Where the Wild Things Are, and so calling it that seems like a way to try to attach a big name to something they couldn't otherwise do.

Hollywood does that all the time. They had a script for a so-so marines vs. bugs movie, no one would buy it, so they slapped the name "Starship Troopers" on the script, changed a few names to match characters from the book, and poof they were able to sell their movie, which was *NOT* a movie of Starship Troopers.

In that instance the result was terrible. In most instances I can think of like that the result was terrible.

Maybe Jonze will be an exception, maybe his movie of cool stuff he came up with and then slapped a famous name on will be great. But it is not an adaptation of the book, it physically cannot be, and I don't think its wrong to be concerned when people start randomly slapping big names on stuff that isn't really related to the name.

[1] Of all the meaningless management phrases to come out of Hollywood I think that's probably at the top of the list as far as meaning nothing goes.
posted by sotonohito at 10:10 AM on March 27, 2009


It's amazing how far animation has come in the past few decades. The adaptation of a short children's book is a huge challenge - but if anyone can bring the life and spirit of this story to a feature length movie, it's Dave Eggers. Clearly, it's clearly going to be visually stunning. I can't wait.
posted by cordouroy15 at 10:26 AM on March 27, 2009


Also, some test footage has leaked out.

That test footage is discussed in the FPP's "adaptation link".

Spike Jonze Responds to Where The Wild Things Are Video Clip [February 19th, 2008]
"Director Spike Jonze has finally responded to the Where the Wild Things Are video clip which has been circulating the internet since this weekend:
'...that was a very early test with the sole purpose of just getting some footage to Ben our vfx (visual effects) supervisor to see if our vfx plan for the faces would work. The clip doesn’t look or feel anything like the movie, the Wild Thing suit is a very early cringy prototype, and the boy is a friend of ours Griffin who we had used in a Yeah Yeah Yeahs video we shot a few weeks before. We love him, but he is not in the actually film…Oh and that is not a wolf suit, its a lamb suit we bought on the internet. Talk to you later…'
posted by ericb at 10:30 AM on March 27, 2009


I'm really stunned that the studios put 115 million dollars on the table for this. I'm not saying the movie will be good or bad, but nothing but the name sounds commercial at all.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:33 AM on March 27, 2009


Is it weird that I'm really tired of people assuming that American-made film = product of Hollywood crap machine? Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is many things, but it's not a slapped-together money-whoring result of intellectually bankrupt 'Hollywood'.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2009


the fact that they're slapping the name on still sounds like it probably means "our screenplay couldn't make it without the big name"

If making a movie with the title Where the Wild Things Are is a cynical cash-in, it's the most incompetent cynical cash-in in the history of Hollywood. Cynical cash-ins usually don't involve idiosyncratic indie directors and Arcade Fire soundtracks. More often it's hacks of no particular style and Smashmouth's "All Star".
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:43 AM on March 27, 2009


shakespeherian wrote Is it weird that I'm really tired of people assuming that American-made film = product of Hollywood crap machine? Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is many things, but it's not a slapped-together money-whoring result of intellectually bankrupt 'Hollywood'.

There's plenty of American film I like. American Beauty, Gladiator, Syrana, Dark City, the list goes on. In fact, I'd say that at least 90% or so of the movies I like are American. OTOH, experience has shown that when filmmakers start trying to "adapt" books they usually get it horribly wrong. Some work well, the LotR adaptation was overall quite good. I find the Harry Potter movies to be hit or miss, but some work out quite well. In general though, and especially with regards to children's books, it usually doesn't work out at all.

Even if commercially successful, and enjoyable as movies, the "adaptation" of children's books usually involves taking a few character names, maybe a memorable scene, and then writing Yet Another Typical Kids Movie. Take, for example, Shrek. I liked Shrek, it was fun. But it was, by no stretch of the imagination, an "adaptation" Steig's book. Its a completely different, good, thing that happens to share a name and a vague resemblance between the title characters of both completely different works. But you can't tell me with a straight face that the movie is an adaptation of the book. Both are good, but the movie ain't an adaption, its a new product.

n the case of Shrek I don't think anyone will claim that they put the name on because they wanted extra publicity, the book wasn't exactly well known or award winning. Again, the movie was "inspired by" the book, but it isn't an adaptation.

Also, if Verhoven's Starship Troopers isn't "a slapped-together money-whoring result of intellectually bankrupt 'Hollywood" then what is it please?

Per Wikipedia:
A report in an American Cinematographer article around the same time as the film's release states the Heinlein novel was optioned well into the pre-production period of the film, which had a working title of Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine; most of the writing team reportedly were unaware of the novel at the time. According to the DVD commentary, Paul Verhoeven never finished reading the novel, claiming he read through the first few chapters and became both "bored and depressed."
To me that sounds like the ultimate example of slapping a famous name on a piece of crap to try and get it to sell. They had started filming, had written the script, chosen the actors, etc before anyone even thought "hey, we could call this POS Starship Troopers and maybe pull in a few more suckers."
posted by sotonohito at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2009


Fine, sotonohito, you've made your opinions pretty clear and you're pretty committed to them. Now you don't get to see the movie. In fact, you'll be lucky if you're not sent right to bed without supper tonight.

oh, and not only was Verhoeven's Starship Troopers an extremely nuanced commentary on Heinlein's book, Fascism and ongoing changes in American society, but Jackass was one of the funniest and most subversive things to come out of the US during the last decade of ridiculousness. I would argue that in some ways it can be seen as a descendant of Rabelais.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:28 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that someone who puts American Beauty ("look! a video of a floating plastic bag! It's Art! It's Beauty!") at the top of their "American Films I Like" list should be talking about which films are intellectually bankrupt.
posted by nushustu at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2009


TheWhiteSkull wrote not only was Verhoeven's Starship Troopers an extremely nuanced commentary on Heinlein's book, Fascism and ongoing changes in American society

See, now I know you're just pulling my chain. You can't have a valid commentary, much less a nuanced one, on a book you haven't read. See, until I read that you had me, I thought you were serious for a second there.

nushustu wrote I'm not sure that someone who puts American Beauty ("look! a video of a floating plastic bag! It's Art! It's Beauty!") at the top of their "American Films I Like" list should be talking about which films are intellectually bankrupt.

Um, yeah. Got that. Academy Award winning films are bad if they show plastic bags. I'll remember that for the future.
posted by sotonohito at 12:08 PM on March 27, 2009


What we've learned: sotonohito is really hung up on the names of things

So there's this movie with all the same characters as the book? Yes.
Is the underlying plot different in this movie? No.
So the aim of the movie is to expand the story somewhat to make an enjoyable movie going experience while trying to preserve the original intentions of the book? Yes.
But it's longer right? Yes, quite a bit.

Longer you say...well we obviously can't call it the same thing. I mean look at that shitty Lord of the Rings adaptation, i took me a couple months to read those books and you expect to tell it in 9 hours? It will be completely unrecognizable! Everyone will demand their money back because we made creative decisions with the source material!

Let's scrap this whole "film" idea, just point a camera at the book and we'll have Lenny turn the pages.

Oh no! Moishe's named Carol! This completely insignificant fact that was not a part of 95% of the readers of this book's experience has been changed? Sendak must be spinning in his grave! What's that? He's not dead? He's actually a producer on this movie? Oh, it'll probably be somewhat faithful then.

Also, sotonohito, judging by your reactions to things like Spike Jonze's past body of work and Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, it might be helpful to check them out before taking a strong stance on them one way or the other.
posted by crashlanding at 12:09 PM on March 27, 2009


where the trailer starts with Moishe/Carol turning a baseball cap backwards and saying "Let's get wild" a beat before the Tone Loc kicks in.

Somebody needs to recut the trailer to the Tone Loc track.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:21 PM on March 27, 2009


This looks good. I'm mostly happy that seems they won't be trying to turn Max into some perfect perfect little angel. Most of my favorite characters from childhood literature were sulky, spoiled, badly behaved kids (from Kay Thomspon's Eloise to The Secret Garden's Mary Lennox). Kids can handle more ambiguity than we give them credit for.
posted by thivaia at 12:23 PM on March 27, 2009


Syrana was based on the book 'See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism' by Robert Baer.
posted by dydecker at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's plenty of American film I like

That wasn't my point. My point is that you are referring to several vastly different films, many of which were created by artists whose primary goals were not crass cashing in of their ideals, as stuff that 'Hollywood does all the time.' I'll admit that it's useful for 'Hollywood' to be synecdoche for 'crassly commercial studio heads who think of films as products, who frequently destroy things people love,' but Jonze, whatever his merits, has nothing to do with any of that.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:37 PM on March 27, 2009


Syriana.
posted by Atreides at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2009


They changed he ending! There's no Space Squid! Bastards!
posted by Scoo at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


OTOH, experience has shown that when filmmakers start trying to "adapt" books they usually get it horribly wrong.

Many of the greatest works of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, John Huston, Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah, the Coen Brothers, Terence Malick, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, etc, etc, suggest you don't know what you're talking about.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 12:48 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


See, now I know you're just pulling my chain. You can't have a valid commentary, much less a nuanced one, on a book you haven't read. See, until I read that you had me, I thought you were serious for a second there.

Or maybe that Verhoeven could make an interesting film without finishing the book just says something about Heinlien.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:01 PM on March 27, 2009


Ok, let me back out of my corner a bit. I started simply by observing two things. The movie, by necessity, is going to be a new thing, and that I had an irrational dislike of calling the character who looks like Moishe "Carol". I have never asserted that the second point is rational, reasonable, or anything else, I fully acknowledge that it doesn't really matter, but that it bugs me nevertheless.

From that Brandon Blatcher decided that I was pulling some "I'm a special snowflake, how dare the desecrate my childhood!" type shit. Which I'm not.

My only real position here is that the movie is not "Where the Wild Things Are". It might be good, I'm hoping it will be. But if its good, like Shrek, it'll be a good new thing, not "Where the Wild Things Are", and it bugs me (rationally I think), when people are "inspired" by stuff and try to pretend that its an "adaptation". Call it "Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are" and I'm happy-ish.

I'm not trying to unilaterally declare that they can't do it, or even that they shouldn't do it. I'm just saying I wish they wouldn't pretend that its Where the Wild Things Are. It physically cannot be. It can be good, it can be inspired by the book, it can be a wonderful movie (I hope it is), but it can not be an adaptation of the book. It's going to be a (hopefully good) creation of Jonze that happens, almost by coincidence, to have a few things (including a title) in common with a very nice kids book.

I don't even hate the concept. Frankly the preview looked kind of fun. I just don't think it can fairly be called an adaptation of Where the Wild Thins Are. And that's probably an extremely bizarre and pedantic position, but really I do think there is a valid distinction between adaptation and inspiration.

Into that I mixed my own objection to moviemakers slapping random semi-related titles on stuff in hopes of attracting more viewers. In retrospect I should have not said anything about this as it does appear that wasn't the case here.

TheWhiteSkull wrote Or maybe that Verhoeven could make an interesting film without finishing the book just says something about Heinlien.

Accepting, purely for the sake of argument, that Starship Troopers is an "intersting film", what does that have to do with making a "an extremely nuanced commentary on Heinlein's book, Fascism and ongoing changes in American society"? My emphasis.

You can't make a fucking nuanced commentary on something you haven't read. Even if we accept that Starship Troopers (the film) is anything but crap, it still doesn't make it a commentary on Heinlein's work.

Even leaving Heinlein out of it, I think its a shitty movie. The action sequences are just plain dumb (yeah, marines just randomly charge at the enemy with no plan, no tactics, no support, no nothing but suicidal urges to get hit with a lot of friendly fire), the commentary on Fascism and militarism (two separate ideas that seem quite muddled in the movie) is done in such a bash you over the head style as to make me cringe in sympathetic embarrassment, etc.

crashlanding wrote Also, sotonohito, judging by your reactions to things like Spike Jonze's past body of work and Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, it might be helpful to check them out before taking a strong stance on them one way or the other.

I must be dense, because I'm missing your point. Unless you were merely being snarky and implying that I hadn't seen either?

I've watched Malkovich, thought it was pretty fun. I have not yet seen Adaptation. I've probably seen several of his music videos and commercials without knowing they were his, and I managed to watch a full three minutes of Jackass once before I changed the channel in disgust.

I've seen Verhoven's Starship Troopers. Twice, in fact, though the second time was involuntary. I've also seen, and liked, some of his other stuff.
posted by sotonohito at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2009


Okay, so first. Winning an Oscar doesn't equal good. Honestly, I don't know whether to even bother continuing to discuss this if you don't realize that. But here's the other point. Nobody's claiming it will be Where the Wild Things Are the Book. Instead, it will be Where the Wild Things Are the Movie. It's not the book, but it's still going to be Where the Wild Things Are.

Unless you want to argue that the folio version of Hamlet is Hamlet, but the quarto version isn't, in which case I'll just say, "meh, they're both just ripoffs of the Spanish Tragedy."

Honestly, the Transformers movie was the Transformers, even though it wasn't the Transformers of my youth. GI Joe will be GI Joe whether it's a stupid live-action movie, or a bad cartoon based on 3 inch action figures, or the old 12-inch action figures of my dad's era.

What I'm saying is, who died and made you the guy who decides which version of a story is legit, and which isn't?
posted by nushustu at 1:47 PM on March 27, 2009


In related news ...
"... [Jonze is] excited about another labor of love: a documentary about Wild Things creator Maurice Sendak, which he hopes to finish in time for the release of the main event. 'He's awesome and amazing,' said Jonze of the 80-year-old writer, who wrote the book when he was living in a basement apartment on West 9th Street, and who now lives in Connecticut."
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on March 27, 2009


Good god I hate them using the Arcade Fire in the trailer. I like the band and the film looks interesting but I hope that song's not in the movie.
"...given that it's their song featured in the trailer, will the Arcade Fire's music also be featured in the film? Well, maybe. A spokesperson for the Fire told MTV News that he was reaching out to them for comment on 'Wild Things' and their involvement with the film but had received no answer by press time. He did, however, confirm to MTV News that the version of 'Wake Up' featured in the trailer was 'a new version, re-recorded specifically for the film,' so perhaps the band didn't just stop there." *
posted by ericb at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2009


The second link mentions the possibility of the film being entirely reshot after "the panic at Warner Bros when they realized they'd made a reportedly 75 million dollar kiddie art house film". Does anyone know if this actually happened?
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 2:27 PM on March 27, 2009


I really love the new version of "Wake Up" in the trailer. Any new Arcade Fire music excites me, even if it's an alternate version of an old song.
posted by mike3k at 2:49 PM on March 27, 2009


Wow mefi, did I miss the plate of pancakes in the trailer?!
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:51 PM on March 27, 2009


The nerd rage is strong in this thread. Yesss.... yesss feel it coursing through you! Give in to the hate! Let it flow out through your fingers as you type oh yes I can feel the hatred oh yes! YES!!

*suddenly shoots out blue lightning bolts in all directions*

Oh, Sith. That's the second time today I've ruined a cloak like that. Smoldering holes everywhere, would you look at that? *flaps cloak in irritation* *fwoomp* Aaaand, I'm on fire. Yup, definitely on fire this time, not just smoldering. A little help here? Guards? A fire extinguisher or something?
posted by loquacious at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2009


You people are fucking depressing sometimes.

We have two genuine geniuses here adapting a classic children's book. It should be wonderful.

Stop being a bunch of debbie downers.
posted by empath at 3:24 PM on March 27, 2009


And that's probably an extremely bizarre and pedantic position.

You've got it and you should probably stop now.
posted by empath at 3:29 PM on March 27, 2009


Is it to late to point out that this has shades of The Neverending Story? A movie adaptation of a book about a boy who has to come to terms with his you life by entering a fairytale. I know these books are not even close to being the same but perhaps this argument has gone a bit off range when your using Starship Troopers as something to compare with.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:01 PM on March 27, 2009


Sometimes, I'm grateful that working with kids gives me an excuse to watch kids movies and such.

This is definitely one of those times.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2009


All this talk about kids' movies, adaptations, and Hamlet and no one has yet mentioned that The Lion King is one of the most brilliant adaptations of Hamlet EVER? No? Oh. Guess I just did.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:13 PM on March 27, 2009


After a bit of thought I think I can at least clarify my position if not justify it to many.

I see "adaptation" as an attempt to basically redo the original story in a new medium. The idea is not merely the same general plot and one or two similar characters, but same plot, same story, same dialog (mostly anyway), same characters, etc. The Lord of the Rings movies, for example.

"Inspiration" is more like professional fanfic. The story may be broadly similar, will likely follow vaguely the same plot, but its going to be largely a creation of the new people, like all fanfic.

The movie isn't going to be a movie adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. It can't be because there's only enough story in the book to make a 30 minute movie at the absolute most. So we're looking, basically, at Jonze's movie fanfic of the book. And I don't see a problem there. I just wish the tile were more indicative of the fact that its fanfic, not the real thing or a movie adaptation of the book.
posted by sotonohito at 6:11 PM on March 27, 2009


Some things are so fantastically great that they border upon being sacred. Any adaptation is doomed to failure and should never be attempted. I regret having seen the Lord of the Rings movies, and you couldn't pay me to watch this Where the Wild Things Are abomination. Spike Jonze can join Peter Green in Hell as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:27 PM on March 27, 2009


All this talk about kids' movies, adaptations, and Hamlet and no one has yet mentioned that The Lion King Kimba the White Lion is one of the most brilliant adaptations of Hamlet EVER? No? Oh. Guess I just did.

Fixed that for you.
posted by zardoz at 8:16 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Spike Jonze can join Peter Green in Hell as far as I'm concerned.

Wow, you must really hate early Fleetwood Mac.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:07 PM on March 27, 2009


Wow mefi, did I miss the plate of pancakes in the trailer?!

No. It's the plate of beans you missed.
posted by ericb at 9:16 PM on March 27, 2009


Duh, Peter Jackson not Peter Green. I love Peter Green. And Rob Halford can go to Hell too.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:29 PM on March 27, 2009


If the movie cannot ever be "Where the Wild Things Are".. then what about the opera? It was only written about twenty years ago, on a libretto by Sendak himself. Where does that stand? I bet this will be a really cool flick.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 12:37 AM on March 28, 2009


No 'ffense, Joe in Australia, but I really didn't see very much at all in the original book that was about parents' fears, and that's one of the strengths. It was about a little boy being "bad" and reveling in being bad.

Yes, but there's a time when your kid shouts "Bad daddy!" at you. And you can laugh it off or whatever, but it's there and it bugs you. But that trailer made me realise that I want him to have that depth of emotion and I want him to have a rich interior world, because being king of all wild things doesn't mean that he isn't my kid and that he doesn't want or need me.

And (uh, spoiler alert?) still having a mother who loves him enough to bring him dinner.

Well, no point seeing the movie now.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:44 AM on March 28, 2009


For the record, I don't agree with Daddy-O on this subject. I see no problem with adaptations, thought the LotR movies did quite well. This project by Jonze will doubtless be an excellent fanfic, and should be quite fun. It just won't be Where The Wild Things Are.
posted by sotonohito at 5:59 AM on March 28, 2009


Yes, but there's a time when your kid shouts "Bad daddy!" at you. And you can laugh it off or whatever, but it's there and it bugs you. But that trailer made me realise that I want him to have that depth of emotion and I want him to have a rich interior world, because being king of all wild things doesn't mean that he isn't my kid and that he doesn't want or need me.

I guess I can see that. My concerns are pretty close to what dydecker said--that they'll focus too much on the things that parents worry that their kids worry about rather than the real concerns of kids. Much of the picture book is a sort of Bacchanalia of imaginative play; it's mostly that that I'm worried will go, in favor of Heavy Issues.

Well, no point seeing the movie now.

Aw, I was kidding! But I guess this underscores how it can't really be an adaptation, right? We're all assumed to be familiar with the content of the picture book; we have to assume, and hope that the movie adds something new.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:17 AM on March 28, 2009


And Rob Halford can go to Hell too.

Homophobe.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 AM on March 28, 2009


If the characters are from the book, and the plot is from the book, and the theme is from the book, well, um, there's really no way that's not an adaptation. Maybe it's not a word-for-word book-to-film translation or transcription or whatever, but it's an adaptation alright.

Doesn't anyone remember this one?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2009


Wait, Rob Halford is gay???
posted by Daddy-O at 11:47 AM on March 28, 2009


Sys Rq wrote If the characters are from the book, and the plot is from the book, and the theme is from the book, well, um, there's really no way that's not an adaptation.

If the story isn't from the book, and like I said, it can't be not for even a 90 minute movie, then its fanfic, an "inspiration", not an "adaptation".

We'll be seeing Spike Jonze's (hopefully) cool fanfic, not the book Where the Wild Things Are turned into a movie.

At absolute minimum we can expect that well over 75% of what we'll see on the screen came from Jonze and Eggers, not Sendak. That means it ain't an adaptation, its "inspiration", or fanfic in other words. Authorized fanfic, professional fanfic, but ultimately fanfic. And like I said, there's nothing wrong with that, but it ain't a film adaptation of the book, its a movie inspired by the book.
posted by sotonohito at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't it ironic that one of Jonze's previous films (as noted above) was titled "Adaptation?"

BTW -- do a Google search on the term "film adaptation."

What's the third most popular link out of 1,760,000 search results for "film adaptation?"

That's right -- Where the Wild Things Are (2009) ("An adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story...").
You say fanfic, I say adaptation.
You say inspiration, I say adaptation.
You say derivative work, I say adaptation.
You say potato, I say potato.
You say tomato, I say tomato.
Let's call the whole thing off!
Google search (adaptation + sendak + "where the wild things are") -- Results...of about 15,300
posted by ericb at 1:34 PM on March 28, 2009


Although I agree with the sentiment, ericb, Google wars are no way to win an argument.

Sotonohito, it's awfully nice of you to respond to my comment by ignoring all the parts where I made my case.

An adaptation doesn't mean simply taking a book and acting it out on camera. Usually, lots of stuff has to be left out, dialogue changes, even the endings change. Wizard of Oz? None too faithful.

Yes, most of the screenplay will be written by Jonze and Eggers, and Sendak won't get a screenplay credit simply because he didn't work on the screenplay, which is a work derivative of, but separate from, his book. He'll be billed as "Based on the book by" or something. That's how adaptations always go, no matter how faithful to the original (except when the author actually works on the screenplay, or when it's an adaptation of a play that works from the original script).

I pointed out upthread that the 90 minutes of film vs. 6 minutes of reading argument holds no water. I meant that. The story (i.e. the history of events described in the book) goes on longer than six minutes, and indeed could cover just about 90 minutes. That means the film could very well be in real time, which would be a more faithful (or, uh, something like that) account of the story--written by Jonze and Eggers, adapted from Sendak--than a thin children's book devoid of detail could ever provide.

*untwists knickers*
posted by Sys Rq at 2:09 PM on March 28, 2009


I'm not sure that someone who puts American Beauty ("look! a video of a floating plastic bag! It's Art! It's Beauty!") at the top of their "American Films I Like" list should be talking about which films are intellectually bankrupt.

Thus speaks someone who has, I'll be charitable here, not a fucking clue what that scene was actually about. Fucking hell.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2009


The books rocks. The trailer rocks. The movie will rock. The thought of taking my by-then-almost-three year old son to see his favourite book on the big screen makes me want to jump around the room.

Come October most of you gnashing your terrible teeth about it will be sent to bed without eating anything.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:02 AM on March 29, 2009


I'm curious as to how you took that scene, DNAB.

I was pretty profoundly affected by it when I saw it in the theater, almost to the point of crying, but I'm not sure I could quite put my finger on why. I think it had something to do with a recent rather profound personal revelation about the hidden potential for beauty and happiness in ordinary life that I had just gone through, but that seems so particular to me that I wonder how other people read the scene.

I can see how some people might dismiss it as trite, but I do feel a bit sorry for anyone that didn't see any Truth to that scene.
posted by empath at 12:35 PM on March 29, 2009


Personally I saw that scene as indicative of what a kid (teenager) will see as profound, contrasted with what the adults in the movie see as profound, with commentary on the one side saying it's important to see moments of beauty, but with us as adults seeing the movie looking at rank sentimentality as cheap and trite.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2009


Except that also the whole movie is pretty emotionally bankrupt and just plain cheap and trite. But hey man, you wanna read deeply into a pretty hilariously thin film, you go ahead and do that. And if you want to make yourself feel better by imagining that I don't get it, that I'm too thick to understand, that I don't feel deeply enough, that's no skin off my back, bagel boy.
posted by nushustu at 7:26 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, you're pretty worked up about a 10 year old movie. You okay? Do you need a hug?
posted by empath at 8:22 PM on March 29, 2009


Ya rly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:42 PM on March 29, 2009


Me? If you say so. I won't turn down a hug, unless it's one of those creepy ones where the hugger holds on for just a beat too long...
posted by nushustu at 9:39 PM on March 29, 2009


Warner Brothers execs flipped out and said that this movie was too 'scary' and 'weird' for a kids movie, and had most of the movie reshot last June.
posted by daHIFI at 9:53 AM on March 30, 2009


That article is eight months old, daHIFI. I believe in some of the other articles linked in this thread, it was stated that the movie was not reshot and they actually gave Jonez another 35 Million. The movie went from 80 to 115 Million to make.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:41 PM on March 30, 2009


All I need now is a Phantom Tollbooth movie and I'll be happy.
posted by krikkit261 at 2:08 PM on March 31, 2009


All I need now is a Phantom Tollbooth movie and I'll be happy.

Congratulations ... I'm sorry.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:18 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy crap, that Phantom Tollbooth theme song is so fucking wrong!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:22 PM on March 31, 2009


I believe in some of the other articles linked in this thread, it was stated that the movie was not reshot and they actually gave Jonez another 35 Million.

Just to be clear, Jonez said it himself:

Spike Jonze: ...I think that’s what freaked the studio out about the movie too. It wasn’t a studio film for kids, or it wasn’t a traditional film about kids. We didn’t have like a Movie Kid in our movie, or a Movie Performance in a Movie Kid world. We had a real kid and a real world, and I think that’s sort of where our problem was. In the end they realized the movie is what it is, and there’s no real way to... it’s sort of like they were expecting a boy and I gave birth to a girl.

[Laughs]

So they just needed their time to sort that out and figure out how they were going to learn to love their new daughter.

Moriarty: It’s been interesting, and because there’s been a lot of silence on Warner’s end of things, it’s caused a lot of speculation and conversation and I think anxiety from film fans. They’re like, “Oh my god, am I gonna get to see THAT movie?” So when Charlie told me that you guys seemed really happy with where you were, I just was relieved.

Spike Jonze: Yeah. It just took a lot longer. And that was hard, but you know, in the end I got to make my movie. And with the version you saw, I was trying to get the money to do the pick-ups I wanted to do, and it just took a lot longer to finish it.


I.e., things look good.
posted by mediareport at 4:43 PM on March 31, 2009


Wild Things Throw A Beachside Beastie Party
posted by homunculus at 12:45 PM on April 7, 2009


If you're pissed about "Where the Wild Things Are," you might want to skip the trailer for his "Everyone Poops."
posted by Pronoiac at 4:43 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


President Obama reads Where The Wild Things Are to kids at the White House today.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:31 PM on April 13, 2009


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