Apocalypse Now
December 5, 2007 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Depending on who you believe, either Guy Pearce or Viggo Mortensen will be cast in the lead role of the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's utterly brilliant dystopia, The Road. To my mind, the adaptation marks Hollywood's rekindling of the almost forgotten genre of the post-apocalyptical movie. With Mad Max, The Postman, Threads and The Day After, nuclear annihilation loomed large in the imaginations of filmmakers in the 70s and 80s. Since then cinematic dystopia has been projected in the realm of the fantastic (think 12 Monkey's, The Matrix and 28 Days Later). If dystopia is really just a satire of the present, what does the film adaptation of The Road tell us about the our times?
posted by MrMerlot (75 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Utterly Brilliant? That book caused the most unnecessarily depressing afternoon of 2007. I like McCarhty, but that book was terrible.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:26 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


If dystopia is really just a satire of the present, what does the film adaptation of The Road tell us about the our times?

Are we going to be tested on this?
posted by jonmc at 5:30 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


Show Your Work.
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2007


I'm about 3/4 through The Road right now. While I'd like to see this film (I'm all up in some post-apocalypse fiction and cinema), I'm not really sure this would translate to the screen very well.

Depressing? Yes. Oh, yes. Yes.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I found it utterly brilliant.

I just don't ever, EVER, want to read it again.
posted by 40 Watt at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2007


Sure.
posted by MrMerlot at 5:34 PM on December 5, 2007


Looking at that list of films, I'm thinking... I gotta develop a class on dystopian literature/film.
posted by papakwanz at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2007


This is no "Fall Out 3".
posted by rhizome23 at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2007


The Postman came out in 1997.
posted by cmonkey at 5:35 PM on December 5, 2007


Not sure I buy your time-sequence theory. Lots of 1970s or 1980s sci fi was dystopia as bizarre or fantastical (Planet of the Apes, Logan's Run, Running Man, Blade Runner). Lots of 1990s and 00s have been post-nuclear or post manmade disaster... The Postman was 1997. 12 Monkeys was 1995.

(Not saying this is a bad post, I'm just not convinced of that part of your case.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:38 PM on December 5, 2007


almost forgotten genre of the post-apocalyptical movie

(A bit of a derail, but forgotten genre?

Children of Men
War of the Worlds, the Tom Cruise edition
The Invasion
I Am Legend.
The Mist.

and I'm sure I'm missing a few.)

I prefer Viggo, if only because Guy Pearce has that big ol' distracting vein on his forehead, but either of them will do fine, I think. (Christian Bale would be great, too. He has that whole emaciated thing down pat.) The crucial choice will be the Boy. I pity the poor soul in charge of casting for this film.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:44 PM on December 5, 2007


Due to being a wuss of the first water, I will probably not see the movie, despite having really liked the book. I don't want to see and hear the onfrzrag fprar, it was bad enough reading about it. (rot 13, possible spoilage)

Thinking about it more, so much of the book's attraction for me is the language, prose so spare it's nearly verse--I dunno how well that will translate to the screen. The events are critical, too, obviously, but I don't know if I'd have cared about them if they'd been communicated to me by other means.
posted by everichon at 5:47 PM on December 5, 2007


(adds to derail: forgotten genre? are we not awash in zombie movies?)
posted by dreamsign at 5:48 PM on December 5, 2007


Yeah, I got sucker-punched into reading The Road by my brother, who touted it as "a touching father-son story, set in a post-apocalyptic U.S." Which is true, in the same way that Requiem for a Dream is "a touching story of people trying to get their lives together, set against the backdrop of addiction." I'm sure this will make a great holiday release when it comes out, and I'm also sure I'll pass on seeing it, thankyouverymuch.
posted by mosk at 5:49 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Who gives a shit about who the actors are? What matters most is the director, and I frankly haven't heard of John Hillcoat. Anyone catch any of his movies? Has he got the chops for this?

And yes, The Road is brilliant, but so incredibly bleak, I'm sure the Hollywoodized version will be a rather conventional post-apocalyptic quasi-action movie. Actually the book works as a suspense story, at least in parts.
posted by zardoz at 5:51 PM on December 5, 2007


Although (thinking it through even more) all my hand-wringing about translating prose to screen is goofy--I would be first in line for any Riddley Walker adaptation, and the odds of that going well are slim.
posted by everichon at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty non-informative post. But anyway, I love me some speculative scifi and post-apocalyptic fiction and film. That stuff about "a satire of the present" is hooey. It's satire of the ontologies of existence and human nature.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2007


I'm on page 15. Brrrrr.
posted by Scoo at 5:56 PM on December 5, 2007


(adds to derail: forgotten genre? are we not awash in zombie movies?)

Gah, can't believe I forgot all the Dead/"28"/Resident Schmevil films.

*follows MrMerlot's link*

I'd think I'd give my eyeteeth for a good Oryx and Crake film.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


zardoz, go rent "The Proposition". It's brilliant - one of my favourite films from the last few years - and I think Hillcoat will be perfect for "The Road".
posted by bunglin jones at 5:59 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


And I can hardly wait till this comes out next year.

(I think I like this genre a bit too much. ._.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2007


I've not seen it, but it's interesting that Ebert compares John Hillcoat's film "The Proposition" to McCarthy's "Blood Meridian". He also gave the movie four stars.

I've been wanting to read "The Road" but haven't been in the mood to put myself through it, if what I've heard about it are true.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2007


Without getting into spoiler territory, did anyone else think The Road's ending was a little, you know, deus ex machina?
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:11 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's no Canticle for Liebowitz.
posted by jdfan at 6:13 PM on December 5, 2007


Please not Guy Pierce. He'll bring a horrible Priscilla Queen of the Desert quality.
posted by mattoxic at 6:19 PM on December 5, 2007


Oh great, now I have to go read it.
(I can’t buy Viggo as breakable, I like him, but he’s like Antaeus, rooted, good for some roles, not this from the way this sounds - Pearce I can buy)
posted by Smedleyman at 6:20 PM on December 5, 2007


Viggo Mortensen is the violent Alan Alda. White people are idiots.
posted by Huplescat at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2007 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Viggo Mortensen is the violent Alan Alda. White people are idiots.
posted by zardoz at 6:32 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think a bit of Hollywoodization could actually benefit the thing--I found the rhythms of the book (and the ending) convincing, but I thought the prose was kind of contrived. The ideas will take care of themselves, even if it moves a bit faster on film. Völker Schlöndorff made another dystopia, "The Handmaid's Tale," into a more action-packed phenomenon, and I thought it worked well while keeping the thrust of the book intact. As for "The Road" itself, it's certainly testimony to the power of Oprah, one of the book's main champions, that it has gotten mainstream enough to make it into your average mall cinema.
posted by texorama at 6:41 PM on December 5, 2007


I don't know what it says about me that I loved The Road so much I read it twice - once to myself and once out loud to my boyfriend. Guy Pearce is too young to play the lead (from my mental image of the father, he came across as being somebody nearing middle-age if not in it -- dude had skillz) and, sorry to say, not nearly good enough of an actor to telegraph the simple complexity of their dilemma. The hardest target will be finding somebody to fill the role of the son, though. That kid will have to be able to act the shit out of that part, because it's not gonna be the typical cute-kid character.
posted by brain cloud at 6:52 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


LobsterMitten: Is it not worth nothing that, while The Postman film came out in the 90s, the novel it was based on came out in 1985. Likewise, the short film Twelve Monkeys was based on came out in 1962.
posted by absalom at 7:05 PM on December 5, 2007


not worth NOTING. What the hell?
posted by absalom at 7:13 PM on December 5, 2007


Ok, sure, it's worth noting. Thanks for noting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:15 PM on December 5, 2007


I'd think I'd give my eyeteeth for a good Oryx and Crake film.


You mean, a film whose only resemblance to the book is the title? You're right, that would be a great film.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:22 PM on December 5, 2007


Likewise, the short film Twelve Monkeys was based on came out in 1962.

Actually, it was based on Chris Marker's breathtaking La Jetee, which came out in 1962.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2007


The Postman came out in 1997 and made me have to take a big, wet shit that lasted through 1998.
posted by item at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2007


Actor notwithstanding, this is going to be awesome. After seeing Hillcoat's skill with atmosphere in The Proposition, this - well - just seems like an ideal match.
posted by asuprenant at 7:34 PM on December 5, 2007


You want a war, postman?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:42 PM on December 5, 2007


I think the novel could translate well to the screen. The prose is very visual--the absence of every color but firelight, the importance of sightlines and orientation to survival. And I thought No Country For Old Men was awesome. Still not sure I want to see The Road as a movie though, just because the book was so profoundly bleak.
posted by sy at 7:42 PM on December 5, 2007


Likewise, the short film Twelve Monkeys was based on came out in 1962.

Actually, it was based on Chris Marker's breathtaking La Jetee, which came out in 1962.


...I...I think these say the same thing?
posted by 235w103 at 7:47 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


The Road is too postmodern to translate well into film. Normally the apocalypse itself is a character and allegory, in this case we don't even know what it is, it is irrelevant, meaningless. The plot and story has no meaning. If the novel has any significance it is the wasteland of plot (the road).

Same with another postmodern novel Name of the Rose that was turned into film. At the end of the novel we discover there was no plot, it was all an accident. The mystery is never solved by the "hero", it solves itself. It's all meaningless. Yet in the movie they turn into something with finality and assurance and closure. Nice story, sets and costume but misses the point. The Road will be just another atmospheric gore fest stripped of its literary context, I don't see how it could be any other way.
posted by stbalbach at 8:05 PM on December 5, 2007


fagh... we've got stacks and reams of fucked-up horror and sci-fi films.. when are we going to get some good fucked-up fantasy onboard? I mean... just utterly weird off-the-hook content a-la later chapters of the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story arc?

that's what I'm looking forward to.

and god I hope its nothing like what hollywood has been doing to decent fantasy recently... ie. The Dark is Rising series.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 8:12 PM on December 5, 2007


Why did you have to remind me of The Postman? It is by far the worst. movie. I. have. ever. seen. Brrr.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:30 PM on December 5, 2007


The Road's ending was deus ex machina to the degree of infinity. I think McCarthy got up off the crapper with ten minutes to spare before handing it in to the publisher and pounded out the last three pages while he ate his Wheaties. I was utterly dumbfounded that a book so completely, unapologetically bleak had the candy-ass shame to end the way it did.
posted by docpops at 8:53 PM on December 5, 2007


They need Terrence Stamp as the dad and Freddie Highmore as the kid, then set the whole of the thing somewhere in the UK countryside. Done and done.
posted by docpops at 8:54 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Postman? It is by far the worst. movie. I. have. ever. seen

Pop Howard the Duck into your DVD player and be amazed... assuming it's even been released in that format.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:58 PM on December 5, 2007


Isn't it Kevin Costner's remake of Il Postino?
posted by kirkaracha at 9:00 PM on December 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just so long as they don't end up with Damnation Alley with Nick Cave music.
posted by galtr at 9:02 PM on December 5, 2007


I sat through the Postman only because I have a thing for post-apocalyptic movies. Of course, it's not really any worse than the utter travesty that was Mad Max III.
posted by pompomtom at 9:15 PM on December 5, 2007


Why did you have to remind me of The Postman? It is by far the worst. movie. I. have. ever. seen. Brrr.

Ah, those lucky souls who aren't tormented with delusions of having seen Highlander 2, a movie that does not exist.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 PM on December 5, 2007


ROU_Xenophobe: Didn't that have some kind of ice-porcupine in it, maybe with rollerblades? Am I making that up?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:24 PM on December 5, 2007


The Road's ending was deus ex machina to the degree of infinity.

[spoilers ahead]

Yes, but really what other possible ending could there have been? The boy dies by the side of the road? He gets captured and thrown into one of those pens? I thought there was actually a bit of irony in the fact that even though the father thought he was protecting the son, in fact he was endangering him and the son would have been better off abandoned.

The worse deus ex machina, I thought, was when they found that fallout shelter full of canned goods.

Anyhow, I'm fairly skeptical of how the movie adaptation will turn out. If it's faithful to the book, it'd be pretty boring (two hours of "Is there any food here? No. Is there any food here? No. Is there any food here? Here's a rotten apple") and if it tries to fill in some of the backstory, people will inevitably be disappointed. The only thing that would really redeem a movie adaptation would be if the cinematography and visuals were fantastic.
posted by alidarbac at 9:37 PM on December 5, 2007 [2 favorites]


spoiler alert continued:

alidarbac - how do you mean the father was endangering him? I really, really felt like there was no reasonable way to end that book except to basically have the kid alone, on his own, fending for himself, soon to die. Instead a family appears out of thin air with enough supplies and gear that you wondered if there was a WalMart nearby. Anyway, lots of fodder for speculation.
posted by docpops at 9:41 PM on December 5, 2007


Who gives a shit about who the actors are?

When I read The Road, I always pictured one of the Olsen twins as the dad and either Gabe Kaplan or Tim Conway as the son.

The right director? He could make this work.
posted by codswallop at 9:59 PM on December 5, 2007 [4 favorites]


What about Levon Helm for the dad. Or maybe Henry Fonda, if he wasn't dead?
posted by kenlayne at 10:01 PM on December 5, 2007


Anyone who's looking for some bleak, obscure apocalyptic films should see Time of the Wolf.
posted by camcgee at 10:29 PM on December 5, 2007


I'll wait for the Broadway musical version. Calling Alan Mencken!

I wanna be where the people aren't
I wanna see, wanna see some canned goods
Avoidin' getting tossed into those-
Whaddya call 'em? Oh, pens

posted by maryh at 12:07 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I want to see Gatlinburg in ruins on the screen, so I vote for a movie
posted by A189Nut at 12:10 AM on December 6, 2007


Once No Country For Old Men wins an Oscar and several Golden Globes , there's going to be a race to film ALL of his books. Blood Meridian is already in the works.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:44 AM on December 6, 2007


I haven't hated many books in my life, but I hated The Road. I am open-minded and can generally find good things in any book or movie, but wow, the so-called "sparse" writing style of The Road drove me up the wall.

If that fucking kid and his dad had ONE MORE conversation that went like this, I was ready to throw the thing out the window :

-dad, are we gonna be ok
-yes, son
-are you sure?
-yes son
-I'm scared
-I know
-are we gonna be ok, dad?
-yes son

Brilliant, isn't it? :)
posted by newfers at 2:25 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like watching people walk.
posted by srboisvert at 3:47 AM on December 6, 2007


Waterworld!
posted by oddman at 5:41 AM on December 6, 2007


And of course, The Postman the movie somehow managed to flub most of the critical themes of The Postman the book order to make the titular character into an action hero.

Likewise I'm seeing graffiti idolizing the hero of V for Vendetta (to mention another post apocalyptic work), which leads me to believe that the brothers W. didn't read or didn't understand why Moore created a terrorist anti-hero whose only emotional intimacy comes from raping and torturing his only companion, Evey.

The end result is that I've become very skeptical of film adaptations because I find that they often give us superficial similarities and miss the entire point of the original work.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:59 AM on December 6, 2007


Why did you have to remind me of The Postman? It is by far the worst. movie. I. have. ever. seen.

Nah. The Postman might be an utterly cheesy sentimental goop of a movie with only a tenuous connection to the book which inspired it, but it's no worse than your average sci-fi flick and better than many. Of the Kevin Costner Messiah trilogy (Dances With Wolves, Waterworld, and The Postman), it's probably my favorite. It's a 4th of July tradition.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:25 AM on December 6, 2007


Bookforum has a really good feature article "Fiction into Film".
posted by stbalbach at 6:27 AM on December 6, 2007


they're both wrong. I doubt any director other than Michael Haneke can make The Road into a good film, but then Haneke has already done that apocalypse thing in Time of the Wolf
posted by matteo at 7:36 AM on December 6, 2007


The end result is that I've become very skeptical of film adaptations because I find that they often give us superficial similarities and miss the entire point of the original work.

I surely found out how true that can be when I got around to reading Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural -- the movie's ending completely derailed the story arc so hard that it torqued an updated Greek tragedy into ... well, back in the day, I joked that it was the "Official Film of the 1984 Republican National Convention," which was happening right down the road from the Loews Anatole where the movie was playing the first time I saw it.
posted by pax digita at 7:42 AM on December 6, 2007


The movie version of "The Road" will be a comedy starring Danny DeVito as the father and Chris Tucker as the son. They are helped along the way by a wisecracking computer animated dog voiced by Cuba Gooding Junior. Instead of a fallout shelter full of food Danny DeVito and Chris Tucker stumble into a Wal-Mart staffed by Jessica Simpson and Bam Margera. The Wal-Mart is about to be taken over by a tribe of post-apocalyptic breakdancers led by Steve-O, Wee Man and Jon Heder. Danny DeVito, Chris Tucker, Jessica Simpson and Bam Margera must band together and save the Wal-Mart by winning the big dance competition. Also starring Verne Troyer as a cop on the edge and Queen Latifah as the woman he loves.

At the end of the movie Chris Tucker is frozen for ten thousand years and then he is revived by robot aliens and airlifted to a better world.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:54 AM on December 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


It could be a good 3d animation project. Think about it; the whole uncanny valley effect could work to the benefit of the story, the characters' hollow eyes dully regarding their extinguished world.

Voice of Papa: Lance Henriksen
posted by Scoo at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like McCarthy a lot, but I thought The Road was really mediocre.

It might be time for me to read "Blood Meridian" again, wonder whether this is actually happening or not and try to figure out whether or not I think that's a good idea.
posted by thivaia at 8:25 AM on December 6, 2007


At the risk of a) taking the bait b) a minor derail KirkJobSluder could you just quickly run through where it is that V rapes and tortures Evey? I suppose you could say she's tortured - in the goal of setting her free, of course, isnt that what all torturers say? - but when is she raped?
posted by criticalbill at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2007


I don't want you peoples "literature" infringing on my post-apocalyptic Books. You don't see Science Fiction writers trying to write some weepy bullshit about some chick and the ghost of her dead baby or whatever.
posted by Megafly at 12:14 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Scans are here. Specifically page 5 panel 6:

"They stand me up and...
...I am given an examination...
I think it's the woman."

The implication of both the text and the image implies sexual assault. And certainly I'll grant alternative interpretations as well. But it's a part of an extended sequence during which Evie is shaved, beaten, tortured by drowning, and starved over an indefinite period that could be serveral days in length. At the end of this treatment, supposedly at the hands of the facist police, she "escapes" to discover that it's all an elaborate stage and theatre show set up by V.

It's a pivotal sequence for understanding what the graphic novel actually says about athoritarianism and anarchism, and sets up the conclusion. My take on it is that V for Vedetta is about both the perils and promise of violent revolution. And V's monstrosity is part of the cautionary tale. I see multiple parallels between V and Frankenstein's Monster, especially the way in which both are redeemed by removing themselves from human society at the end of the story.

That's my take on it at least. I just don't grok a heroic interpretation of the character.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:17 PM on December 6, 2007


Hmmmm.

Nah.

Not raped anyway. The rest of your analysis is OK, but i think slightly arbitrary. I dont think V is set to need redemption, otherwise Moore would have made it more obvious.
posted by criticalbill at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2007


Gabe Kaplan is the Jewish Alan Alda. White people are idiots.

Morgan Freeman is the black Wilford Brimley. Old people are idiots. Oatmeal sucks.

I’ll agree “The Postman” is cheesy, and kind of fun to watch in a eat-a-whole-bag-of-potato-chips-and-be-sorry-for-it-later-when-you-get-sick sort of way, but I’m getting sort of tired of sci-fi flicks that lack any internal consistiency.
Sort of like the massive violations of thermodynamics going on in “The Matrix” (using body heat from humans as a power source?).
Just makes huge demands on my suspension of disbelief - for no thematic or dramatic reason at all.
From how “The Road” sounds, it’d be better not to delve into massive explication as to ‘why’ and just focus on practical details of dealing with it and the atmosphere. Bergman pulled it off.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:10 PM on December 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


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