Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jack Reacher 18 - Never Go Back

Spoilers of both book and movie. Read at your own risk.

Watching a movie and then reading the corresponding movie is an interesting revelation. The impact is deeper. Reversing the order is a little hodge-podge of emotions. I’ve noticed that the movie never matches to the book. Which is totally understandable given they’re working with a limited timeframe and can’t effectively get into a character’s head. But doing the movie first, and the book next is like getting behind the stage after the drama is over. Also interesting is the study of how they modified the book to either dramatize or make concessions for the length.

Reacher #18 produced similar emotions. However both this and the earlier one (One Shot) were a tad disappointing from the adaptation front. As standalone movies, they hold their own. No complaints. If you leave the irony of casting Tom Cruise as Reacher - that being Reacher is taller than your average man @ 6’5” while Cruise is shorter than your average man @ 5’5” - you can say that Cruise does justice to the role. He brings the necessary gravitas to the role. Except that it is not enough adaptionwise. It is mostly because it is not transferred from the book.

Both movies make the lead characters squabble a lot to dramatize. Which is overdoing it. The characters in both books get along quite well with interesting dialogues and insights gleaned as they speak. In the movies, they take jabs and the resulting tension is used to move the movie. I feel they should under-do this dramatization.

Then the part where the lead characters were supposed to have sex. In the book they do - multiple times. Here, the scene was shot and cut off from the movie. So all we see is Reacher and Turner in the hotel room discussing strategy. Only, Turner is just wearing a bra. Really weird since the dynamic between the two is not clear. Is she just comfortable around him so she is dressed so? Or is it after they’ve slept together? (certainly not evident). In fact, the book goes into detail where they talk about taking one room or two in the hotel, eventually deciding for two rooms, yet ending up in bed together. Either way for the movie would have been OK. A sort of movie cliche if they did sleep together but this was left dangling mid air.

The other part is about Reacher’s daughter. The book was nice and easy. And the girl was sweet and messed up in her own way. Here she is nasty all the way (dramatization again). And in the end, it goes very sappy. I guess Hollywood is a sucker for emotions as well.

Finally, the bad guys. The biggest shortcoming and a case in point for Reacher’s gravitas. The bad guys are absolutely no match for Reacher in the book. In fact, they hardly last a punch or two because Reacher executes his strikes with such precision. Just looking at their size, form and formation, the spots to hit and disable them become apparent to him. Years of military experience and a gift of insight. In the movie, he gets pounded by the lead baddie. Absolutely unforgivable. And the baddie has a personal vendetta, that builds in the course of the movie - because he supposedly met his match. Take a cue please - Reacher’s match should be Reacher’s match in the real sense.

In terms of adaptation distortion, I will say it was about 40%. Which is a lot. Harry Potter series on an average was about 20% which was good. One part which I really enjoyed in the book was how Reacher and Turner sent the lead villains a message every step of the way by swiping up large charges on their credit cards - like a slap from miles way. Such little nuances would have spiced up the movie as well.

All said, if the next movie comes out, I am already captive audience. But make Reacher the boss and don’t make him squabble.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A way with words

I keep wishing I write more frequently. Umpteen improve-yourself sites have convinced me no-time is no excuse. But no promise as well. Let us see.

Like writing, it was a long time since I read something of substantial duration - leaving technical topics aside. I am speaking more from the fiction, non-fiction angle. So I was happy I could check off ‘Jack Reacher no 18 - Never Go Back’ from the list. It also happens that I watched the movie during the Diwali break - surprisingly low key on the cracker front. Post the Harry Potter septology, this was my first movie-book combination. That will be a separate post.

I have considered myself good with vocabulary. Much credit goes to GRE preparation I did like 15 years ago. But what really is vocabulary? If you give me rococo - I can shoot back with ornate. Synonyms for hate? Abhor, loathe, detest, despise, abominate.

But what separates master writers from people like me? They can pull out the right word for the right situation. If sentences were streets and walking was words and you came across a tricky turn, your nimbleness is what determines how well you navigate the turn. Otherwise, you take a longer road. If you cannot pull the right word at the right time, that word is nearly equivalent to being absent from your vocabulary.

This is what blew my mind -again- with ‘Never Go Back’. Lee Child isn’t the only novelist who has exhibited this trait. Any writer who is someone today I presume falls into this category. Easy flow, simple writing and connecting pipes across words you never knew were possible.

So pow-wow is an informal meeting. Jamb is the vertical part of the door frame and lintel is the horizontal part. Curliques are curvaceous parts of either calligraphy or ‘whorly’ items. Passel is a group of people. If forest is a big group of trees, copse is a small group of trees.

Now, I can get to pow-wow = informal meeting when reading. That is where the vocabulary helps. But I want copse when I want to write or say ‘small group of trees’. I wonder what it takes to get there. I presume even the giants like Lee Child put in their sweat and do their work to make their paras say just what they want to say. May be they have assistants with thesauruses and Google on standby. May Lee Child says, ‘find me a good phrase to describe a group of people who are in a state of excitement’ and the assistants come back thirty minutes later to say `passel in frisson’.

But I like to think it comes spontaneously to them. So to me it is a mountain peak spot with a peg punched in. These books represent a long rope hanging down to where I am standing. Reading and savoring them is like making a not so easy trek to the peg spot. Perhaps Lee Child has a different peg punched higher up. This how we evolve!
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