FILM NEWS: “Tomorrow: When the War Began”

17 Sep

Before boy wizards and sparkly vampires dominated the best-seller list, in Australia there was a little series about a group of teenagers waging a guerilla war from ‘Hell’ that captivated  teens everywhere. Considering the unprecedented success of the film adaptations of the Potter series and the first Twlight film,  it seems fair to wonder; will Tomorrow: When the War Began be Australia’s first book-to-screen-series success story?

If you were an Aussie teen growing up in the 90s, you had to have encountered John Marsden’s iconic Tomorrow: When the War Began series. An engrossing story that spanned seven main novels (and a sequel series some years later), the Tomorrow books followed the exploits of a small group of rural-based teenagers, who attempt to fight back after an unspecified nation invades Australia.

These books were essential reading to teens everywhere, whether you waited until it finally became available at your school library, or hit up your nearest and dearest come birthday or Christmas time. And now, for better or worse – though, this cynic can’t help but feel it will be worse – the first Tomorrow book is set to become a feature picture. Beginning filming in late 2009, Ambience Entertainment and Screen Australia have pumped 20 million dollars into this ambitious venture, handing over both directional and screenwriting duties to Stuart Beattie.

The ‘creative mind’ (and I use that term exceedingly loosely) behind the cringe-inducing script for recent ham-fest G.I. Joe, it seems a shame that the screen adaptation of such a definitive novel is being left in the hands of Beattie. Also responsible for the ‘story’ (again, IMDB’s words, not mine) behind Pirates of the Caribbean and the screenplay for Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the creative vision that Beattie will bring to the film. Heading up a a cast that will most likely be populated by unknowns is former Neighbours star Caitlin Stasey (as heroine Ellie).

Whether Beattie’s Tomorrow is a horribly misguided mess of a book-to-screen adaptation or a surprising triumph,  perhaps some of the real and unavoidable disappointment arises from the very notion of an adaptation.

While film is a wonderful medium, and easily my favorite means of creative production (stay with me on this one) there is something to be said about reading a text that is so fantastically vivid you’re able to paint your own imagery in your mind. When the words make you imagine something so engaging that it will always outshine whatever you’re physically shown on screen.

Perhaps then, the better the book, the harder it is for the filmmaker? This would certainly seem the case on some of the worse ‘re-imaginings’ of past novels, for example, Nick Earls excellent novel ’48 Shades of Brown should have produced a film far better than the exceedingly shallow 48 Shades.

If this is indeed the case, come next year, it will be with fear and trepidation that I will edge into Beattie’s Tomorrow. And if it is as I expect (read: bad), I will perhaps have to make a note to only watch film adaptations of terrible books.


One Response to “FILM NEWS: “Tomorrow: When the War Began””

  1. Nick December 22, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    Great post.

    I recently watched ‘Let the right one in’ (‘Låt den rätte komma in’) and having read a lot about the novel it was adapted from, I thought it would be nearly impossible to translate appropriately to film. There are many themes that run through the novel which convey meaning to the reader that I thought simply could not physically be shown on film, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    I’m approaching ‘Tomorrow: When The War Began’ with optimism. There have been several attempts to bring the story to the big screen for over a decade and in this instance they have actually been able to raise a very decent budget to do it with. I think Stuart Beattie will handle TWTWB nicely. From what he has said about the production, he seems to have a very firm grip on the story and the characters that drive it. He is an accomplished writer and even though it is his directing debut, he has the experience to make it work.

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