Sunday, May 12, 2013

REVIEW: The Great Gatsby

And...summer 2013 continues...with this movie for some reason. Oh wait, it's being directed by that one guy who likes to infuse modern day music with old timey settings to make the "I can't relate to this, it takes place during a time when the internet didn't exist" movie into something that might get kids to actually get their butts in the theater to see the movie.

Okay, let's see what I can make of this.

This is something I'm really hesitant to dive into. A movie based on a book that's considered to be one of the great American Novels, except, not really for its time though. When you look back at the history, you'll find out that this book wasn't exactly the most well received book. In fact how critics were reacting to this book are actually pretty similar to how critics today are reacting to this movie. But, after a while, the book started to develop an underground following and it gradually caught on and, now, kids are forced to read this book in High School.

I'm not trying to make a point that the book isn't as good as most people seem to think it is just because it wasn't the most well like even for its time. After all, that's what happened to The Lord of the Rings, where those books never really found an audience until hippies got a hold of it. And, sure, you can point out that Tolkien wasn't really a writer(he was more of a linguist who wrote the books for his created Elven language) and The Lord of the Rings books are a bit drawn out and verbose when you get right down to it, but it is easy to see why the book did catch on with it's audience, presenting a different, made up world that was pretty fascinating and wondrous, and I'm willing to bet that the people who made the book popular in the first place really liked the idea of The Shire.

So, while I'm in no way(ok, maybe some way) inferring that this book might be bad, I still have to wonder how this book really caught on the way it did, especially considering that there are a lot of people who are put off by it(I mean, other than the fact that it was another one of those books you had to read in High School). At the same time, I've seen comments from guys who loved it and others who hated it, with the people who hated it pointing out that the characters were one dimensional and incredibly unlikable.

As for me, I didn't really have a reaction after reading the book, which actually did make me dislike it pretty strongly. Explaining why might get some people telling me that it's supposed to be this way and it's really intended for me to look for the deeper meanings in the book, but it doesn't really matter to me because I didn't like it enough to care. And here's why...

The story(or the thing in this book that resembles a story) is about this one guy named Nick Carraway who watches rich people make idiots of themselves. However, for some reason he is fond of this particular fellow named Gatsby, who likes to throw parties. But, it turns out that Gatsby got rich from illegal activity and he throws these parties in order to impress Daisy. Other things happen and then Gatsby eventually gets shot. You guys probably know the story by now.

The thing is, I actually probably would have liked it if I did end up having a feeling for any of the characters, even if I would have ended up hating them. There's a lot to discuss about how to make people actually care about the characters with things like making them likable or relate-able or personality-able, but it all really comes down to just understanding the character and knowing where he is coming from. A character doesn't have to be likable to be a good character, in fact, there are a lot of great stories that thrive on the fact that their characters are guys you'd like to punch in the face. But it all requires a connection to the audience or, in this case, the reader, and the best way to create this connection is to have a sort of character that the reader can experience with vicariously. He doesn't have to be your every day average schmo or someone who people can relate to, he just needs to be someone that we understand and someone who can help take us through the plot of the story. You know, someone like a PROTAGONIST!

The Great Gatsby doesn't really have one. Sure, there's a guy who narrates the story and he has a name and everything, but if you take out Nick from the story then it would be roughly the same experience. What we have is some guy who we sort of know who has a couple of opinions and comments to make(though, it's never clear why he holds the views he does) but he goes through the story in a sort of unnoticeable state. The book gives us some guy who we don't really know or understand that gets surrounded by more characters who we really don't know or understand.

I'm not trying to say that every story needs to work the same way in order to be good, but if you're wondering why some people just can't seem to grasp "the genius" behind the book, I'd say this is the main issue. There's really no connection to the reader. It just throws characters together while putting them through a couple of events and says "Make what you will of it" While there may be people who are fascinated by these events and they will put a lot of conjecture into them, people like me are just going to walk away with a cold feeling with not a whole lot to get because the book makes no attempt to involve the reader.

So, yes, we finally get to the movie, and this is a pretty faithful adaption, meaning that any criticisms I have of the movie might leave one screaming "Haven't you read the book?" So, for those people who might point out that I can't really criticize the movie for doing something in a certain way because that's how the book did it, well, rest assured that I read the book and that's why I was largely talking about my issues with it. But, even then, things that work in books does not mean it will work well in a movie. Granted, there are things that can make people baffled because of how wrong they seem to got it from the book, but, really, think about it for a second. Take The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for example. If you made a movie that happened exactly the way it did in the books it wouldn't really make movie that would work as the book is entirely made up of events random events that aren't really connected with each other and there really isn't much of a story when you get down to it. This is why the TV Show that was adapted from the book was able to work better as that kind of format allows for some room to tell it's story in unconnected ways. Still, I'll maintain the movie we eventually got did keep a lot of cleverness and insight from the original source material and was still pretty damn awesome

Wow, look at me dancing around the topic of the actual movie I'm supposed to be talking about.

Well, it's pretty much what the book is like and I'll gather that people who liked the book are probably going to like this movie because it's a faithful adaptation. I will say that they actually did try a couple of things in order to make it work better as a movie. For one thing, the main character, Nick, is actually given some personality and he feels like a decent protagonist for a while, but it falls apart because he gets shoved off to the side as we're supposed to see the affairs of the Great and Powerful Oz...err, Gatsby. Also, the movie was made in a way where the audience is supposed to root for Gatsby and Daisy getting together even if Daisy is shallow, materialistic, and probably not worth getting killed over...

I did like that they implemented Rhapsody in Blue in the movie though.

So, in the end, fans of the book might like the movie but I do doubt that people are going to remember that this adaptation actually existed in a couple of months. Sure, people may be still talking about the book(even more so since this movie is out) but if people do remember this movie, it's going to be because it was directed by that one guy who just can't help but modernize things in a way that just can't seem to connect with modern audiences.

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