Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Fault in our Stars

The terrible truth that plagues all of these adaptions of "young adult" novels is that the reason why the movie is bad is because the original source material is bad. I may not be the biggest fan of the Hunger Games, but they're a god send in the midst of sparkly vampires, the "oh crap, the Hunger Games is popular, let's cash in on that"(Divergent), and the "oh crap, the Hunger Games is popular, let's cash in on that but tailor it to boys."(The Maze Runner) But if there's one person who you wouldn't think fall victim to this tragic plight is John Green. John Green is one of  the most important people to get famous on the internet. I'm not his biggest fan, but his ability to explain and break down incredibly tough and complex issues to help people learn and understand is highly admirable. So, if anybody is going to create a good young adult novel that's based on tough and complex issues, why not the guy who's known for being really good with tough and complex issues?

So, I just really have to ask...what happened, John?

When I found out that The Fault in our Stars was by John Green, I almost felt assured that it'd be at least pretty good. But when I was done reading the first chapter of the book, I had to go back and make sure with other people that I was reading the right book and not some dumb knock off. The book is so simple and contrived that I was kind of offended by it. I could tell something was off just by the fact that Green had to reassure everybody that this was a made-up story but fictional stories still have their value. I was halfway expecting him to also remind us that this was a story that we're about to read; you'll experience it through this thing called a book. Not that he actually says that, but some of the things the narrator says throughout the book can be along the lines of that kind of attitude. One of sentences explaining, and I am not joking, that this part happening in the book doesn't happen like this in other stories when it comes to standard narrative conventions. I think that was the one part where the novel was actually showing signs of getting good, but then Green has to show off by writing in "Ooohh, look how edgy I got there!"

The story is written in a blog-like manner, which I can see it being something that could be potentially interesting but Green doesn't seem interested in exploring that kind of story-telling. The parts where he thinks he's getting clever in the story made me re-read the part as I couldn't believe someone let him get away with this in the editing process, especially one part where he cuts a sentence off as the narrator was talking about a book that ends right in the middle of a sentence. (A-ha! I see what you did there!)

What ever hope I had for the movie was absolutely shut down after reading the book once I knew that Green consider the movie a really faithful adaptation. But it sort of saves me time, because whatever I have to say about the movie is pretty much the same thing on what I have to say about the book. Asides from the usual big difference of a book having a constant narrator and a movie having to have the visuals tell its story, the book and the movie go hand in hand and its really baffling to see all of the things that went wrong with The Fault in our Stars.

Especially this part....

The main character in this story is Hazel Grace, who's suffering from a cancer that's affecting her lungs, so she carries an oxygen tank around. Her knowing that she's going to die anytime soon makes her depressed. I mean, that's what the movie informed me as Hazel Grace narrates the story at some parts to fill the audience in on stuff that they already know. Hazel assures her parents and her doctor that she's not depressed, even though her mom lists off symptoms and behaviors that Hazel has which suggests that she has depression along with a couple of shots of her lying on a couch watching TV.

Actually, this was probably the part where a narrator actually did fill us in on something that we wouldn't have known because, as far as I would have seen without that particular bit of information, I wouldn't have known she was really suffering from anything. Even before her "life-changing experiences," she acts about the same as she does through out the rest of the movie. She's snarky, she's energetic, and, since we don't really get any insight on her character besides her narrations telling us stuff, we never get to see what's really wrong with her. But the movie assures us that she has a problem and that there's going to be some sort of magical fix to all of this.

Are you ready for what that fix is? Because, here it is!

It's the dreamy guy from Titanic who knows all of the secrets to the happiness of life and is willing to share it with Hazel Grace because they both find each other physically attractive. And I'm not just being sly by making that Titanic reference, this story is pretty much Cameron's Titanic if everything in that movie went incredibly wrong. Titanic isn't exactly the greatest movie, but at least that had all of its basics right. The Fault in our Stars isn't even willing to go that far.

As they wait for something interesting to finally happen...

The guys name is Augustus and he's the plot device of this story. He's not really there to change, to grow, or to even straighten up from his usual douche-baggery, rather just be the sort of Manic Pixie Dream *insert gender here* that plagues so many other bad love stories. In fact, only one character throughout this entire thing actually feels like a real, breathing character and isn't there to just be a narrative tool to trudge the story along. It's a guy named Isaac where he had a pretty decent life he was enjoying until he had cancer and, in order to save him, they had to remove his eyes which turns his life upside-down. There's drama with this character, there are even emotions to him as well. In fact, his story feels like something that the main character should have in order for it to be a story. Instead, we get boring guy meets boring girl who do boring stuff together with a narrator that tells us how we should be feeling throughout each scene.

I'm not exactly the only one to point out that none of these characters feel like real people and it all has to do with the writing. It's not that I need every character to feel like humans with traits and emotions that humans generally tend to recognize, but they have to act in a way that makes sense. If they were trying to go for the "quirky" angle of this kind of story (and it feels like they were) where people are slightly more silly or less human than movie characters generally tend to be, you need to contextualize it(Wes Anderson is the master at this and I don't think it's a coincidence that I mention his name in a film like this) Character actions and dialogue hardly make sense throughout The Fault in our Stars, with Hazel's snark and jokes not even making sense or Augustus grossly misusing the word "soliloquy." It's like an incredibly poor knock off of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.

Luckily, some of the performances do make the screenplay somewhat bearable, though I have to wonder why the actress for Hazel Grace looks like she's on the verge of smiling throughout most of the film. But a special mention has to go out towards Willem Dafoe. He is completely awful in this movie. He looks like he's so utterly bored and that he loathes himself for being here. You can almost see what he's thinking in his face "Just a couple of scenes and I get my paycheck. Just a couple of scenes and I get my paycheck." I won't say who he plays, as that is technically a spoiler, but I was actually really excited to see him in this movie only to find out that he doesn't even try to make the hellish dialogue in this movie sound good.

"I regret everything..."

Had I not known John Green and you told me that this story was by one of the smartest, most insightful, and most influential people of our time, I would have thought you were crazy. But since I do know who John Green is, I'm just sad now. How can someone so smart and cool have the capacity to just trudge out something like this? How can an optimistic guy who carries a positive influence among many people make me more tired, bitter, and cynical than usual? Just, why?

The faults within this story is just so tragic and grossly mishandled that I'm willing to just pretend that this was something that John Green wasn't behind. The Fault in our Stars is a terrible film with rarely any good qualities and, with all of that said, I am incredibly disappointed.

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