The Time Traveller’s Strife

Okay guys, I have to own up to something. I caved.  I went to see The Time Traveller’s Wife.

I’d heard bad things when it first came out and decided to wait until it hit the cheap seats; I’d loved the book so much I re-read it with Sweet immediately after I finished it the first time, and it’s become one of my most loved books ever.  I knew movies based on books had a tendency to be completely disappointing and frustrating – but it was the BEST BOOK EVER – I had to see it on the big screen!

Sweet reluctantly came along, telling me on the way how he knew what was going to happen – I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it because I’d be thinking the whole time how different it was in the book, and I’d leave annoyed and wanting my two hours back.  I hadn’t realised I was engaged to a prophet, but I left annoyed, wanting my two hours back, and angry that those people all around the world who hadn’t read the book never would after watching a puzzling, unexplained tale of two characters who go from first date to marriage with no sense of attachment, intrigue or passion.

Don’t read ahead if you haven’t read the book.  Go and buy it now, while I rant about how much I hated the film.

The movie fails to explain the science that is so expertly and admirably undertaken in the book, in which the author sews the intricacies of time travel seamlessly into a timeless take of star-crossed lovers, desperately living with the curse of a genetic mutation that pulls Henry to moments of time, past and future, of emotional gravity.   In the book, Henry is an intense character, weathered and rough, charismatic, worldly with a turbulent past but an intense passion for the woman he’s loved all her life. You come to know both Henry and Clare intimately, flaws, passions and all, and genuinely empathize to the point of tears by the end.  In the book, Henry is a character.  He’s scrawny, beaten, etched and imposing.  Movie Henry was just a Generally Nice Man – Hollywood handsome, too-short hair, well spoken and well dressed with no sense of character at all.

I’d imagined the Meadow to be so vast – so immeasurable in size, somewhere you’d lay out a blanket in a sea of wild grass and knee-high dandelion clocks and see the landscape extending all the way to the horizon.  In the movie – it was somebody’s back garden.  Moments of intensity in the book are bypassed or treated with disinterest; Henry’s episode of arriving naked in the middle of a harsh winter and struggling to survive the frostbite is unremarkable on screen, with no blizzard, no hypothermia, and no intensity.  The intricately planned concoctions created to get Henry through his wedding day without disappearing are a simple Valium tablet.  Clare’s depression following Henry’s death is practically nonexistent.  A broken-glass ridden body, displaced in time for an instant, is unforgettable in its narrative power, compelling the imagination and evoking feelings of fear, distress and danger, just shows up on screen slightly bruised and disappears again.

Key characters are omitted (including our protagonists’), details are left out and passion is lacking.  I almost cried out at the end of the movie when they left out the best part of the book (the letter I sobbed over for hours? The part when Clare’s an old lady?) and rewrote it to be a Happy Hollywood Ending.  It makes me wonder just how much say an author has when their work is taken to the silver screen.  Is there really any amount of money that could replace your art, your imagination, and allow such butcherings to take your work to the masses? This movie destroyed the very soul of the story, and I hope and pray it doesn’t discourage people from experiencing the real tale.  I can only imagine the pangs of regret seizing Audrey Niffenegger as she sat through the film.

During the credits, I noticed Brad Pitt was listed as Executive Producer.  I suppose that would explain something.  I kind of want to get in on this time travelling thing – even if it is solely for the purpose of going back to the day he came on board, and punching him in the face.

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22 comments

  1. Ok so I didn’t read the book nor did I see the movie but that’s only because I can’t really read romance novels and I’m not one for romantic movies.

    That said, I’ve read quite a number of books made into movies and in turn watched those movies. I don’t think any of the movies come close to being as good as the book. Some, probably just like The Time Traveler’s Wife, are almost completely different. And in the end, I’m also left disappointed.

  2. Oh. My. God.

    You put into words EVERYTHING I felt about this.

    1) Time Traveler’s Wife is my FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME. I SOBBED at the end, and I was sad for DAYS after I finished it.

    2) It should have NEVER been made into a film. The book is TOO complex, and too wonderful to be crammed into two hours. They skimmed over EVERYTHING. And I think that if I hadn’t read the book, I would have hated it MORE because it seems like it would have been confusing without the background knowledge.

    3) I think we would be really good friends IRL.

    4) I LOOOOOOOOVE the snowflakes.

    1. I sobbed too!! I remember sitting in my bed BAWLING for at least half an hour when I finished it and I was sad for days too (so I read it all over again!). If they were going to make it into anything, make it into a 6-part miniseries or something like they did with Gulliver’s Travels in the nineties (which was awesome) so you can at least have time to EXPLAIN things – that was the biggest thing I’d heard from people who hadn’t read it – they had no idea what was going on (and subsequently didn’t want to read the book!) Gah!!

  3. Your blog is snowing! Did you see? I love wordpress.com in the winter. It’s dreamy lol

    I’m glad I didn’t watch the movie, I thought that it would either be so sad I would fall apart or a huge let down. I think I can do without either =)

  4. I haven’t seen the movie yet and I’m not sure if I will. I can’t believe they left out the end. Are you serious? You can’t make this book a happy hollywood ending. You just can’t. That just ruins the entire book. Sigh.

    (Also, have you seen the Notebook/read the book? Endings are different there and I have to say I like the movie’s ending better which is rather unusual for me. It’s a bit more… romantically tragic!)

    1. Don’t see it, it’ll make you angry! I haven’t read the Notebook but I JUST watched it with David a couple of weeks ago. There were serious BUCKETS of tears just streaming down our faces and chins and we ended up with enormous wet patches on our chests lol. I’ve never ever cried so much in a movie!

  5. Actually I’ve found Brad Pitt is a pretty good actor, certainly having played more good roles than bad, though that doesn’t necessarily relate to his producing chops.

    And it’s a shame, that rarely is the book faithfully or creditably adapted for the screen. I can think of few examples. I didn’t read your review properly as I might consider reading the book (commentor below me, is it a girlie book?) However, I chuckled out loud at your “Lame – Not Henry” picture. I bet you doodle on people’s faces in the newspaper 😛

  6. Um, okay I LOVED reading this post. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I think I will rent it, knowing full well that I’ll probably hate it as much as you did. I’m just too curious about how movie producers end up taking on a great book, even though it’s usually crap. Anyway, HOW have I never read your blog before?

    I’m about to scour through some more of it now. Don’t tell my boss.

  7. I wanted to see the movie because I enjoyed the book but then I read about how awful the movie is. I’ve resisted seeing the movie so far and your post has sealed it. I will not rent the movie when it comes out (though I may need you to reinforce this decision once it actually does come out and I’m tempted to watch it.)

  8. You watched it!!! I’m so sorry you didn’t like it. I didn’t like it either…especially for anyone who hasn’t read the book. I agree that the characters were soooooo complex and so expertly and artfully written in the book that you just lose it in the film. I hated that Ingrid was basically nonexistent. I hated that you didn’t really get to know Henry at all. I hated that they cut out all the great Iggy Pop music. I’m sorry, but I so think of Henry is sexy and Eric Bana wasn’t all that sexy to me. After reading the book so many times I have changed my perspective about Claire though…the first time I read it my focus was all on Henry because he’s the time-traveler, but it’s entitled Time Traveler’s Wife because it’s really about her life and how hard her life is. I did kind of like that the movie focuses a lot on her. I think you can’t have the movie if you haven’t read the book, it just doesn’t work. I didn’t mind the meadow. I hated that even though they told the story of Henry and his mom it just didn’t really hit as strongly as in the book. Having read the book I was bawling watching him in the car with his mom. You are right though, it wasn’t good.

  9. Omg I totally hear you! I wrote a review about seeing this movie a while back and I was sooo upset! My favorite part of the book that they left out was the beginning – all the time that the book spent talking about how child Claire got to know Henry was just completely left out. Ugh. They left out so much and I know that’s what happens but they left out the good stuff.

    Wow I’m getting all worked up just thinking about it again!

  10. I was also disappointed with the movie. I was puzzled when I heard they were making it into a movie because I had no idea how they would turn that book into a movie. I wish they wouldn’t have attempted it.

  11. Oh boo. I loved the book but haven’t really had much desire to see the movie. I’ve heard too many things like this.

    Also, I love that your blog is snowing.

  12. ok so i watched that on an airplane but it was dubbed over in french so i caught maybe half of the english words and wasn’t really getting the movie – but i think you explained my dislike much better! i’ll have to read the book because books are usually better anyway 🙂

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