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Comparison – Where the Wild Things Are – Book and Movie

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    When I was a kid, one of my favorite story books was “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. As a piece of my childhood, that simple story about Max and the “wild rumpus” meant a lot to me. So in the fall of 2009 when I saw the coming attraction for the full-length feature film, my first thought was,“I really hope they do it justice” In chapter 10 of Adaptation: Studying Film and Literature, authors Desmond and Hawkes note that one of the potential reasons for the failure of an adapted film is miscasting.

    I believe that this is one, if not the biggest issue faced when a film studio decides to adapt a beloved popular current literary text. “What is important, though, is to choose actors who fit the literary character ell enough so that they do not create a new emphasis that undermines the coherence of the story”, write Desmond and Hawkes. The part of Max in the film is played by actor Max Records. In my opinion he was the perfect choice for the role because of his physical resemblance to the character in the book.

    I also believe that by casting the monsters as puppets combined with computer generated special effects, Jonze was able to give more life and more depth to these characters. Also worth mentioning is the concept brought forth by Desmond and Hawkes in chapter 1 of Adaptation in which they discuss another reason for text to film adaptations being a “powerful person (say, a producer, star, or director) becomes committed to the text.  I’d relate that back to solving the potential problem of miscasting in the practice of film makers using famous actors to voice the roles of fictitious, ‘non-actor’ or non-human roles such as the monsters in Where The Wild Things Are. There is no doubt in my mind that the voices of James Gandolfini and Forest Whitaker contributed largely to the success of the film. I’d propose this question; Would Toy Story have been as successful without the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen? Another potential issue in text to film adaptations is the concept of the film keeping too close to the text.

    Desmond and Hawke point out that, “In general, the more familiar readers are with the details of the work, the closer the adaptation has to be. But sometimes the desire to stay close backfires, and the result is a filmed book that is unsatisfying. ” In the case of Where The Wild Things Are, the original story book is only 48 pages, some of which contain no text at all. So the question becomes, is there enough material in the book to allow for a full-length film? And as a result, would it even be possible to follow oo closely to the text? In my opinion, the answer to both questions is, no. In the film we see much more substance such as large amounts of artistic film work and a greater emphasis on character development, for example, the monsters themselves, as well as Max’s mother and teenage sister. In my opinion, the makers of the film took on the potential challenges of a text to film adaptation and succeeded.

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