I have to admit that I pretty much ignored this trilogy at first. Not completely, because I did buy the first book for my bookworm son when it was on special through his book club, drove him to the library to get #2 [Inkspell] and pre-ordered #3 [Inkdeath] (yes, now we need a copy of #2 at home). He is a great reader, so I knew that the series had to have some good points. I often read YA books, because it is what I like to write and because they appeal to the YA that is still in me somewhere, [and also- some of the world’s great books have been considered children’s/Young Adult literature] but I did not pick this set up until late last year. I confess, I did not check closely enough to see what it was all about and for some reason I thought it was yet another dragon/quest/ fantasy book much like the several dozen my son had previously read. I committed the unpardonable offense of book lovers everywhere. I judged a book by its cover.
Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing all of the time, nor that this was a bad cover. I knew it looked like my son would dig it. I just did not think I needed to add yet another book to my large pile when the story has been done and done again. I mean, I am still trying to get through Brisingr because my son says I just have to. For the record, I like dragon/quest/fantasy books…but this fantasy book has so much more than most in the genre, and there are no dragons in it, [though I do standby “Inkheart” being a cool name for a dragon- if I ever have one to name].
Actually, Inkheart [and its sequels] is a book lover’s fantasy, which is primarily why I feel so ashamed of my conclusionary leap. The author, Cornelia Funke, obviously loves literature [like all good writers do] and she has essentially created a tribute to the books she loves, the passion of readers and the magical world of writing. Real book lovers will relate to the characters’ personalities and quirks. Fantasy lovers will thrill to the idea of fictional creations stepping out of their books and into our world. Think about how many times you wished [whether you were 8 or 38] that you could walk into a magical wardrobe or meet your favorite character, just once. What if they came to meet you?
To summarize: Our tween heroine, Meggie Folchart, discovers that her quirky-yet-boring father is not just an ordinary bookbinder. Rather, he has a rare talent which is the ability to bring what he reads to life. For some, this would be a gift and blessing, but to Mo Folchart it is only a curse. It has brought him misery and danger and taken away one of the joys of parenting-reading to a child. He has raised Meggie alone, and raised her to respect and appreciate books too, without reading aloud to her. Their life is interrupted when a mysterious man named Dustfinger arrives one evening with news that another shady figure, Capricorn, is trying to hunt down Mo, a.k.a. Silvertongue. They both want him to read their book, Inkheart, for different reasons. Mo also wants the book, for his own purposes. He tries to protect Meggie by taking her to her Great-Aunt Elinor’s home, but that only drags them closer to Capricorn’s trap. They are joined in their quest/adventure by other characters including Senor Fenoglio, the author of the book within the book.
Funke is listed as a producer of the film, but not on the screenplay. I can assume she approved all changes, though. Most of them are minor, but there are enough of them to make my 12 yo spend the evening after the film pointing out all discrepancies. He did concede, however that he thinks the movie was somewhat “better”. I do not know about better, because changing unnecessary factors bothers me to no end. But I do think that most of the adjustments in the screenplay do make the film work well and some are kind of cool. I am trying very hard not to give any major points away because the film is in theaters now, and I do recommend it. If you are a hardcore by-the-book fan, be prepared [though hardcore fans probably already saw it], but if you haven’t read it yet, do not be concerned about seeing the film first. You will be able to enjoy both independently.
Brendan Fraser is the unlikely book-binder turned magical hero, and I think he does it well, but it’s a little weird seeing him be so serious. There isn’t as much of the usual charming humor [some may say “goofy”] that he brings to most roles. Frankly, most of the “supporting” cast are actually superior in their acting and awards, but he is the big box-office draw and my favorite on the list [he had me at School Ties]. It’s probably good for him to do some more serious roles and I have to say this role is better than the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth was. The rest of the cast is full of some of Britain’s best actors, from Oscar-winners Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, to the young stars Eliza Hope Bennett and Rafi Gavron.
I was really impressed by the portrayal of Dustfinger, the fictional fire-juggler come-to-life played by the very-fine Paul Bettany, as well as the villain, Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame. One of the ‘conflicts’ of the novel is centered around how the characters that come to life are almost independent from what the reader or even the writer expects them to be. I think this idea is epitomized in film adaptations when characters are not quite what we pictured in our minds. These 2 actors managed to exceed my expectations. In fact, I think they made the characters better on some level. Of course, they had a lot of help from the special effects crew. Some of the movie magic and photography is stunning, but at the same time some of it is overload. The magic in the book is really about the magic of the written word, and the power that books can offer us, and it is a lot simpler than the computer- enhanced images imply. But, it looks good on the big screen, that’s for sure.