Friday, August 29, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

The A Series of Unfortunate Events has always been my favourite book series! They're thoughtful, dark, gothic, gloomy (but not depressing), extremely literate, fantastic books, making for an awesome series! For a time, they were the only books I ever had! In December of 2004, the movie adaptation came out, and when I saw it...I hated it. But I was a stupid uber fan kid back then, and I've since seen the movie several times more, and I love it!...

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Beaudelaire are three highly intelligent, well-read, and inventive children, who suffer a tragic loss whwn their parents die in a fire that burns the large family mansion to the ground. The orphans are sent to live with their distant relative, Count Olaf, a theatrical scoundrel with no love for the three children, and eyes on their enormous fortune. He forces them to do dozens of chores in his filthy home, and the moment he gets official gaurdianship of the siblings, he tries to murder them by leaving them stuck in a car on train tracks. The siblings manage to escape, but the authorities merely believe Olaf to have been grossly negligent, rather than murderous, and just remove the children from his custody. The Beaudelaires are sent to live with other, kinder relatives, such as 'Uncle' Monty, and 'Aunt' Joesephine, in interesting locations such as the Reptile Room, a large herpetology collection, and Lake Lachrymose, a gloomy lakeside village, but soon enough, Count Olaf shows up, intent on taking control of the Beadelaire fortune by any means necessary...

While the plot to A Series of Unfortunate Events suffers from a big problem I'll get to down below, it's a well-written story. It's darkly gothic, with a twisted sense of humor, and the dialogue is really good in places.

The Baudelaire children are a likeable bunch, and are characterized decently, but they have too little dialogue. Still, they do get great moments, and their inventive qualities, such as in the train scene, is very well-done! Now, as some people say, the main characters from a British book series have been turned into American Pretty People. Now I don't mind this, as the books never say the siblings are ugly (maybe plain, although I may be thinking of something else), and the book series' setting is never brought up, so it could very well be America. In fact, that'd actually make more sense than England.

The only other problem I have with the movie is that the timeframe is very rushed. The Baudelaire's time at Count Olaf's breezes by, and they're barely at Uncle Monty's for a day before the bad stuff there goes down*, and they have to move in with Aunt Joesephine. It would have been much better if the movie had slowed things down a bit, so the audience could be more invested in the locale and characters therein.

*Olaf's escape at the end of the Reptile Room segment is also rushed, as he bolts before the police would even have all that much reason of believing him to be criminal.

The acting is almost all great! Billy Connolly and Meryl Streep are highly entertaining in their roles, and Jude Law makes for a fun dryly comical gloomy narrator. As for the main three actors in the roles of the Beaudelaire siblings, Emily Browning, Liam Aiken, and a few babies, they're pretty good. Emily Browning looks the part, and any baby in existence would look the part of Sunny, but as for Liam Aiken as Klaus?  KLAUS IN THE BOOK HAS GLASSES AND SHORT HAIR! Grrrrrrr! I vaguely remember reading that this change was made to avoid comparisons with Harry Potter, but that's stupid. So mind-numbingly stupid that it's probably something I read on a message board, rather than something the filmmakers themselves actually said.

Jim Carrey looks perfect in the part of Count Olaf. It's like the books have come to life!...His performance, however? Annoying! He's good sometimes, hilarious sometimes, and his disguises are nifty, but most of the time, he's Jim Carrey, which is to say, overacting and annoying! He plays Count Olaf like he's in a goofy comedy, when in the books, Olaf is theatrical, but cold and ruthless. As for his theatrical troupe, they're a big presence in the books, but window dressing in the movie. They're totally wasted.

The movie is deliberately very stagey, and the setting timeless, with aspects modern and archaic. These give the movie a great distinctive suburban-gothic anachronistic feel! The effects on display here are good, and sometimes great (such as the scene with Aunt Josephine's house during the hurricane) although some CGI is occasionally visible here and there. The direction is fantastic, with too many great moments to count! I'd've screenshotted half of 'em if I actually owned this movie on DVD, instead of relying on TV.

Despite its huge popularity, A Series of Unfortunate Events has never gotten a sequel, but this isn't too much of a problem, as while a sequel could have been made, the movie feels complete on its own.

Now, onto the film's most important aspect-How does it compare to the books it's based on? Very well! While the rushed timeframe does screw with things negatively, the adaptation itself is very well-done, even if it is a lot simpler, as the source material is three separate books, and this is one movie. The film is delightfully gloomy althroughout, and as for the ending, it closes on a note of hope, whereas the book series offers no such reprieve in its final pages (not in a depressing way though, so don't let that steer you away from reading them).

One of my favourite aspects of A Series of Unfortunate Events is the soundtrack! It's glorious, from the softer melodies, to the more adventurous jaunts, to the ridiculously jovial Happy Little Elf music!

In closing, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a great movie! It has its problems, but it's a great adaptation of a great book series!...

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