November 27, 2003

We went to watch Master and Commander tonight — probably the first time we went to the cinema this year though I might misremember — and it was good entertainment, a good movie and a much better adaptation than I’d have thought. That is, the people were almost completely different from those described by Patrick O’Brian (except Preserved Killick! He was spot on) and the plot was rather an odd concoction of the plots of several of the novels — not just those two whose titles gave the movie its name. And the charm of the books was almost entirely missing, for that lies in O’Brian’s style and the wonderful dialogue, and in the characterisations, which as I mentioned were altered. The Jack Aubrey of the movie lacked both the innocence and the cleverness of the book’s Jack, whereas the actor who played Stephen was almost good-looking and had rather an agreeable voice… and was very much a less important figure than Jack. All of which is completely wrong if you look at the novels.

And yet, I liked the movie. It had little to do with the books, but much more to do with the life it depicts. The next time I read an Aubrey-Maturin book I’ll be able to visualise the scenes better, know what a rigged grating or a dish of toasted cheese looks like and how the bosun’s pipe sounds. The other thing about the movie is that although the plot confuses half a dozen of the novels it’s adapted from, it is still not a badly plotted movie, if you follow my meaning. And some of the important events from the novels were there, and very well portrayed.

It made me want to reread the books.


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