Monday, July 20, 2009

Book v. Movie: Inkheart

First in a trilogy, followed by Inkspell and Inkdeath, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is everything I love in a children's fantasy book. She writes of fear and hope, bravery and cowardice, humor and sadness, imagination and reality -- all without any gore.

Meggie is a twelve year old who has literally lost her mother. When she was three years old, her mother disappeared under circumstances that her father, Mo, keeps to himself. Mo repairs old books and they move and travel pretty constantly. One night Meggie looks out the window of their farmhouse to find a strange, disheveled man looking back in at her. She tells Mo and he actually invites the man in, calling him Dustfinger. Dustfinger calls him Silvertongue. Meggie tries to find out what this could be about but only overhears part of their conversation about someone named Capricorn who has sent men after them to get something he wants from Mo. Meggie asks her dad what this is about but he isn't ready to tell her yet. Instead, they travel to Italy to her aunt Elinor's house. There Meggie finds out--again by spying--that the item that Capricorn wants is a book called Inkheart. Unfortunately, Capricorn's men find them there and they must fight for their freedom and their lives.

I loved this book and am a bit annoyed that I didn't pick it up until now. The pacing and suspense in the book were really well done. I was tense during escape attempts and ecstatic when something goes right for Meggie. This book is written for an older child but I think it works well for all ages above that. The writing doesn't seem like it was especially directed toward a young audience except for the quick pace and relatively short descriptive passages.

Now, as this is a book versus movie post, I will tell you about Inkheart the movie. As a film, it's acceptable. The special effects were done well and Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent and Andy Sirkis did fantastic jobs with their roles. But as a retelling of this fantastic book, it's terrible. It does all of the things wrong that the Harry Potter movies have done right. How could they take an ultimate villain and make him a henchman? How could they take the real evil henchman and turn him into comic relief? How could they turn a willful but innocent young woman into a murderer? How could they turn a misguided but heartbroken rogue into a milquetoast family man? This movie did something that it's difficult to do -- it made me angry at the many ways that they distorted and ruined the book. I'm not a big stickler for book/movie syncing because I know how difficult it can be to translate every scene to the big screen. However, the spirit of the book should be projected and the characters that they use should be true to the book as well. This did not happen with Inkheart.

Verdict: If you read the book, which I highly recommend, then DO NOT watch the movie. It's really quite bad.

I read this book and watched the movie together for Jenners' Take a Chance Challenge. I had originally planned on a different pair (Portrait of a Lady by Henry James) but have had my eye on Inkheart for a couple of years so I took a chance and got the book and DVD. I will definitely read the next books in the series and probably many more of Cornelia Funke's books but I hope to never see the movie again. Luckily, they didn't actually seem to leave the story in a way that they could finish the trilogy of movies.

Wondering what book I would bring to life,

Support our site and buy Inkheart (the book) on Amazon or find it at your local library.


  1. This is really funny. A co-worker of mine, knowing how much I enjoy YA fantasy, just recommended this book to me last week. But she also recommended the movie, saying it was great! Based on your review and since I'm not a big movie person anyway, I think it is safe to say I'll read the book and will probably skip the movie. :)

  2. Thanks for this recommendation -- I have heard mixed reviews of the Inkheart books, and this pushes it over the edge to put it on my TBR list. But not the movie! Ick! I hate it when a movie ruins a book (don't get me started on the recent adaptation of Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising!!!)

  3. After I saw what they did with The Thieflord in its translation from page to the screen, I wasn't holding out much hope for the movie.

    It was enjoyable but rather bland with all the changes you mentioned and more. Most notorious for me is the slapstick badguys, which always irks me whether it's a movie based upon a great book or not.

    The trouble as I see it is that Hollywood hasn't discovered yet what the publishing industry has known for decades... kids are more sophisticated and resilient in their taste for stories than we generally give them credit for (generally, it seems to be the parents who aren't). The translation of a great, challenging book full of three-dimensional characters and a fully-realized villain into a milquetoast romp to be phoned-in by a troupe of excellent actors who aren't being particularly challenged my the material either... well it's a little sad, really.

  4. Deck - I think if I had just seen the movie, I would have thought it was cool enough. But I don't know many people who read the book and then liked the movie.

    Jenny - I agree. A movie that changes the book past a certain point shouldn't be able to use the same title anymore. Maybe "such-and such: based on the book "real title" ...

    Scott - I agree. They made the characters bland. And they took away so many characters' motivations for their actions that it really ruined it. And yes, Hollywood think that kids only like insipid humor or animated animals. Blech.

  5. Fantastic post! I agree -- I usually expect the book to be better than the movie but I expect the movie to at least be FAITHFUL to the spirit of the book and this did not seem to do that at all. What a pity.

    But on the upside, you have a great new series to read!

  6. I really enjoyed this book too! I think that I may even have a review of it on my blog somewhere. I will go back and see if I can find it and link back to your review as well!

    Nothing irritates me more when a movie does not honor the book. I've been wanting to see this movie for a while now, but your post just put it on the backburner! I may still end up watching it, but it will definitely not be a priority! As for me, I think that Eragon (by Christopher Paolini) has been the worst adaptation from book to film that I have ever seen! It is such a crushing feeling when you have a good book, great potential to bring it to life, and it is literally squashed before your eyes! So, so sad!

  7. Jenners - Exactly. The author gave characters certain traits to get them through the plot in the right way. When you take away their character traits, then things stop making sense.

    Tif - I haven't read Eragon -- just saw the movie but don't remember much about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the reasons you thought it was a bad adaptation. Write a post. ;)

  8. Good idea!! I need to post a review about the 3rd book in the series anyways!! :)

  9. I also heard from others that the movie was not very good at all. I would love to check out the book, though. Thanks for sharing your review.