National ideology has many different facets, but conceptually it is imagined as limited because, according to Benedict Anderson, even the largest “Nation” has boundaries that might lie within other nations. It is the difference between a nation and a community, the difference between comradeship and unity. This difference is emphasized in movies like Outbreak (1995) in the imagined communities of the common American people and the community of the Army and government. Though both are meant to be of the same country and the same “community”, they are subtly fighting each other to both stay alive and destroy the true enemy: the fictional Motaba virus. The film seems to be a comment on the relationships between a country and its government, on the trust they have in each other and in the community between them – being an American through and through, no matter what level you are at.
Unlike most of their monstrous counterparts that have graced screens across the world, zombies are a relatively visual creation. While creatures like Dracula cast their shadow over the people they terrorize without needing to be seen, zombies are frightening through their stunning visuality, their embodiment of Sigmund Freud’s concept of the uncanny, and their lack of need for backstory or even explanation. Zombies are frightening because they simply are – there is no motive, no convoluted plot, only the constant need for human flesh.
In any book-to-film adaption, there are certain elements that are flawlessly translated onto the big screen, and there are other elements that just aren’t visual enough to make an impact on viewers in the same way that they would as written words. Implications get overlooked, certain themes may lose their precedence, entire characters may actually change because of how different things must be onscreen. One such example of this dramatic shift is in Vladimir Nabokov’s extremely poetic novel Lolita. So much of Lolita relies on the power of narrator Humbert Humbert’s words, his elaborate and fantastical way of speaking, and his perspective on every single event that occurs throughout the story, whether or not we can rely on him as a narrator. In the film, not only do we have less of a narrator of the story as a whole, but there is very little to do with voiceover or even Humbert’s journal, and so Kubrick needed to rely on other elements to tell the story of Humbert and Dolores Haze (aka Lolita). So what can you do to tell a story that is mainly inside an unreliable character’s head when you’re using the medium of
film? For Kubrick, the answer was to enhance the body language of his actors and to enlarge the parts of characters besides Humbert. Admittedly, Kubrick went on record saying that if he had known how difficult a project Lolita would be to adapt, he may not have taken it, but it is an interesting case into how books and films differ, even with the same material and story being told.
Audiences have a funny sort of standards for their films. They want them to be realistic, even when they obviously are aware that what is being filmed is impossible, like a T-Rex coming to life on screen. Directors like Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow play into this need for a spectacle, creating films that both look as if they could really be happening and yet are fantastical enough that their audiences still feel satisfied that what they are seeing is larger than life and worth being lost in as an alternative to their real lives. The real interesting part is in how time shapes the audience’s expectation for the spectacle they pay for in the theater, as well as how the perceptual realism that creates the relationship between a film and spectator. Because of the realism created by Spielberg, the relationship between the audience and the films that both Spielberg and Trevorrow created are intensified and the idea of what dinosaurs should be has been solidified in the minds of the viewer. In the case of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequel, Trevorrow’s Jurassic World (2015), 22 years along with a combination of photorealism and a paradox of perspective have not only shaped how an audience views dinosaurs, but how that audience understands realism and spectacle as well.
Some movies are so good that you just can’t help but want to see them again and again, but every once in awhile someone decides that they want to come at it from a different angle. Sometimes this works, and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) it really doesn’t. But what leads to remakes? And why don’t they all work?
The following article is taken from a final essay I wrote for a class. It has been edited down slightly but is for the film theorist and any other interested parties, so I have included the works I cite so that anyone who’s interested can read them and form their own thoughts! Continue reading