I guess while I've objected that the joyful spirit of the book is rejected for the film, I acknowledge that filmmakers should be able to use or not use source material however they desire.
As far as I'm concerned, filmmakers are free to craft a film that was "inspired by" a book as loosely or as faithfully as they like. Especially if the author is involved and admires what's happening. Which is the case here. Then we should assess the film on its own merits, with some observations about its faithfulness to the book. I love the book. I love the movie every bit as much or more. And yes, they are two very different experiences. God bless creativity.
The more I think about it, my primary objection is a twist on the C.S. Lewis essay On Three Ways of Writing For Children. In that essay, Lewis argues that fantasy and fairy tales are generally more healthy than modern tales. Reading of an enchanted world makes the real world just a little enchanted. Reading of the sordid, modern world is a real form of escapism, because it builds up false hopes and impressions of the real world. So Lewis said he prefers a story of monsters and dragons to a story about a regular schoolboy in a regular school.
What the filmmakers did here, however, was make a story of monsters, but then fill it with all the same modern values of a boring schoolboy story. The monsters turn out not to be very scary monsters at all. Instead, they are very modern, emotionally fragile, sad, depressed, petty, immature replacements for a child's companions at school. Their talk has led critics to discuss which monster represents the Id and the Ego and the Super-Ego ... or the distant sister, or the divorced father, or the busy mother ... or mad Max, or destructive Max, or sad Max. Jonze took what should have been a dangerous and enchanting fairy tale like C.S. Lewis argued was healthy, and proceeded to modernize the hell out of it - so that it's all talky talk about emotional and psychological issues. Child shrinks should be buying the film in droves. In my opinion, if you're going to give me a story of a child entering another enchanted world - keep your modern hand-wringing, disallusioned, regular old schoolboy story out of it - instead give me real monsters that are actually really scary, dangerous, and magical. Not just a psychological replacement for all the kids abandonment issues with school playground angst-monster substitutes.
So again, my objection to the film is less that they didn't perfectly follow the book, and more what seems to be their philosophy behind why they made it like they did. The book is only relevant to me in so far as I enjoyed some images from the film because they were images taken from the book. I don't want to criticize anyone else for liking this. Everyone here who did like (or love) this thing obviously isn't seeing any creeping corruption of fairy tales in the film, and that's a good thing. But after getting that impression from the film myself, I can't help but resent it.
Edited by Persiflage, 08 December 2010 - 01:58 PM.