Making a movie of To Kill a Mockingbird (reviewed here) was like killing a mockingbird: a sin.
In the beginning, I thought “Wow, this is bad; they should do a remake.” By the end, I decided that no remake could capture the beauty of the novel: any film is bound to fail. A picture is not worth a thousand words.
To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus, was produced in 1962, just one year after Harper Lee’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize. I watched it with high hopes, since Harper Lee herself was pleased with it. She said:
In that film the man and the part met… I’ve had many, many offers to turn it into musicals, into TV or stage plays, but I’ve always refused. That film was a work of art. (from Wikipedia)
I beg to differ. I thought her novel was a work of art. I thought the Oscar-winning movie was horrid.
For your information, I am not a movie person. I much prefer reading. But movies are a nice entertainment occasionally.
I have many complaints, but I’ll only mention a few. My main complaint was with the focus. Instead of a story about Scout learning about the world (racism and other discriminations) as she grew up from age 6 to age 9, the movie was about Atticus trying to defend a black man in court and the repercussions in the community. It showed everything from Atticus’s or Jem’s perspective.
For example, in the novel, Scout discovers some chewing gum near the Radley property, and later the children discover other treasures there. In the movie, Jem discovers the treasures, and he only tells Scout about them after the fact. I felt Scout was completely short-changed; the movie barely followed her personal development.
Along that same line, the movie only followed the racial tension and discrimination. It essentially eliminated the other discriminations discussed in the book: poor versus very poor, educated versus not educated, boy versus girl, older brother versus little sister, Nazis versus Jews, and so forth. My favorite line from the book was when Scout was explaining the world in her nine-year-old wisdom: “Nah, Jem, there’s only one kind of folks. Folks.” Scout’s realization never appeared in the movie because the movie never addressed such a general concept. The movie was too specific.
Another complaint is that the movie followed the basic story. And that was it. There were some tweaks that I could understand, and there were some added scenes that I didn’t. But overall, the problem was a lack of magic behind any of the words as they were spoken. No character got fully developed and so none of them had power. Not even Atticus.
My final complaint is that all involved were horrible actors. Even Gregory Peck was forced and insincere. The children were 100 times worse. These were not the characters I had in my head as I read it! I know that is always a problem with watching a movie of a book, but for me, the horrible 1960s acting just made me cringe.
(Gregory Peck got an Oscar. How? Also, the main review written for Amazon.com claims this is number 34 on a list of 100 top movies of all time. Like I said, I’m not a movie person, so I don’t get it. My only guess is that they must not have read the book. This movie is garbage compared to Harper Lee’s magic.)
For your entertainment, here is the DVD case’s summary, complete with grammatical errors and typos. I had hoped that the DVD case was not indicative of the movie itself. Unfortunately, it was:
This is Gregory Pecks beautifully told testament to courage, morality and the power of deep personal conviction, based on Harper Lee’s 1960s Pulitzer prize-winning novel. A widowed attorney with two young children accepts the significant challenge of defending a black man wrongly accused of rape in there racially divided small town. Brock Peters is Tom Robinson, a field hand on trial for the rape of a white woman. Prejudice reigns supreme in the backwoods town were the trial takes place. And as an in tolerant 1930′s society rebels, Atticus prepares his defence while trying to raise his children.
In the end, my main complaint was the completely wrong focus of the movie. The movie seemed black and white (which, of course, it was): race was the only discrimination fully mentioned. Scout herself never faced any true recognition of what it means to be a neighbor.
I realize there are limits in movie making: something has to go. Because everything in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird is so essential to the whole, I don’t think anyone should even try to make it a movie. It’s bound to fail.
What book do you love that should never ever ever be made into a movie? (I’m sorry to say, but it probably already has…)