By: Amber W. (’23)
As the year draws to a close, many classical literature books that have been remade into movies were released. However, in recent years, these classical literature movies have not done as well in theatres as the storylines from the 19th century have cultural differences that are not written in ways that would grab the attention of the audiences. Other movie remakes that have been released recently but not mentioned below include Netflix’s “Rebecca” (2020), HBO’s “His Dark Materials” (2019), and HBO’s “Watchmen”, originally a remade into a movie but recently transformed into a series.
As one of the most anticipated classical literature movie remakes, the 2019 adaptation of “Little Women” was truly disappointing compared to its popular 1994 version. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the new cast includes Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Emma Watson as Meg March, Florence Pugh as Amy March, Eliza Scanlen as Beth March, and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie Lawrence.
Although the movie attempted to tackle themes such as advocating for women’s rights while breaking out of the original storyline, it did not fulfill the standards that one would expect. Before the release of the film, the actors began promoting the movie by stating that references from the #MeToo movement and the development of feminism would be implemented. However, the development of feminism did not evolve during the story as the female characters either subjugated themselves to their husbands or failed to did not achieve their goals of breaking societal norms. An example of how the failed push towards feminism in the storyline was the choices of the costumes for the characters, which matched their personalities, characteristics, and character change.
In the beginning of the movie, as a symbolism of breaking societal norms, Jo, who was branded as a tomboy, wore darker dresses with men’s jackets while her other sisters wore flamboyant pastel colors as a mark of youth and femininity. However, towards the end of the film, all the characters, including Jo, wore stiff Victorian women outfits with their hair all knotted in buns and began behaving like a “lady”—the symbolism of subjugating into society as they could not freely express their personalities.
Although it was a talented cast, the roles that were assigned to the actors prevented the chemistry between actors and their characters from being to be made. Although filled with hopes in promoting women’s rights, the 2019 version of Little Women is just unlovable compared to GIlliam Armstrong’s 1994 version.
The 2020 adaptation of Secret Garden was the most disappointing and boring classical literature movie remake as it was filled with dullness and unrealisticness. The story is about Mary, a sulky orphan who is sent to England after a disease killed her parents in India. She finds an abandoned garden that once belonged to her late aunt, and brings love to her grieving family members.
The “magical” visuals were very cringe-worthy as the computer-generated imagery (GCI) seemed very unrealistic. The magical effects caused the scenes to feel very immature and boring as they were poorly edited into the film. The climax, which was the most essential part of the movie, had horrible and unrealistic visuals. The ghosts of the mothers of Mary and Collin, the protagonists of the story, were implemented in a way that made the whole scene hard to watch. The butterflies that were edited in the movie to “lead” the characters from a burning mansion and into the garden had different lighting than the rest of the objects in the scene, which made it even more unrealistic.
Furthermore, even though the young actors attempted to portray sulky characters who experienced the loss of loved ones, the actors overplayed their roles, making the whole movie more of a comedy rather than an adventure or fantasy film. The child actors in the movie clearly did not do their research on how Victorian children would act in certain situations. Therefore, the 2020 adaptation of Secret Garden is not worth watching as it is filled with disinteresting elements.
The 2019 version of David Copperfield is also a very disheartening classical literature movie remake as it fails to entertain the audience. Directed by Armando Iannucci, the movie stars Dev Patel from The Newsroom as David Copperfield, Aneurin Banard as James Steerforth, and Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick.The film explores being part of Victorian society. David escapes from his dull life, making friends and enemies along his way.
The movie attempts comedic elements by adding humor in the personalities of the characters. However, many scenes were exaggerated to the point where the plot of the story became irrelevant. For example, the frequent scenes in which David attempts to ask his love interest out creates another unimportant branch of storyline.
The character of David in the movie fails to portray the main protagonist of the original novel as the version of David in the novel was less immature and less socially awkward compared to the movie version.
Furthermore, the storyline had no connections to the novel, as the directors attempted to sparkle the movie with humor making the movie tedious to watch. The 2019 David Copperfield remake does not satisfy the standards of classical literature book lovers and therefore is not worth watching.