2003 children’s book by German author Cornelia Funke has “lite Hollywood
fantasy movie” written all over it . . .
Therefore it should come as no surprise that it has been
made into a major motion picture (as the cover blurb declares) starring
Brendan Fraser. The release date is January 2009.
The book is aimed at the same 9-12 year old demographic
that the Harry Potter books are aimed at, but it is doubtful
whether it will have the same adult cross-over appeal that the Potter
books have. While Inkheart has a bittersweet
tone to it, plus some obscure trivia on the art of book-binding and
martens (a rare and practically extinct breed of weasel) it doesn’t offer
much simply plot wise. Mo (to be played by Fraser) is a “book doctor”
living in an obscure part of Europe with Meggie, his 12-year-old daughter.
One night a mysterious stranger from Mo’s past known as Dustfinger appears
at their doorstep.
It turns out that Dustfinger is in fact a fictional
character from a fantasy book titled Inkheart, and that Mo in fact has the
magical ability to “take” fictional characters from books into the real
world by reading aloud from the book in question. The only problem is that
Mo doesn’t have real control of his “power” – he can’t control who exactly
appears from the book is reading. The other problem is that there is
usually a “trade-off”, or swap – someone from the real world is physically
transported into the world of the book, never to return. One night whilst
reading aloud from Inkheart Mo inadvertently brought Dustfinger and two
villains from the book into the real world while transporting his own wife
into the book.
The two villains include Capricorn (the “Inkheart” of
the title; his heart is as black as ink, see?) and his sidekick Basta,
both nasty pieces of work. Since bringing them into the real world as real
flesh and blood people Mo (and Dustfinger) have been in hiding from
Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis in the movie. (Serkis is probably the
most seen “unknown” actor of our time. He provided the facial and body
movements for Gollum in The
Lord of the Rings movies as well as for
King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005
remake.) However Capricorn has finally found Mo and kidnaps him along with
his daughter and her eccentric book-loving aunt (Helen Mirren, The
"It's recommended for the underage Harry Potter crowd . .
Taken on purely an action level not much actually
happens in Inkheart. Villain kidnaps good guys to coerce them into
doing his bidding. They escape, villain tracks them down, captures some of
them. Other good guys rescue them and dispatches of the villain. The End.
Hope we didn’t spoil it for you. Okay, okay. Some minor complications
ensue, ensuring in the process that there will be two more books in the
series, namely Inkspell and Inkdeath (published in 2008).
One imagines that any Hollywood flick will probably be quite conflicted in
this regard: either they go for the bog standard happy Hollywood ending,
or they leave it open for future installments in the franchise. So it’s a
case of avarice vs. creative bankruptcy then . . .
To be honest we don’t exactly expect any future
installments in the Inkheart “franchise”. Funke’s books aren’t
particularly well known and there is little advance hype for the movie.
Fraser may be making a comeback of sorts (in 2008 he appeared in both
The Mummy 3 and
Journey to the Center of the Earth) but
the public’s appetite for fantasy movies seems to waning. The new
Chronicles of Narnia movie,
Prince Caspian, underperformed at
the box office despite being an improvement on its predecessor and several
Harry Potter wannabes such The Seeker and
Spiderwick Chronicles didn’t exactly
set the box office alight either. The less said about the dismal box
office failure of the hugely hyped Golden Compass the better . . . Sure,
the new Harry Potter & the Half-Blood
Prince movie will make a killing at the box office, but it is
Harry Potter we’re talking about here.
And the book itself? To be honest we found our interest
waiver about two-thirds through. Maybe it was the presence of the second
installment of Peter Hamilton’s thick Dreaming Void space opera in
my “To Read” box. Maybe it was the fact that by then one pretty much had
an idea of how it was all going to pan out (something the book itself
admits in one of its numerous quotes from other children’s books such as
The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings
and various others). It’s alas also something one also can say of most
Hollywood movies nowadays, which probably explains why this book is being
made into one in the first place . . . The book’s intended demographic
should have a blast however and it is wholeheartedly recommended for the
underage Harry Potter crowd.
(Strangely enough the book’s cover artwork taken from
the upcoming movie prominently features a unicorn, something which is
never so as mentioned once in the book itself.)