gogollescent: (your mom)
you know you like the mannequin dick ([personal profile] gogollescent) wrote2013-02-23 05:58 pm

(no subject)

I celebrated reaching the halfway point in my readthrough of the Aubrey-Maturin novels by watching the movie--okay, no, that's a lie, I loaded up the movie two weeks ago and then forced myself to wait until I'd actually gotten to the book it was based on before playing it. Scruples were pretty much unnecessary; the plot bore only a family resemblance, and there certainly weren't any spoilers as such. But at least I'm proceeding symmetrically.

It was a fun movie. Not what I was expecting, at all, despite having been told about the Discovery channel documentary interlude in advance: it's interested in a lot of the same territory as the books, but it really distributes its weight differently. O'Brian never takes Stephen's thwarted scientific ambitions too seriously; not that he trivializes them, but in the text Stephen is so involved in the war and its efforts that you can't really have the kind of freedom and turtles vs. questionable authority and bloodshed set-up that you get in the film. Generally I was a little eh on the stripped-down Dr. Maturin, who was a lot of fun to watch but who was a little too puppyish for my tastes from a character perspective--more like Temeraire than his bookly self, ha ha ha, okay, no, that's mean. I shouldn't go around comparing pretty well-realized and three-dimensional characters who undergo change and get their own shirtless scenes to Temeraire, poor thing. It's not just. But he was defanged, by dint of the focus of the story and also the limited space allowed for background stuff.

So it was just as well that I really liked what they did with Aubrey! Before I picked up Master and Commander, [personal profile] nextian introduced me to Jack Aubrey as "a fucking adorable murder terrier", which, no fairer description, but I enjoyed the fact that he's heavy on the murder and the terrier in The Far Side of the World. As Stephen puts it: "You're the predator, Jack." Man, that was a great scene, especially since I was getting itchy about the whole terrible stick-insects-inspire-camouflage! conceit anyway. I mean, they make Maturin so young, and they could easily have done the same with Aubrey, focusing on the brash and swashbuckling side rather than painting him as a sort of amiable, thoughtful war machine whose default mode is a slightly unnerving smile. (Related: Russell Crowe's mouth is weird. I never knew this before now. The upper lip is so… scrunched! Like two tiny points on a flat line! I must not have noticed it on Javert because I was busy fondly regarding his tonsils.) I wouldn't necessarily have picked The Far Side of all the books to adapt, but dropping us in that late in his career and with a story that takes place solely at sea allowed them to emphasize the paternal but ruthless aspect, and that was a relief.

I was also charmed by the way that the ending totally goes back on a bunch of the themes that felt so built-in to the gravity of the world earlier. Oh, the music-loving not-so-different captain that you thought was dead was actually pretending to be his counterpart boyfriend doctor all along! The concerns of naturalists deserve consideration equal to the needs of the service…… unless there's a joke to be made about flightless birds! Though I will concede that the movie's message on that one was possibly more pro-"friendship is magic" than pro-"Darwin will be there in a few decades anyway, you hopeless nerd". Nevertheless.

If I rewatch it at any point in the near future, it'll be for Hollom, whose arc suffered in my eyes from being viewed slowly in pieces over the course of a scatterbrained afternoon, I think. I found it affecting, and I didn't exactly mind his complete disappearance from the memory of the surviving cast if only because it's very true to the source material's approach to tragedy, but it felt like yet another case of the movie being happy to grapple with a messy issue in its first two hours and then throwing that unpleasantness overboard when it came time to wrap things up. Maybe a surfeit of ambition, there?

On the other hand, O'Brian definitely flirts with similar questions about patriotism and violence without ever committing himself too hard on a material critique, and gets away with it just because he has so much other stuff going on that he can, for example, bring up Stephen's mutinous heart again and again without it putting unreasonable strain on his and Jack's friendship or the reader's patience. Because they're busy adults, with lots of representational pudding on their plates, and an enemy whose flaws are much more evident when conveyed through thousands of pages of intricate historical fiction than through a title card about Napoleon, Master of Europe. Maybe… what I'm really saying here… is that I wish there were more movies. :( Maybe I just want every series I like to go on for way too long and then end with a terrible lack of resolution, more adventures implied to come. Is that so much to ask?? Yes. Yes, it is.
prodigy: Stephen Maturin from Master & Commander looking a little skeptical. (stephen thinks well then)

[personal profile] prodigy 2013-02-25 12:13 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree with almost all of this, especially the things it's unfortunately hard to develop in a movie's runtime, though HOLLOM'S MOVIE ARC AUGH SHIT IT ALWAYS GETS TO ME. I mean, I freaking love the movie, I think it is exceptionally well-done in bits and pieces of characterization, but I think in the service of making it standalone Aubrey and Maturin are--a strange, very-serious-ified, AU version of Aubrey and Maturin in a lot of ways? And this is coming from someone who LOVES MOVIE MATURIN but... it's best if you think of them as AUifications of themselves to the action movie genre drama instead of the serial vaguely-picaresque genre.

Movie Aubrey is great, though, and a good mature Aubrey. Argh Hollom argh. :( :(