KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Reviews

Revisiting Tomorrow When the War Began

by Kill Your Darlings , October 5, 20103 Comments

Perhaps it’s wrong to compare a film to a choc-top, but I have a reason. I’m not talking about your simple vanilla choc-top – this was a tiramisu choc-top. Hovering indecisively at the snack counter, I found myself thinking: ‘How did I not know about this? And do I really want to try it?’ Internal tos and fros about packaged desserts aren’t a usual habit of mine, but I mention them because these kinds of thoughts are pretty similar to how I felt about viewing the film adaptation of Tomorrow When the War Began. So. Do I really want small bits of sponge cake in my ice cream? And do I really want to see that Neighbours girl play Ellie, literary legend? No. Maybe? Anyway, I somehow found myself in the cinema, marvelling at how those bits of sponge weren’t soggy, but more anxious that I was about to ruin what is still one of my most adored reading experiences with a sub-standard film adaptation.

In the mid nineties, John Marsden’s Tomorrow series rocked my world and that of most kids around me. Like Harry Potter, just without the epic franchising. The story centres around Ellie Linton, played by Caitlin Stasey in the film, and a group of six other teenagers who emerge from a camping trip in a bush sinkhole, Hell, to find that their small town of Wirrawee, and entire country, has been taken over by a foreign power. Electricity is down, pets are dead, and the teens quickly realise that their families are being held prisoner at the town’s showground. Faced with the choice to return to Hell and hide out the occupation or fight back, they decide to wage their own guerrilla war on the occupying troops.

The film falls into the usual traps of a book adaptation. Mostly, the character development feels flimsy. In the book, the relationships between the characters are given more room, and each individual character transforms, whereas in the film this is mostly unrealised. Any tension between Ellie and Homer is hardly touched, and the chemistry between Ellie and Lee is stilted and a little cold. Having read the books, I could approach this film equipped with all the character dynamics that were only scratched at in the film. I can see how someone who hasn’t read the book might find the whole thing a little flat. As Jessica Au writes in her post at Spike, director Stuart Beattie is ‘aiming his debut squarely at the heart of a teenage audience’, which makes sense given the books are written for young-adults, but as Au then asks, perhaps ‘he could also have spared a thought for the kids who grew up with the novels as well?’ I agree, and I also think that even the YA audience won’t find what Au calls the film’s ‘painfully brick-like’ dialogue convincing – rather they’ll probably be more sensitive to the way it unsuccessfully attempts to mimic their vernacular.

The action elements, though, are given far better treatment. Take Ellie, when she’s ploughing a garbage truck down the main street being chased by horrifying spider-like dune buggies that become entangled in overhead powerlines. Yes, awesome! The plot, if it skips over much that develops in the book, is at least fast paced. And despite knowing exactly what was going to happen, having read the book, I still found myself crouched on the edge of my seat in suspense.

The acting is often awkward, but I blame the clumsy dialogue. The cast are given some ridiculously tough lines. In an early scene between Ellie and her best friend Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), they talk about losing their virginity and wanting to have more, um, sex. It was so forced I felt like I should have looked away out of politeness. And I think we were all meant to ignore the strange accents a couple of the characters kept adopting. Are you talking with a British accent? No, Australian. No, you’re being British again. Ah well.

Unfortunately, the film had a few of these clunky sequences. Halfway through, there’s an unsubtle reference to film adaptations. Corrie sits reading My Brilliant Career, and chats with Ellie about books being better than their cinematic counterparts. Oh gawd. We get it – books are pretty much always better than the film. But if the director had an opinion on this he could have just let us know in a media interview. It just was a big unnecessary punctuation smack in the middle of the film. Tomorrow is Beattie’s directorial debut, and Marsden, having held off from any film adaptations until now, was impressed by Beattie’s script, offering only a handful of notes. A surprise really, given how cringe some of the dialogue is.

Despite all this, Stasey, as Ellie, who narrates the film, carries off her central role compellingly. A pivotal scene later in the film with the sensible and religious Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) was brilliant and shocking. Deniz Akdeniz, who plays Homer, breaks up the tension well, and brings a convincing ease to his role.

I like how the film hasn’t shied away from the more horrifying events. There’s a scene where someone takes a bullet point blank – and it’s intense. But there are also plenty of instances of funny dialogue, and the setting, filmed around the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley, is awe-inspiring.

There’s word that there’ll be a film trilogy now, after Tomorrow became the third-highest opener in Australian cinema ever. Despite its flaws, I really liked this film, and I’m excited because it’s a gutsy, action packed piece of Australian cinema. It might have suffered a little in page to screen translation, but the most important bit from the book, for me, is the defiant but vulnerable attributes of the characters, and the film has retained these. I got to feel the anticipation, the fear and the ‘What would I do in their place?’ all over again. You should still read the books, of course. And if you have read the book, but find yourself not liking the film, at least get a choc-top.

Belle Place is an editorial assistant at Affirm Press and writes for various monthly digital publications from Melbourne and Sydney.




  • http://www.tomorrowwhenthewarbeganmovie.com Yvonne

    I also really enjoyed this film adaption of the book, more so than I had anticipated. And like you, I wish there had been more character development like there was in the book. It’s a shame because you don’t develop the relationship with them however you can only fit so much into 104 minutes so I guess that’s why it was glossed over.

    I loved the action sequences too and was surprised by how tense I would get in some of them. I also wish Robyn had not been portrayed as being so religious and nerdy…she was made of tougher stuff in the book and that doesn’t come across nearly as much in the movie. And Fi wasn’t a dumb ditsy blonde in the book either. Loved Deniz Akdeniz as Homer and I thought Caitlin Stasey did a great job with Ellie’s character….much to my surprise and relief. I hope it’s as successful overseas as it’s been here.

  • Caitlyn

    I liked the first book and it was really interesting my mum wouldn’t let me watch the film till I read the book and I was glad I did cause the film made a lot of sense and the best thing about this film is that it has a variety of genres
    Such as:
    Romance
    Action, ect
    I thought that all the characters were played very well especially the girls but also the boys I really hope there is a second movie and maybe even at least 7 cause there r 7 books but the Ellie chronicals would be great to watch since they apparently finish if the war and the books

  • Caitlyn

    I liked the first book and it was really interesting my mum wouldn’t let me watch the film till I read the book and I was glad I did cause the film made a lot of sense and the best thing about this film is that it has a variety of genres
    Such as:
    Romance
    Action, ect
    I thought that all the characters were played very well especially the girls but also the boys I really hope there is a second movie and maybe even at least 7 cause there r 7 books but the Ellie chronicals would be great to watch since they apparently finish if the war and the books
    But this would have to be the best book series and film I have ever read/seen

9781926428239

Abigail Ulman

Cold Feet and Hot Little Hands: Abigail Ulman on writing – and not writing – her first book

Post-book deal, every time I sat down to try to write something, I felt paralysed by some kind of literary stage fright. I had shown my work to other people before – for writing workshops, and submissions to literary journals and competitions – but I had never before written a story while thinking This story is going to be published in a book. Or, more accurately, This story idea is nowhere near good enough to be published in a book. Read more »

9781926428239

Sian Campbell

Girlhood and The Woman-Child in Abigail Ulman’s Hot Little Hands

Each of the stories in Hot Little Hands navigates girlhood in some way, from the lives of high school-age teenagers to those of young twentysomething women. ‘Girl things’ such as horse camp, gymnastics, feminised bodies, clothing, periods, crushes, yoga and gossip weave through the fabric of the text. Though the subject matter is often adult – the girls of Hot Little Hands navigate abortion, sex trafficking, young motherhood, drugs, and deportation – the girls themselves are not… even when they technically are. Read more »

Dont-Try-This-at-Home-_-cover_-FINAL1-300x460

James Tierney

Subscriber Stories: Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This At Home

As a subscriber to publisher And Other Stories’ distribution model, I am in the unusual position of reviewing a book – Angela Readman’s short story collection Don’t Try This At Home – that thanks me by name for making its existence possible. Read more »

amy-schumer

Rebecca Shaw

Amy Schumer and the equal right to be funny

I don’t think men should be banned from making jokes about contentious subjects. I am of the belief that anything can and should be laughed about, and if done right, it can be beneficial. But more often, women are doing it right, and women are doing it better. Read more »

womens-home-companion

Kate Iselin

Trivial Pursuits: The media and ‘women’s interests’

Women, especially in public life, exist as a part of men’s worlds – a big part, sure – but still a part. Even as women become more vocal in demanding accurate and respectful representation, we are kept at arms length by a mainstream media which struggles to catch up. Read more »

SGbTsPQ

Rebecca Shaw

Command and Control: Trophy daughters and overprotective dads

There is no doubt that an overprotective parent is better than a parent who couldn’t care less what their child gets up to. And there is no doubt that most overprotective mums and dads are well-meaning. But paternal ‘protectiveness’ shticks often boil down to fathers not wanting their daughters to have sex, and by extension, get pregnant. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

kstew

Joanna di Mattia

Kristen Stewart Through the Looking-Glass

Kristen Stewart is an actress who has been criticised, maligned even, for an acting style that transmits from set to screen as sullen, adolescent, wooden, blank, fidgety and inelegant. But perhaps she’s an actress concerned with authenticity, and the defining feature of her style is to show us herself by appearing like she’s not acting at all. Read more »

it-follows-4

Anwen Crawford

Behind You: The subtler horror of It Follows

I don’t watch many horror films. Lifelong victim of an overactive and slightly morbid imagination, I regularly envisage disasters, natural or otherwise, that might befall me, without requiring the added stimulus of cinema. Read more »

6428590-3x2-700x467

Anwen Crawford

Nothing Is Sacred: How 8MMM Aboriginal Radio is having the last laugh

8MMM Aboriginal Radio is a situation comedy in which an Indigenous woman always has the last laugh. That makes it a rarity on Australian television. What’s more, it’s funny, which too few sitcoms, local or otherwise, ever are. Read more »

Struggle+Street+KEY+IMAGE

Anwen Crawford

Shame and Stigma on Struggle Street

Struggle Street framed poverty as a combination of genetic inheritance and natural disaster – a barrier to be overcome only through ceaseless positive effort. Those who sabotage themselves through bad choices are therefore fair targets for our scorn, while those who gain employment or remain sober deserve praise for overcoming the odds. The deserving and undeserving poor, in other words. What an old story. Read more »

TheSlap_Show

Genevieve Wood

The Slap: What’s lost when a cricket bat becomes a baseball bat?

‘A cricket bat wouldn’t make sense in an American context’, says Tony Ayres, executive producer of the US adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap. He’s right, of course – it wouldn’t. But when, in US playwright Jon Robin Baitz’s version, the eponymous slap occurs as the result of a swinging baseball bat, something’s not quite right. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

DUKMRUTRHLU31425064919799

Katie Williams

The Currency of Games: The real world cost of in-game purchases

A new item introduced in World of Warcraft lets players purchase a month of playing time for the real-life price of $20, which they can then sell to other players in-game in exchange for virtual currency. It’s an exchange of real money for a virtual currency that has in-game value but none in the physical, ‘real’ world – and it makes me incredibly uneasy. Read more »

16741557134_5206bec0cd_k

Jane Howard

Dark Side of the Rainbow: Belvoir St Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz

This production of The Wizard of Oz is ‘after L Frank Baum’: after his book, after the 1939 film, and after our collective memories of both. Fragmented, non-narrative, and largely wordless, it relies on our existing knowledge of the text to build a work of images and emotion, and in doing so demands an extreme generosity from the audience. Read more »

Arts House_Image_10c_Oedipus Schmoedipus (post)_Credit – Ellis Parrinder copy

Jane Howard

A Case for Diversity in Theatre

Attracting different audiences to the theatre is about many things. It’s about accessibility for people without high disposable incomes, but it’s also about marketing and publicity; about creating venues which are physically accessible for people with disabilities; and about ensuring the performers on stage are as diverse as we want their audiences to be. Read more »

2909252617_1f456d0c81_b

Jane Howard

A Working-Class Mythology: Ironing boards at the theatre

In theatre, there is perhaps no prop piece more mythologised than the ironing board, which came to signify the birth of contemporary British theatre. Read more »