Advertisement

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

100SB_YA books_KYD_Readings

Lou Heinrich

There is No Normal: Rachel Hill’s The Sex Myth

Feminist and journalist Rachel Hills spent seven years researching the limits of our cultural understanding of sex. In what may bring huge relief to readers, the resulting book, The Sex Myth, proves through scientific and anecdotal evidence (Hills conducted almost a thousand interviews around the Western world) that when it comes to sex, there is no normal. Read more »

9780733633782

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their July picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lead_960

James Tierney

I Call The Shots: The provocation of violent women

In a Western culture increasingly stripped of its old taboos, violent acts by women – real and imagined – still possess the genuine power to shock. Cultural representations of violent women can both affirm and react against the kind of pernicious questioning that posits women as fundamentally, and fatally, reactive. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. 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 »

LoveMyWay_2_460x240px.jpg.460x240_q85_crop_upscale

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Gnarly Family Trees: Truth, Beauty and Love My Way

Ahead of her Melbourne Writers Festival event with Claudia Karvan and John Edwards, Rochelle Siemienowicz reflects on what makes Love My Way a binge-worthy Australian TV classic. Read more »

3ab01d05-2590-4aa4-80f4-45fab0eccec4-2060x1236

Anwen Crawford

Heart of Darkness: UnREAL‘s ruthless reality

Everlasting, the show-within-a-show at the dark centre of new American television series UnREAL, is a fantasy blend of champagne cocktails, pool parties and true love. Everlasting is a Bachelor-style game show in which a dozen immaculately groomed women compete for a handsome millionaire husband, and its relationship to real life is, like any ‘reality’ show, non-existent. Nothing goes to air on Everlasting that has not been scripted, staged, and edited for maximum controversy. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. 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 »

Keith - photo Shane Reid

Jane Howard

Local Courage, Global Reach: The National Play Festival

There is something to be gained from observing any collection of works in close proximity, and in these readings you could see the way Australian playwrights are reaching out into the world. Together, these works show the minds of our playwrights in robust health, with works that are itching to find their audience. Read more »

2015GISELLE_Artists of The Australian Ballet. PhotoJeffBusby

Jane Howard

The Beautiful and the Dated: Australian Ballet’s Giselle

The weight of history sits heavily on the Australian Ballet’s Giselle. One of the most enduringly popular ballets from the romantic period, there is much to delight in its presence on stage and its lasting lineage. But 175 years after its debut, in a production that premiered 30 years ago, the sheen of Giselle has been dulled. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »