Several years back, on my original (now defunct) blog, I wrote a post about how disappointed I was that they were making a movie out of Where the Wild Things Are. I was perhaps understandably incensed at the time that they were going to do to one of my favorite childhood books what they did to Dr. Seuss’s oeuvre — namely desecrate my happy memories of the books.
I titled the post “This Movie Already Sucks.”
A year later, I saw the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are and I got excited. It looked — could it be? — good.
A few months later I saw the movie. It now sits on my list of absolute favorites, and I found myself regretting my earlier prognostication (while being equally glad that I was wrong).
Which brings us to the headline of today’s post.
When Paramount announced this week that they were developing Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash for the screen, my initial reaction was: goddammitsomuch no!
Then I took a few deep breaths and remembered how wrong I was about Wild Things.
And yet . . .
And yet . . .
The first fifty or so pages of Snow Crash are, for me, one of the best openings of a novel ever, a piece of writing I turn back to again and again whenever I’m feeling stuck or uninspired in my own work. It is the perfect blend of action and exposition immersing the reader in the heart of Stephenson’s future America. And it’s damned funny to boot.
I can see the pictures in my head as I read it, as I’m sure any respectable filmmaker could (I’m sure even some schlockmeisters could cobble a decent storyboard together) — the opening is just that vivid. A good screenwriter and director could probably create something that came near to the spirit of the opening.
But the language! Oh, what a shame to lose all of it.
This is America. People do whatever the fuck they feel like doing, you got a problem with that? Because they have a right to. And because they have guns and no one can fucking stop them. As a result, this country has one of the worst economies in the world. When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we’ve brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they’re making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y’know what? There’s only four things we do better than anyone else
high-speed pizza delivery
That right there tells you everything you need to know about the world this story takes place in and how do you film that??!? Clunky expository dialogue? Annoying V.O.? Skip it entirely? Stephenson’s mastery of the language is what makes this book, and considering the power of language is one of the themes of the book, it’s ironic that it’s being transferred to a visual medium where that language will be lost.
I won’t prognosticate this time. The resulting product could be great. It could end up complete shit. Whatever it ends up being, it won’t be Snow Crash.