From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

The Time Traveler’s Wife: Alternate Worlds in a Film and Novel.

Always keep in mind a film’s intended audience. If you are not in the intended audience for a film, don’t be surprised if the movie disappoints you.

I’m not in the intended audience for The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’m not a chick, and I’m not into chick flicks. However, I read the book by Audrey Niffenegger a couple of years ago, so I decided I’d step into a theater and go see the film based on the novel. (I liked the novel.)

Was the movie great? No, but it was decent.

Did the movie destroy the book completely? No, but it did deviate in a lot of ways that made the experience less enjoyable for me.

I thought that the casting was well-done in the case of the leading roles for Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) and Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams). They had good chemistry on the screen, and that has always been a plus for a romantic movie. As for the other characters and casting decisions, the choice to make Gomez dark-haired didn’t bother me as much as the complete removal of the conflicting interest he had in Clare. The absence of a few other characters from the book was certainly apparent to me. Even though I was able to disregard the differences in characters for the two mediums (a movie is never going to feel the same as a book), I found the lack of character development annoying. Every character but Henry and Clare was given a backseat in terms of character development and screen time.

It goes without saying that if characters are not the same from the book to the movie, then some of the plots will also be altered. The missing characters and the missing character development from the books was felt most. The overarching plot–Henry’s time traveling genetic disorder and his relationship with Clare–remained relatively intact, though there was a mild change to the end of Henry’s timeline. The style of the book made it easier to figure out some things that were happening, since each chapter or section of a chapter began with the age of Henry (or multiple ages, if he is having a scene with himself) and the age of Clare at that time. The movie version trimmed out many of the book’s time traveling scenes, probably in an effort to make the movie simpler and keep it more true to form (remember: intended audience).

The movie was not without some redeeming qualities. As far as the movie itself was concerned, there were no easily discernible plot holes. Each instance of time traveling and explanation made sense within the film. Also, some scenes from the book made much more sense when viewed on the silver screen. The younger Henry disappearing from his own wedding to be replaced by the older Henry was probably the most amusing point in the movie. It didn’t require a lot of dialogue–just a few glances, quips, and gray hair. That scene and a few other plot-spoiling scenes of time-travel smoothed over a lot of the problems I had with the movie.

Read the book. You’ll enjoy it more than the movie, even if you like chick flicks.
However, if you do decide that you do want to see the movie, you’ll enjoy it more than Transformers 2.

Seth Golden is a musician, reader of books, player of games, and occasional writer. (He is not nearly as cynical as his written opinions are.)

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