MTV is getting used to productions about provocative love affairs. Just look at Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson at this year’s MTV produced Super Bowl. So in their production of a modern updating of Emily Bronte’s novel “Wuthering Heights”, MTV throws in everything but the nipple.
“Wuthering Heights” is a benchmark of Gothic Romantic literature. It tells the tale of a doomed and frenzied love between the two protagonists, Heathcliff and Cathy. “Wuthering Heights” has been adapted for film and tel…vision umpteen times, in different styles and different languages. The most notable adaptation is probably the first in 1939, with Larry Olivier and Merle Oberon in the title roles.
MTV takes a stab at this gothic love story in its own made for network version. And why not? It’s got all the things the kids like: true love, broken hearts, a little bit of fighting, and dash of kissy kissy. And without Bronte’s elegant prose, we’re left with a story that’s really just a glorified soap opera. And hey…attention span problems? No problem. Bronte’s epic is slimmed down to less than 90 minutes. And if you like good production values, cool lighting and music… MTV knows how to deliver the goods.
The movie follows the book in a Cliff Notes sort of way, and psychological depth has been eschewed in favor of something more easily digestible. Heathcliff becomes “Heath (Mike Vogel); Cathy becomes “Cate” (Erika Christensen). Now Vogel (not a stranger to remakes – see Texas Chainsaw Massacre) is no Larry Olivier, but he seems really really committed to playing a man in love and out of control. And he looks hot. So the girls will like that. Christensen is also used to playing characters out of control, from her star making performance in Traffic to her embarrassing portrayal in Swimfan.. I’d say her performance is somewhere in the middle of those two polarizing films. She’s very natural, but at the same time, she tries to find emotions and moments that just aren’t within her range yet.
Suri Krishnamma’s direction is slick, but not stereotypically “MTV”. I was expecting a lot of quick and rapid edits. But Krishnamma’s camera is fluid, not afraid to embrace the romantic style of the source material. But don’t worry, there is plenty of “cool” hand held stuff to satisfy the reality T.V crowd.
This is a nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are vibrant, but not distracting. I love the use of red in the party and band concert scenes. Blacks are well done. Flesh tones are very naturalistic and quite detailed; in some close-ups, for example, one can see quite clearly the pores on Erika Christensen’s face and the strands of Mike Vogel’s scraggly facial hair. Textures of clothes and patterns on wood are all visible. Edge enhancement is minimal. There is some slight speckling during scenes set against blinding blue skies, but you have to look quick to catch it. This transfer is as “clean as a hound’s tooth” (if you know that phrase).
MTV should know its audio… and they do. The “cool” music sounds great. There are some nice environmental effects, party scenes for example. And then there’s the crashing of the waves against the cliffs, which are so crucial to the backdrop of story. The waves sound excellent in surround, not too intrusive, and well balanced (depending on the dramatic circumstances). Dialogue is crisp and clear. This is a well balanced mix in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround.
None. Absolutely none. But here’s my gripe. On the back of the DVD case, they advertise that there are special features. Okay…what are the Special Features? Widescreen Version Enhanced For 16X9 TV’s and Dolby Digital Surround. Okay…so simply having industry standard video and audio constitutes “Special Features”?? Whoa daddy.
MTV tries to pump up the “cool factor” for their adaptation of Wuthering Heights. For the most part they succeed; video and audio look and sound great, respectively. The adaptation itself is a little more bite-sized than I would’ve liked…but hey. Who’s kidding who here. This is a MTV adaptation of a “literary classic”. Did I expect any more than that? Not really, I guess. And who knows… maybe this will get kids to read the book. Right? I said… right…?