Brendan Fraser plays Mo, a man who has the special power of a “silver tongue” which means he has the ability to bring characters and elements from books into the real world by reading their stories out loud. There is a serious catch to this power. Someone from the real world must go into the book in exchange. Mo discovered this by accidentally reading his wife into a story called Inkheart while pulling three of its characters out. Nine years after this event, and with his daughter and a couple of heroic literary characters at his side, he finally tracks down a copy of the rare book to try and bring her back.
The mashing of literary references does not get its legs until the monstrous climax of the film. Until then, the adventure seems a bit light and lacking in the essential energy to gain our full interest. There are also issues with establishing the mood of the film. The disappearance of Mo’s wife seems tragic at times, as indeed the loss of a loved one should be, but at other s\times it simply seems like a reference in their fantastic quest amongst outrageous characters of fiction. No character seems to get enough times to dwell on the uncanny, such as an author meeting one of his characters face to face, or the heartbreaking, such as the aforementioned disappearance.
I am only lightly familiar with the original book upon which this film as adapted, but I know enough to tell that elements have been changed to make the film friendlier to approach. In fact, rules set within the film are broken in order for the ending to lose all of its potential edge and land on a pillow of reunions. I am aware that changes always occur when adapting a book for the screen, but this felt more like wings being clipped. As I hinted at before, the climax is indeed monstrous, by many definitions of that word, but if the stakes don’t feel real then there is further lack of investment on the audience’s part.
When displaying moments of fantasy, such as realms within books or when people from said realms are entering the real world, director Iain Softley employs a staggering/fast-forward technique that can be seen in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Steve Barron’s Merlin. As much as I can compliment Softley using a technique that makes it stand out from other contemporary fantasy stories, such as Harry Potter, that simply oversaturate the colour with blooming bright lights or slimy, dark gray tones, I do feel it gives too much of that 90s vibe of trying too hard to be hip and stylized (think Romeo + Juliet again).
With that last point in mind, I can say with confidence that this film just missed the mark, but not by far. It came close to being dead on at many turns (casting Andy Serkis, for example, is never a bad idea), but everything is just a little bit off from where it should be. A shame really.
Widescreen 2.35:1. The visuals are decent but sometimes seem a bit dampened. This is mostly prevalent in the earlier scenes where the vibe of the film is more investigative than fanciful But all in all, this is not a bad presentation, it could just use a little more pep …after all, kids like bright and shiny things right?
Dolby Digital 5.1 in both English and French (along with matching subtitles). The score of this film is quite lush, sometimes to the point of being a bit overbearing. Nevertheless, it comes through nice and clean in all speakers.
The dialogue is also clear. My only gripe would be some of the post-production is a bit obvious, particularity Brendan Fraser’s. This may only be distracting to those that have worked in sound…so I try not to transfer my concerns to my oh-so loyal readers.
Eliza Read to Us: Eliza Bennet, who played our Mo’s daughter Maggie, reads a section of the original book that was not a part of the film. It does contain some spoiler elements so only check this out after your private screening. It is introduced by the author herself, Cornelia Funke.
This is not a bad film, but it does seem to be a failed adaptation. Failed , not in the most common argument against adaptation where the movie can never contain as much detail as the book, but in the sense that it missed out on things that the film could have enhanced where the book couldn’t, such as providing richer visuals, or a more fantastic atmosphere.
As well, the fact that it breaks many of its own rules makes this harder to swallow.