Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday Night Magical Movie: The Spiderwick Chronicles

From the opening credits, there lives a lot of magical atmosphere in this 2008 movie directed by Mark Waters. (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Mean Girls) and produced by Nickelodeon Movies. Having been introduced to the books by my son, I really enjoyed them. I had seen this movie for the first time in the theater, and later purchased the DVD because Tristan and I really enjoyed it. So we decided to put it on a watch together for my third installment of Monday Night Magical Movie.
For anyone who doesn't have kids of the right age, these books are totally fun and crossed over from the children's market to the adult market in the way the Harry Potter series did, albeit a much quicker read than the Potter books. This intricate world born from the imaginations of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black is enchanting, and I think, translated well to the big screen. The movie is based on the first five books form the series, although leaves out much of book 4 and other good stuff as well. The five books could have easily been made into two movies, perhaps keeping the original storyline intact.

The first thing I remember thinking when I saw this movie was how happy I was to hear Freddie Highmore doing an American accent for this one. I think he's a very talented young actor. I remember seeing him in one of his previous films Arthur and the Invisibles and feeling like, why does this depression era American kid have a British accent? Granted, they explained it in Arthur, but it seemed contrived. So I felt kinda proud for him when I heard his accent in Spiderwick. Our man Freddie takes on the roles of the twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace, and I personally thought he did a great job developing the two unique characters. Their sister and fencing champion Mallory Grace is played by Sarah Bolger who also played Mary Tudor in HBO's The Tudors.

One of the things I love about this series of stories (both books and the movie) is the fact that the fairy realm isn't all goodness and light, it's more like the old legends about the fae, some of the denizens are helpful to humans, but plenty of them have their own occasionally darker agendas. The tradition of a fairy stone or enchantment for "fairy sight" and offerings of honey, kidnapping, taboos of eating fairy food, protection with salt, are also traditional in legend and lore. I will say the mushroom ring around the house for "protection" in the movie version, is something in fairy lore known as a fairy ring, something to be treated with caution to avoid actually being kidnapped by fairies, so this use was actually reversed, even though it looked cool.

As per usual, the movie had the storyline altered quite a bit from the books, but the visual feel and the spirit of the books were preserved even though the plot had many additions and omissions. I personally loved the script however, and was pleased yet not surprised to find that John Sales, the director of "The Secret of Roan Inish" worked on the script for this one. The movie was based (loosely) on the five first books which was probably enough material for two movies which would have allowed for more of the original storeys integrity to remain. The faerie folk in this movie were all simply amazing, and true to the original art, as an artist I can really appreciate that. It's no surprise to learn that the character Arthur Spiderwick was inspired by famous children's book illustrator and one of my favorite artists Arthur Rackham. Arthur Spiderwick had filled a book full of illustrations and secret information he discovered about the fairy realm, making the book quite dangerous. Spiderwick disappeared in 1935 leaving the house vacant for years. His great-niece and her children move into the dilapidated house, and the book is discovered, read, and that's when all fae breaks loose.

I hadn't noticed when I first saw the movie, but upon watching it again, I picked out comedic actor Seth Rogans voice as the Hobgoblin named Hogsqueal. Nick Nolte was an excellently disturbing choice of the evil Mulgarath! Tristan and I decided that we wished they hadn't left out the Elves and Stray Sod and Tristan says the dragon would have been worth the cost of the extra CGI. The special features on the DVD are pretty good, they even have a video field guide.

Overall, it's a good movie inspired by the books, if not totally accurate to them, it was lots of good magical fun.


  1. glad you enjoyed it! I know its hard sometimes watching a movie based on a book AFTER reading the book. I've not done either with Spiderwick Chronicles, so now I'm having a hard time deciding which to do first!

  2. I agree! See the movie first, and then read to books so you'll know what you missed! tee-hee

  3. Hmm, might give this a go. Haven't read the books either. I'm always on the look out for films to watch and books to read and I just noticed your blog's packed full of ideas and recommendations. I must have a proper nosy round some day and take notes!


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