What’s In a Name?

Shakespeare asked us that, some time ago.  As Juliet mused on her balcony, she pondered, “After all,  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

But what if I offer you a rose, but when you open the box, you find a turnip?.  Or a bicycle?

Tonight, against my inclinations, I went to see Alice: Through the Looking Glass.

A confession.  As a child, I did not enjoy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Nor did I like the sequel, Through the Looking Glass. They creeped me out, in a way that horror stories never did.  Alice is pushed off balance and remains so in the story, a girl with courage and curiosity but  without power to control what is happening to her.  She is saved only by happenstance.  Not a message I liked as I girl and I like it even less as a woman.

But set that aside. Because this movie had nothing to do with that book, anymore than the previous Burton/Depp Alice in Wonderland had to do with that tale.  To give the movie credit, in this tale the girl has courage and curiosity and does manage to seize control of her own destiny.

I would have liked it better if the movie had been called Penelope and Time.  Or something of that ilk.

I was confronted, before the movie, with a trailer for a tale of a boy who lives alone in a forest for six years, and apparently survives with the aide of a giant flying reptile. At the end of the tale, I receive the news that this is the new version of Pete’s Dragon.  The last time I saw that movie, on VHS, it had to do with a boy, an invisible dragon that was rather Barney-esque in nature, and the lighthouse keeper.

An enduring offense to my love of Mowgli is the Disney version of The Jungle Book. The original by Rudyard Kipling wasd devoid of fat singing bears and evil snakes.  Spoiler for the book:  Kaa is one of Mowgli’s allies.  Baloo is the teacher of the Law of the Jungle.  Bagheera buys Mowgli’s life by gifting a dead bull to the wolf pack.  That writing is full of lovely and powerful language and an acknowledgement of how ruthless and beautiful nature is.  I was horribly disappointed with the first Disney rendition of Jungle Book.  I won’t be going to see what they’ve done to it this time.

Other spoilers.  Lassie never rescued a boy named Timmy from a well. Lassie made her way home, against all odds.

Still, I do have a question.  Why do movie makers take the titles of books and slap them onto properties that have no resemblance to the original tale?  Is it to lure in those who loved the original work, and then make them angry or disappointed?  Or to trick people who think, “I’ve heard that book was good, but I’ve never read it.  Now I’ll see what it is about?”  Do movie makers have a lack of faith in their original work and hope to snare some audience for it by borrowing someone else’s title?

And a second question.  Why do they keep re-making movies?  It’s not like there’s a dearth of good stories out there that would translate well to the screen! Where are the movies about Nine Princes in Amber? Or Glory Road? Half-Magic? Five Children and It?

Or once, just once, do justice to the REAL Jungle Book.

Ah, well.  This is my curmudgeonly post for the month.

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