doctor who: human nature

Utterly.

Brilliant.

Made up 200% for that Dalek trash. This is easily the best episode they’ve done to date and probably one of the best in the entire series, going back to 1963. Why they waited till the third season to mine this vein is a mystery; maybe they needed the character to be fully established before they could hide him within himself.

That hiding — it’s a bit far-fetched, of course. But once you race past the fantasy science you’re good to go. It’s all a bit Seventh Doctor, but that’s only natural considering the source material, and though I was never very fond of that whole “make him a mystery again” idea (it culminated in some truly awful bullshit like that whole Lungbarrow thing) it’s fine here and it fits.

It’s a pleasure to see Martha doing this instead of Ace, who was never a favorite of mine. And to see the girl from Spaced, a brilliant comic actress, in such an adroit dramatic role, is icing on the cake.

The series can decline from here and circle the drain if that’s how it’s to be. This alone was worth it.

Why didn’t I buy Paul Cornell’s novel back in the day? Now the damn thing is out of print and sells for twice the cover price, at least.

doctor who: evolution of the daleks

Funny how all it takes is one dog of a two-parter like this to puncture my swelling enthusiasm for this show. You’d think they could knock those out of the park, since they have the equivalent of four of the old-school episodes to develop the story and don’t have to rush it out in 45 minutes, but I guess when it’s as full of dumb, far-fetched ideas as this one, it doesn’t matter how long you have.

I can’t fault the ambition: it takes balls for an English company to do a story set in Manhattan in the 1930s. The accents weren’t as awful as I thought they’d be, though the boy from Tennessee couldn’t even stay consistent and Solomon was so obviously not a New Yorker.

But the plot was dopey from the start. Why pigs? Why not just docile humans? I guess the answer is that they were test runs for Dalek Sec’s transformation, but I never bought that any Dalek would ever do something like that, and I certainly never bought the resulting alteration of his personality. It just seems like a story idea someone thought would be cool, not one that made a lick of sense.

I mean, remember, they won the “Time War,” right? It wiped out most of them, but their main obstacle to survival is the Doctor. It’s not that they’re “not human enough.” Obviously I don’t agree with the Dalek philosophy, but there’s no way Sec’s experiment would advance it. We’d have to believe he had some secret motivation, but as far as I can see none was offered.

Fortunately this story did contain one element I like about the new season: every episode so far has featured at least a cameo by a super cute guy. They seem to either die or be turned into pigs pretty quickly, though, which kind of takes the fun away. And the story also contained almost all the elements I hate about the new series:

1. The Doctor’s magic wand sonic screwdriver. On the one hand, it makes sense for a guy like him to carry around a universal tool, a sort of super-Swiss-Army-knife. On the other, it doesn’t make sense that he can do freaking ANYTHING with it. It’s far more omnipotent than it was in the old series, and even then they destroyed it so that the Doctor would have to solve problems with his wits like everyone else. The thing needs limitations, badly.

2. Science that seems more like magic, which I guess is the same problem. The Daleks’ “genetic” techniques; gamma radiation delivered as a lightning strike (did I miss something there?); the Doctor’s ability to rig up a DNA testing machine out of some stage lights and the inside of a 1930s portable radio; it’s all, not to put too fine a point on it, pure bullshit. Of course the old show was never about hard SF either but at least they usually tried to make it seem vaguely possible. It’s obvious this lot just care about telling a fanciful story, which is good on some levels but when the motivations don’t make sense either, what’s the point?

3. The Doctor’s nigh-invulnerability. So far this season he’s had his blood drained (through a straw…don’t get me started), nearly asphyxiated, been voodooed by space witches (DON’T get me started), and now electrocuted by an obviously lethal dose of gamma radiation (see #2), and he just seems to get up and keep going with no explanation at all. In the past he would have mumbled something about a respiratory bypass system, or he would have freaking regenerated, but something tells me this Doctor could have survived a fall off the Empire State Building with nothing but a single tear falling on his cheek to revive him. Kind of relieves the tension when you know your main character can survive anything.

4. Martha mooning over the Doctor. Somehow it seemed natural with Rose; she seemed to have a few boundaries, or something. Martha’s fallen for him with one kiss and they’re hammering the romantic tension way too hard. So far I haven’t seen much about her that’s remarkable, and her family isn’t really in the picture so she doesn’t even have that dimension to keep her interesting.

I don’t know if I’m going to keep the DVD set I ordered. I certainly never want to watch this story again.

the new who review

I’ll probably end up posting more commentary on encyclops.com soon, but okay, okay, I finally have warmed to the new Dr. Who.

I still think the plotting has a tendency toward great setups with incredibly stupid endings, but I’ve really begun to enjoy it. I’ve gotten through the first two seasons now and am a few episodes into the third, all of which I liked so much (except for some seriously uncalled-for scenery-chewing by the Racnoss Empress) that I’ve ordered the third season from Amazon rather than watching borrowed copies. I’ll probably get the other two eventually.

I miss Rose, and I miss the characters associated with her, Jackie, Mickey, and even her alternate-universe dad. I thought the romance angle was questionable at first but it got to the point where I didn’t mind at all and kind of liked it. I wasn’t sure how I’d warm to Martha, but so far she’s just fine, if a little nondescript. She carries on the fine-booty tradition from Rose, too, which was never part of the appeal of the show for me before (well, almost never).

I can see why people liked Chris Eccleston. He was entertaining, and he didn’t look like an explosion in a fabric store, which must have helped to broaden the show’s appeal along with the slightly improved effects budget. And when he said he was gonna fuck somebody up, you believed he meant it. This was really a new thing for the Doctor, who in the past usually seemed to get through everything by the skin of his teeth. He carried off that “alien” quality well, and the edge we’d never associated with the character before.

I guess what bothered me about him was that he just didn’t quite seem like the same guy, even taking into account his post-traumatic stress. His leather-jacket-and-jeans outfit seemed more like the production team’s choice than the Doctor’s. His catchphrase “Fantastic!” really wasn’t. Something about him just didn’t fit. He could have been the Doctor’s little brother, maybe, but not quite the Doctor I grew up watching. It wasn’t too jarring; any sufficiently nerdy fan (me, for instance) could easily justify all of the choices made. But it distanced me a bit from the show — that and some of the lamer stories.

Some of the second season stories seemed even lamer, which killed my interest in the show for a while despite the fact that the new Doctor, David Tennant, was in my opinion perfect casting. In place of the catchphrase, we now had a motormouth comedian, which at first seemed corny but quickly became endearing, and his look and manner seemed a lot more the Doctor to me. But the great setup / weak ending thing was driving me nuts.

The finale to the second season was probably what hooked me again, though. It’s hard to believe any Doctor Who writing team could have pulled off a story with Daleks and Cybermen, but they did, and even though there’s a lot of disbelief to suspend in the resolution (and along the way: you mean to tell me that there were Cybermen and Daleks all over the world and we didn’t see them shoot anyone outside the Torchwood building?), it’s entertaining enough that I just didn’t care.

And it didn’t hurt that over the course of the season, Tennant just kept shining. I’m not ready to say I like him even better than Tom Baker. But I’m getting there.

So here’s hoping the strong (if perennially implausible) stories that started off this season continued; otherwise I’m going to be very disappointed in my reinvestment in one of my biggest, geekiest childhood obsessions.

diary of the dead

My girlfriend is a big George Romero fan, so of course we went to see his new low-budget zombie film this weekend. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Apart from a fantastic scene involving a news team on the scene when some of the first zombies appear, the first 15 or 20 minutes were tough going. The voiceover was too portentous, the handheld camera was nauseating, and the film-student characters weren’t especially appealing. But once they got onto the road, the movie got a lot more compelling, and some of the scenes are among his very best work.

There are plenty of problems, though, plenty of ammo for those who say it’s his worst to date. The characters are paper-thin and don’t develop much, and either as a cause or a result of that, the acting is pretty uneven, sometimes verging on camp. Though it’s done with an impressive attention to detail, the conceit that every shot in the movie is either downloaded footage or taken with the students’ own cameras is tough to swallow at times. The social critique of the film, that we’re becoming a culture of voyeurs who can’t stop watching tragedy through the camera lens long enough to get into the shot and intervene, is mixed up with its counterpoint, that we can’t trust major media to give us the truth and when true disaster strikes, only the bloggers and YouTubers will be left to give us the scoop. Whether or not you buy either of these themes, you have to admire the cleverness and depth of playing them off one another, and perhaps it’s that complexity that leads the script to hit you over the head with them. And when they’re embodied in the character through whose camera we’re seeing most of the action, Jason Creed, we can’t help but feel his passivity is more symbolically exaggerated than plausible. It would have been an interesting character development to see something finally push him to put the camera down, but because that moment never comes, it’s hard to accept him as a real person.

The realest moment as far as the students are concerned comes early on, when one of the characters mows down a few people who may or may not have been zombies and becomes suicidal with guilt and uncertainty. There could have been many more moments like this, because for the first time in Romero’s canon since maybe Night of the Living Dead we’re seeing people react to the initial zombie outbreak, rather than coping with a situation already in progress as in the last three films. This makes their reactions the logical emotional center of the film, and while we don’t need them to say “zombies” (is it a thing with Romero that no one uses that word?) we kind of expect them to have some context to put this in, or to panic in a variety of ways at their lack of context. It’s not this straightforward, though; we don’t really get the stoic one, the squeamish one, the hysterical one, the sadistic one, and the unhinged one, though we see flashes (sometimes long flashes) of each of these. It would be too formulaic to ask each student to wear an emotion like a t-shirt, and this isn’t what Romero’s after anyway.

No, the point here is larger than the characters we’re following, and just as in real life, they wouldn’t all distinguish themselves as equal members of an ensemble cast. The movie is about what happens when a disaster rips the foundations out of life. There’s the hospital, completely abandoned by the living. There’s the warehouse filled with looted supplies…and looters. There’s the encounter with the National Guardsmen, which is the most effective (and plausible) off-camera scene in the movie. Then there are the simpler moments, walking into a house that used to be a home and discovering the worst, presaged only by broken glass and half-open doors. Romero has both Iraq and Katrina at the top of his mind, and when you look past all the talk about cameras, you see those situations and others discussed in surprising and thought-provoking ways.

Diary of the Dead isn’t a perfect movie, and probably won’t be given a fifth of the credit it deserves, but there’s more going on than the “Cloverfield with zombies” criticism its timing will garner. Even if you don’t find fascinating the small touches, such as the editing beeps you hear without further comment during Creed’s big speech (who edited it? what was edited out? why would this have been done?), you’re sure to love some of the “best” eye-popping, brain-melting zombie kills Romero’s ever filmed. And two of them are delivered by an Amish farmer armed only with dynamite and a scythe.

rebecca & suspicion

It’s funny. You grow up pre-internet in the suburbs and in small towns where a trip to the library or the mall is your only chance to make contact with a larger culture. You go to college in a modest city with not one but three or four art museums, a couple of arthouse theaters, and collective grocery stores. Eventually you move to a suburb of San Francisco, and you figure, well, this must be the place. This is the apex of culture. You find yourself on the Stanford Theater’s mailing list and you find out they’re doing a Hitchcock festival. You take your girlfriend to a double feature.

You find out that here at the apex of culture they think Rebecca is a comedy.

At first it seemed like the usual pretentious noisemaking you get in any arthouse theater — those stupid little grunts and “hmm”s and chuckles people make to let you know they’re in tune with what’s happening in the movie, that they’re a smart perceptive audience and this stuff is not going over their heads. And there are some fairly funny lines in those first few scenes, when Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine are going through the motions of falling in love. And maybe if you don’t already know the film, you don’t yet realize what it means that Olivier treats her like a doll or a puppy (it’s not just because he’s kind of a stiff), so those moments don’t seem quite as sinister to you. And it was made in 1940, so it probably seems a little melodramatic to modern audiences; soundtracks are just as intrusive today, but back then the sort of flourishes marking the dramatic moments weren’t yet clichés.

But come on. There’s a scene when the truth about Rebecca and Maxim is finally coming out, and Joan Fontaine’s never-named character is asking Maxim desperately, “But we’re happy, aren’t we? Terribly happy?” and Maxim turns away from her, sick at heart. Maybe if you walked into the movie at exactly this moment with no idea of the emotional context of this line, you might find his expression funny. But I don’t see how you could have been watching the whole movie and still roar with laughter at this point, as this cultured Palo Alto audience did. Did the whole thing just seem totally camp to them, so over-the-top? I can’t figure out how you could actually enjoy watching the movie if you’re so unsympathetic to both Fontaine and Olivier that you find their anguish funny.

Luckily the movie deserved its Oscar, and even the audience-supplied laugh track couldn’t totally ruin the treat of seeing it on the big screen with someone you love. Like de Winter’s palace itself, the movie’s larger than life, and just as sublime to get lost in. People talk about how it’s not “pure Hitchcock” because of producer Selznick’s influence, but what difference does it make? It’s a perfect marriage of their styles.

I thought at the time that Fontaine was playing young surprisingly well, but thanks to IMDB I found out that she really was 23 at the time. That helps explain why I kept seeing flashes of Scarlett Johansson when I was watching her; something in the eyebrows, the hair, the chin. Fontaine was the better actress, obviously, but if they ever did a remake (it sounds like sacrilege, but part of me thinks it’d be pretty fun) I don’t think Johansson would be an awful casting choice.

There’s not nearly as much Johansson about Fontaine in Suspicion, where she plays a much more sophisticated and high-born young woman who is still infuriatingly naïve. I had a hard time swallowing her instantaneous crush on Cary Grant, who is from the beginning a cartoonish rake, well beyond charmingly naughty and almost into rapist territory. They get back from the honeymoon and she instantly discovers he’s not only broke but deep in debt from gambling, and the film almost lost me right then when she didn’t drop him like a hot potato. I can easily explain it to myself, but I had a hard time empathizing with her. Anyway, what follows is perhaps much more Hitchcockian than Selznickian, an unrelenting sequence of is-he-or-isn’t-he (…a murderer, that is) that keeps us guessing right up to the end and then beyond it. Hitchcock wanted it to end more violently and unambiguously, but I can’t figure out how his preferred ending would have worked; the filmed ending just feels right, and the very last shot is perfect. It’s not a movie I’d eagerly watch again, but I’m glad I saw it once.

hellboy animated: blood and iron

Maybe I’m just feeling better, but just to prove I’m not a film snob:

Blood and Iron is MUCH better than Sword of Storms. The script’s both funnier and eerier, the compositions are far more interesting, the fights are less tedious, and the whole thing feels a lot more like a Hellboy comic than the live-action film did. I also really liked the way that the Professor got a chance to shine. It jumps around in time with a fearlessness you don’t often see in an animated film. The ending goes on a little too long and repeats itself a little, but it’s a small complaint. I’ll just have to forget I ever saw that other one.

taxi driver

I have the flu. Yesterday was the worst; I felt so messed up that I couldn’t enjoy anything — reading, playing video games, watching movies, nothing helped. I just wanted to sleep, but even that didn’t help much because my mind kept going. It was just talking nonsense and wouldn’t shut up.

Today I realized that part of the reason I couldn’t distract myself from the fever and chills and coughing with entertainment was that I was trying to watch crap. First I tried Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, which was just the most depressing dreck I’ve ever seen. Tedious fight scenes, inane dialogue, a plot with zero surprises, and worst of all, hackjob animation in that “American anime” style you see everywhere now from Batman: the Animated Series (another severely overrated franchise) to Teen Titans. Well, come to think of it, that’s not very far.

Then I watched Full Metal Alchemist, which was great, but in Japanese, and I kept nodding off, so I couldn’t read the subtitles. And later on I threw on V: The Final Battle, which was a great concept and quite the TV event back in the 80s but now seems like a bunch of running and shooting and getting captured and escaping. Those lizards had the worst security I’ve ever seen.

Given all this, you wouldn’t think it would pay to try and watch a depressing movie from the 70s, even a classic like Taxi Driver, which I’d never seen before. But it turned out to be the perfect way to pass the time, because first of all it’s brilliant, and second of all it’s got a surprise around every corner and very few mindless fight scenes. It turns out classic cinema is the best medicine.

It probably helped that I knew not to trust Travis Bickle from the get-go, and indeed he’s one of the greatest ambivalent screen characters I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t help but hate him most of the time, seeing in him every creep out there who thinks he knows how to make the world a better place and wants to do it with guns. And yet of course we’re invited to respect him for his white-knight desire to save the women he meets from their respective hells, neither of which he really understands, and it seems to be pure luck that he ends up doing something relatively good instead of inexplicably evil. The film’s pretty objective about Bickle, fortunately, letting us see him for the fucked-up human he is and not just a scary psycho or a vigilante saint.

The subtlety of the film is amazing: Cybill Shepherd and Peter Boyle both have scenes with De Niro that perfectly illustrate Bickle’s failure to connect without belaboring either relationship. What can I really say that hasn’t already been said? Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Scorsese’s own freaky cameo — all just brilliant. I don’t think it’s a film I’ll watch over and over for the pleasure of it; there’s nothing pleasurable here except five-star filmmaking, but everyone knows that.

marie antoinette

My expectations for this film, formed the moment I saw the trailer, were handily met: it’s a top-notch soundtrack with a sumptuous music video. It kicks off with Gang of Four’s “Natural’s Not In It,” and follows up with Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” before using the Cure’s “Plainsong” more effectively and majestically than will ever be seen again. New Order’s “Ceremony” continues the winning streak, and then it’s back to the Cure for yet another home run, “All Cats Are Grey” setting the perfect mood for the credits.

Unfortunately, this wants to be a movie rather than a music video, and it’s not nearly as effective in that capacity.

I can’t speak to the historical accuracy, but since this is ostensibly about Marie Antoinette’s inner life, what’s more important is whether it tells a convincing, interesting, emotionally significant story. You can probably guess that, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t.

I kind of like Sofia Coppola’s soft-focus, low-key style, so it’s a real shame that she only has one subject: young girls privileged with a soporific combination of too much leisure time and not enough freedom, none of whom ever find a vital or even satisfactory response to their situation. This makes her films really unsatisfying. The Virgin Suicides worked because it wasn’t so much about the girls as what those around them saw in them, but I really didn’t enjoy Lost In Translation. Unless you could sympathize with Scarlett Johansson’s character’s awful plight — being stuck in Japan with no apparent responsibilities or obligations or financial limitations — what was the point? Do you know how long it would take me to get bored in Tokyo if I had nothing preventing me from exploring?

And now we have Kirsten Dunst, who is stuck in a French palace with the royal treasury at her disposal. To be fair, she does have an awful lot of responsibilities, such as standing shivering naked in her bedroom while half the court works out who has the privilege of dressing her that morning. Oh, and she somehow also has to get pregnant by Jason Schwartzman, who is suddenly in every movie that calls for a charmless male lead. Most of the first half of the movie is about Marie Antoinette’s total inability to sexually interest her husband, and here’s where my lack of historical knowledge came in handy, because this was the only matter of suspense to me. Would she make friends with the bitchy women of the court? Would she find a hairstyle she liked? Would she run out of room for her shoes? These weighty issues didn’t hold my interest. I just wanted to know what the deal was with little Louis. Did he have a chippie on the side? Was he banging his homeboys on hunting trips? Why couldn’t he get it up for bony little Mary Jane Watson?

I never got much of an answer to that, though I confess I was only half watching during the second hour of this interminable and turgid thing. As far I could tell he was just intermittently impotent, and somehow all it took was a man-to-man from his brother-in-law to get their biorhythms in sync. So they squeeze out a few kids, M.A. buys more stuff and throws parties, she teaches Paris to clap at the opera, she bangs some random Count who’s somehow even less attractive than her husband, and eventually the French people get pissed off and storm the castle. The end.

According to this film, Marie Antoinette was a passive little girl whose greatest accomplishment was getting comfortable enough with her station in life to shop. I can’t remember a single positive action she took on her own behalf and through her own counsel. This might in fact have been the case, but then why make a film that looks as though we’re going to see the woman behind the rather disparaging legend? If this film is to believed, there wasn’t much of one.

…but how about that soundtrack, dude? Seriously, I have to give Coppola props for pulling off a ballroom scene set to “Hong Kong Garden” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Now if only she could get her hands on a script that involves people we can actually comprehend and care about.

pre-hulk

I never saw Ang Lee’s Hulk when it came out, but I caught about an hour of it on TV while I was in the gym the other day. It looked pretty much like I expected: angsty, heavy, tedious, and fake.

“Angsty” and “heavy” I can understand. If you really stop and think about the Hulk story, as I confess I didn’t until recently, it’s pretty serious stuff. Hulk’s not so much a superhero as an unchained id, or unfettered psychosis, or ball of unleashed insecurity, take your pick. It’s Jekyll and Hyde, actually. And I grew up with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno in those horribly sad TV episodes. I don’t know if the show has aged well but for a first grader that stuff was high drama. Just playing the theme music in my head makes me want to lie down in front of a train.

So it’s carrying on in that vein, and I can respect that. “Tedious” is a tougher charge, but I sat through The Ice Storm so I’m sure I can handle this.

But “fake” is a serious problem. I’m not one of these people for whom excellent CGI and special effects are a virtue for their own sake. I know that tons of skill and artistry go into creating them, and yet I think they’re doing their job best when you don’t notice them; that is, when what you’re seeing looks so convincing that you simply accept it as what’s happening in the film and don’t think about the seam between acting and effects. I seem to recall Jurassic Park being really convincing on this metric; of course we all knew that reality ended where the dinosaurs began, but it all looked plausible. Probably the fact that none of us has ever seen a dinosaur in the flesh helped a lot there; we had no real-world models to compare them to.

In I Am Legend, though, we’ve all seen lions, and those just didn’t look like lions. We haven’t seen devolved zombie-people, unless we spend a lot of time in Bible Belt shopping malls, but we know what ordinary humans look like and how their faces move and so it’s easy for our brains to say about Will Smith’s foes “not real.” Well, but more damning than that: “not really there.”

That’s the problem with the CGI Hulk. Of course we’ve never seen the Hulk in real life, but we can extrapolate from what we know of bodybuilders and Andre the Giant what a real Hulk might look like, so it’s easy for our eyes to catch the cues that what we’re seeing is not only not real but not really there. This physical absence is one important reason why the original Star Wars trilogy looked like it contained places you could walk around in but the prequel trilogy didn’t.

It shouldn’t matter, right? It’s a character-driven story. We should just accept the big green graphic the way we accepted E.T. even though we knew he was a puppet or a suit or whatever he was. And yet it makes a difference, because the moments when the Hulk appears are the pivotal moments of the story, the moments the story is all about, and if every time it happens we’re jerked out of the story and reminded that we have to keep clapping our hands if we believe in pixels, the moment is broken.

This post is called “pre-hulk” because at some point I’m probably going to see it, hopefully before the sequel starring Ed Norton which doesn’t sound more promising. But the hour I did see contained nothing that encouraged me in this, apart from Sam Elliott’s amazing screen presence as General Ross.

i am legend (richard matheson)

I finished rereading the original novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, and now it’s hard not to be a little bitter at how they eviscerated the book for the movie. I don’t remember too well but I almost think the Charlton Heston film was more faithful (so to speak).

Will Smith’s version is still a pretty good zombie movie, but that’s really where it ends. There are a million ways he departed from the far superior novel. Normally I don’t whine about this kind of thing, because who needs to see a scene-for-scene adaptation, really? But in this case they changed so much that they inverted or destroyed the themes of the source material, and that’s the part that’s tough to forgive.

I won’t go through all of the changes; some of them really don’t make that much difference. They didn’t have to have Neville’s neighbors attacking him, for example, as opposed to random faceless strangers. It doesn’t make that much difference that the film Neville is a scientist and soldier from the get-go; it makes his survival more plausible. But there are a few really crucial differences.

  • The plague turns people into semi-intelligent vampires, not mindless zombies. This is vital for two reasons: first of all, it sets up the pessimistic twist ending, which is roughly ten million times more interesting than the ending of the movie. Second of all, vampires have lore, traditional vulnerabilities, which the novel’s Neville spends most of the story studying and sorting out. This brings us to the second crucial difference.
  • The plague is natural, not an accident of scientific research. It’s axiomatic of zombie flicks like Resident Evil and 28 Days Later and now I Am Legend that humanity created the zombies through ill-advised Tampering In God’s Domain. In the novel, no one knows where the plague came from (one speculation is nuclear testing, but later it’s suggested that it’s been around for centuries or longer), and Neville spends a great deal of time just discovering that it’s biological rather than supernatural. It’s Man vs. Nature, not Man vs. Foolish Man, which changes the tone of the book. And of course one of the vulnerabilities he’s studying is aversion to the cross, which brings us to the next difference.
  • God isn’t in the novel. The novel’s Neville never sees signs of God. He concludes that the power of the cross is psychological, since he finds that it’s ineffective against Jewish vampires (who are repelled by the Torah instead) and that it’s totally ineffective against vampires who have accepted their fate.
  • There is a “safe haven” at the end, but it’s not what you think. I won’t spoil the ending of the novel, which you really should read, but ironically it’s more of a twist ending than the one they ripped off from M. Twist Shyamalan’s Signs. It’s so much more thought-provoking and fertile than “oh boy, the good guys might win after all.” I have nothing against happy endings in theory, but when you change the ending of this story you wreck its entire raison d’ĂȘtre. I guess we know by now that Hollywood doesn’t care. Movies don’t have meaning, they have profit, not to be too trite about it.

So: Religious Propaganda 1, Intelligent Mid-20th-Century Science Fiction 0. Except that hopefully a small percentage of people who saw the movie will go read the book.