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Rain Fall (2009)
Review from novel fan (mild spoilers if any)
I read Rain Fall a few years ago immediately followed by the other 5 books in this series, then I started loaning and recommending them to everyone I know who likes this genre. Fantastic book series! So, of course I was interested in the movie. Interested with realistic expectations, after all, people who love novels will never be satisfied with movie adaptations.
First, what I think was good about this movie:
* They started at the beginning of series. No-brainer, right? Actually rarely does anyone do this; the Dennis Lehane books, the Tom Clancy books, etc, they all jump around and change actors and plot to accommodate the fact that they've screwed up the progression of the story. So, good for these guys for at least setting up the possibility of doing this right, if they see it through.
* Appears to be filmed in Japan, with Japanese actors speaking Japanese when appropriate and American/other actors speaking English when appropriate. Again, why wouldn't they do that? Because they might have sold more tickets to a wider US audience if they had not, but they did it right. I'm not convinced in the 2nd location, but that's okay, they did this right. THANK YOU!
The cinematography. It was cool and there were shots and lighting I enjoyed, but it was hard to watch at times, especially while reading subtitles. Might have gotten a little too cute with it in places.
What I didn't like:
* They screwed with the plot a bit too much. I know this almost has to happen with film adaptations, but it still stings because the plot of the book was so good. Taking the film plot on it's own merits, it was confusing and then a little too neat. I had trouble buying it and it didn't really hold up for me. I can't imagine that someone watching this without having read the book would have connected with it on plot beyond a superficial point.
* The worst thing about loving a book and then seeing on film is what happens to the characters. I know, you've got hundreds of pages to give us insight into someone in a book and little bits of film to do the same thing in a movie. I get it, but it's still sad. Barry Eisler's characters are remarkably compelling and I didn't latch onto anyone in this film. They all become composites and some get changed completely to help the plot along. But, even with Rain, I didn't get any sense of his emotions or motivations after the opening. You just can't have a stoic hero.
* I never really understood from the film who John Rain was, what he did, why he was involved with Midori. I know it made sense in the book, I felt it was really thin in the movie. Their relationship in the movie didn't work for me. Again, my memory is foggy, but I think they truncated a whole portion of how they met and how she initially came to know him that would have made it sensible.
* Holtzer character annoyed the crap out of me. I don't remember him doing so in the book. I know he was not likable in the book, but I don't recall him being a micro-managing, hot-headed rogue, corrupt power monger in Mr. Eisler's story. Again, I think it helped the movie plot along to have a villain, but it was a better story before. It always amazes me how complex CIA operations in movies are portrayed as unplanned, emotional improvisations. Not that I know first hand, but I don't buy it. I know that Mr. Eisler has some insight, but this isn't how I recall him writing it, so I feel like the screenwriter and director, screwed it up.
* Whereas the books sucked me in and kept me glued to the edge of my seat, the movie was hard to get through. You'd think it the other way around, right? Reading is boring, movies are exciting, right? Nope.
So, I don't want to bash it. It's an ambitious project. And I don't want to be one of those "the book was better" guys. We all agree that those people suck. I'm glad I saw it, they did some things right, maybe they can improve this series as they go, start with giving us better insight into the surviving characters. We really need that. Go easy on the comic book lighting effects, especially if you're going to have us reading subtitle (which I approve of). And please don't make future characters into composite sketches of typical movie devices.