I had two favourite books when I was a young child. One became the seed of my desperate need to see absurdity in every day life (The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, by Dr. Seuss), and the other led me to befriend monsters and explore my imagination without bounds, knowing that the safety of home would always be there when I was ready to come back to it (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak). For years of my early childhood, my father read me the latter at bedtime, roaring his terrible roars and gnashing his terrible teeth, rolling his terrible eyes and showing his terrible claws.
Since I entered the world of language, I’ve never been without a copy of the book. When I went to university, my mom gave me a new one along with a doll of one of the monsters. When I heard a live-action film of the story was in the works, my heart broke. It’s such a small story that manages to be so big, and it’s as much to do with Sendak’s art as with his words. I couldn’t imagine a film that could do it justice.
Leave it to Dave Eggers (whose book What is the What I consider to be one of the most important works of our time; if you haven’t read it, drop what you’re doing and read it now) to do what is so infrequently done—to create something new from something old.
From the brief movie trailer below I surmise the following: There’s a plot, and possibly a fairly robust one. There’s a back-story. There are personalities and motivations. The questions that remain after seeing the trailer aren’t ones that usually come when a book is made into a movie. I’m not wondering: Will they be true to the story? Will they be true to the characters? Will they be true to the art? Will they change the ending? Will they cast it right?
I’m wondering: Have they really done something so rarely done? Have they created new art based on existing art? Will this film stand on its own? So far, it looks to me like the answers are a chill-inducing YES. I can’t wait to see the movie. Can you?