Venue: Chapter Arts Centre
Sunday, 28th May 2017
Certificate 15, 89 mins
In terms of cinematic history, I think we’ve reached a sort of innovation stalemate. With the Marvel films churning out mindless CGI-laden stodge to placate the masses, I’ve become reasonably disenchanted with the whole experience of going to the pictures.
This film is an antidote.
The Hippopotamus is based on a novel penned by Stephen Fry, prized boffin and generally interesting celebrity person. Fry’s novels are varied in topic and exceptionally entertaining — so the producers of any screen adaptation would certainly have a big job on their hands.
If I’m honest, I can just about live with the changes to plot and structure. I’m certain that the overwhelming experience of the principal actor, Roger Allam (Ted Wallace), together with Fiona Shaw (who plays Anne Logan) and select members of the supporting cast, saves these alterations from seeming like the result of slap-dash writing and poor care on behalf of the writers and producers.
However, some modifications — such as the time the film is set (present day) has saved the plot from becoming totally unrelatable. For example, the novel is set in the 90s, when faxes were still the favoured form of correspondence — now changed to FaceTime, iPads and all things internet. Another truth to consider is that reviewers and poets like the novel’s Ted Wallace no longer exist; in that regard, the film has helped to update the story without it seeming too naff. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s enhanced the film, successfully contrasting the media’s generational gap in a way that was fainter in the book.
The one thing that I cannot fathom, however, is the decision to totally change the backstory of Michael Logan. Yes, yes, I’m supposed to say that this is a different story for a medium…but really? This change was totally unnecessary, and is frankly much weaker than the novel’s story. I should also note here that the actor portraying Michael Logan, Matthew Modine, totally annihilated everything that made Logan likeable, believable, and worth acting. I found his scenes over-acted and jaded.
I do feel that Tommy Knight‘s portrayal of David is much, much better than the character in the novel. His irritating other-worldliness in the film is more prominent and better-developed on-screen — not an easy feat.
If you’ve had it to the back teeth with samey-samey superhero films, romcoms where everyone ends up together, or sci-fis that make you wish the apocalypse was happening…then this is the film for you. Love it for its prize moments, honest filming style, and excellent word-smelt jokes.
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