Why Paddington Bear Is Such A Great Adaptation

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Paddington Bear StudioCanal

It is no small thing that director Paul King has done for the legacy of renowned English author Michael Bond, though one might feel the contrary at first review. I’ll say, anecdotally at any rate, that people generally seem unaware of the responsibility espoused to adapting someone’s work. Literature and the perpetual revisions and interpretations of it are our only shot at interacting with those we admire in any meaningful way. To borrow an allusion from the late Christopher Hitchens, meeting Shakespeare would almost certainly be a disappointment when stacked against the immaculate work he’s left behind.

When one takes on the task of reimagining the works of those long since deceased, they are in some sense tasked with the responsibility to ensure that the fundamental principles of said work are expressed in such a way the author transcends mortality. The way Tolkien doesn’t really feel like a man in the 21st century or the way I’m sure Antoine De Saint-Exupery is still gliding above some shore, in some strange country, befriending strangers.

Take the outrage at Sony Entertainment’s upcoming Peter Rabbit adaptation. Those stories, famously conceived by conservationist Beatrix Potter, are as sweet and lovely as any good children's tale ought to be. Unfortunately, the two trailers released by Sony for the film intimate a studio that saw very little more than an excuse to shit out a perfunctory CGI film with a recognizable name attached to it.

A good adaptation happens when reverence meets craft. Paul King, not unlike Peter Jackson, or David Lean, not only loved and understood what made the source material so singular, he also understood what it takes to make a fine picture; one that is visually compelling and bears cinematic charm. Paddington and Paddington 2 are very good children films. They don’t pander, but they also don’t whisper pseudo-edgy witticisms in your ear. In a decade where blockbuster means loud and irreverent, it’s refreshing to behold something so fearlessly earnest.

 

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