Happy Australia Day! Time to celebrate with the film adaptation of one of our country’s most beloved books.
I must confess to being a tiny bit nervous when I first saw this movie. Mostly because I had such high expectations — I must have read the book series ten or twelve times as a teen (and beyond). And while the trailer was promising, it had one glaring difference that had me worried: 2010 technology. The trailer blatantly showed our heroes using their wi-fi capable cell phones for taking photos, and later (after the world has turned upside down) searching for reception. And this became my first concern: how, in our modern day, do you (an invading army) completely kill the cell network of the country you are attempting to conquer? Blast satellites out of the sky? The books, fitting perfectly into the 1990s, have no such obstacles. They are simply the tale of a group of Aussie teens who go camping during their summer holidays in remote wilderness… and return to find that a neighboring (unnamed) nation has reached the point of being FED UP with Australia’s abundant space and low population density, and they want to take it for themselves.
Our group of teens? They Go. To. WAR.
For the next six books (plus a three-book coda, The Ellie Chronicles), they wage inexpert but surprisingly effective guerilla warfare upon an enemy that outnumbers and outguns them. Along the way, they lose people, find people, fall in (and out of) love, and reunite with family members. It’s gut-wrenching, horrific, and (somehow) feels real.
This is probably because John Marsden is such a legendary and skilled writer. Big shoes to fill, for the person who dares make a movie version of this cornerstone of Australian YA literature. And writer/director Stuart Beattie does it — with two BIG thumbs up.
The resulting movie is full of action, along with a little humor, and is deadly scary. The helicopter-surrounding-the-house-scene? I don’t remember the book giving me anywhere NEAR those chills. Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) freaking out when Chris (Andy Ryan) falls asleep on sentry duty? INTENSE. The credit belongs to the actors and the casting, so I will give kudos where it is due — the cast rocks every scene. My only objection was that our cast speak with clear, precise elocution — not the broad, lazy Aussie accents you’d expect from farm kids. They’re practically British! “Townies” Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin) and Robyn (Ashley Cummings) might as well be from London. But I got over it, as will you. The plot and execution win you over to the point where the Aussie Outback scenery and setting become secondary, anyway.
Overall, this movie ticks every box, both as an action film and an adaptation. If it could truly blow the mind of even the harshest of critics (me), it will win over the world at large (you).
Based on the novel by John Marsden
Written by Stuart Beattie | Directed by by Stuart Beattie
Release Date: September 2, 2010; US Release: February 24, 2012
Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz