Borders Line: Matt Reeves And THE PASSAGE, When Great Material Meets A Good Director

This week we learned that Matt Reeves will be directing the Fox 2000 film adaptation of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Allow me to tell you why I think that’s terrific news.

This week we learned that Matt Reeves will be directing the Fox 2000 film adaptation of Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  This could be terrific news for both Reeves and the film.  Reeves has proven himself an adept director with a strong eye and great sense of story in both Cloverfield and Let Me InLet Me In is a movie that, if I’d never seen Let The Right One In, would have awed me into obsession.  I would have watched it multiple times in the theater, urged everyone I know to buy a ticket, checked IMDB constantly to discover what new projects the writer/director had in the works.  Of course, the bulk of that obsession would have actually been due to Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist for creating the original Swedish language film, but Reeves’ version, while imitative to the point of slavishness, demonstrates the kind of talent that could be extremely interesting with the right material.  And while his jerky, CGI-heavy vampire work clashed with the snowy repose of Let Me In, it could be just the thing for the evolved, accelerated malice of The Passage‘s virals. 

I quite liked Cloverfield in all its messy audacity, but irritating, half-formed characters and an inability to commit to any significant themes kept the film from becoming what could have been a profound success.  But the movie was a blast, and Reeves employed a nimble pace and strong visuals that served it well. Between those two flicks, Reeves has established himself as a capable director, and I’ve been looking forward to the movie that will showcase the artistry that hopefully dwells beneath his competence. While that movie could be Reeves’ announced update of Ray Nelson’s 8 O’Clock In The Morning (previously adapted by John Carpenter as the great They Live), I’m more interested in seeing Reeves bring The Passage to life.  Although 8 O’Clock In The Morning will not be a remake of They Live, but rather a new, presumably closer interpretation of the source material, Reeves will still have the shadow of Carpenter hanging over his head.  The Passage is a new enough novel that it hasn’t obtained classic status yet (although I believe it will), and no other visual interpretation exists to tempt Reeves into imitation. This baby is his to do with what he will, and I have hopes that what he does will be splendid.

As passionately as I am a movie nerd, I am first, last and always a bookworm.  I read while walking, getting ready in the mornings, during TV commercial breaks, under my desk at work.  I used to skip class just to hide in a bathroom stall and finish a gripping chapter.   Before I grew into a responsible, accountable adult, I couldn’t even put down a particularly engrossing book while driving.  I have very nearly loved reading to death.  I love sprawling fantasies and intimate character studies.  I love the horrific and the intellectual, the densely mythological and the painfully personal.  And Justin Cronin’s The Passage delivers all of that in one stunningly poetic novel.

The Passage was one of the best novels of last year.  And it is a novel…about vampires.  I honestly thought no topic could possibly be more over-saturated, less likely to produce fresh, worthy material, but Houston (holla!) author and Rice University professor Cronin created a free-wheeling, devastating epic that immerses the reader to a degree that is simply relentless.  The novel spans a century, beginning in 2018 with the introduction of 6-yr-old Amy Bellafonte, one day to be known as the Girl From Nowhere.  You know how it starts—a lab, a virus obtained from Bolivian bats used in an experiment meant to strengthen the immune system, an outbreak—but you can have no idea where it leads.  We, the readers, are introduced to a pre-apocalyptic world, an apocalyptic world, and a post-apocalyptic world, all equally enthralling and realized; we meet and love and fear and lose characters over generations; we learn about The Twelve and The Many.  We fly through the pages, drawn inexorably to the conclusion, only to rail at the shocking final chapter, when there is nothing more to read until the second and third novels in the proposed trilogy are released. The Passage is a triumphant novel, and it could make a staggeringly good movie. 

As much as I love both films and novels, I generally do not love the combination.  I too often feel that my silver screen mistress is besmirching the pristine love affair I have with books. (These exceptions aside, naturally.)  But The Passage, while poignant and lyrical, remains inherently cinematic.  And Matt Reeves, while not yet having the film to show for it, has the potential to be an eloquent storyteller.  I am substantially invested in discovering how he will tell this particular story.

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