Sunday, January 20, 2008

Comanche Moon Mini-Series Review

Earlier this week, Vivien said, "Sometimes I think you want to be Larry McMurtry when you grow up." And she's right. I absolutely want to be Larry McMurtry with all my heart. My mom recorded Lonesome Dove off the television, and my sister and I watched it over and over and over again. When I got a bit older, I read Lonesome Dove, Comanche Moon, and Dead Man's Walk. I own Streets of Laredo, but I haven't read it yet, because my favorite character dies in Lonesome Dove and I knew I'd miss him too much.

Anyway, knowing my great love for Larry McMurtry, my husband informed me several months ago that there would be a mini-series on CBS of Comanche Moon. I was shaking with excitement by last Sunday. Freaking Val Kilmer was playing Innish Scull! I didn't have any strong feelings about Karl Urban or Steve Zahn, but I lurve them now. I think they did a fantastic job, and I was thrilled to death with how they portrayed my two favorite literary characters, Woodrow F Call and Augustus McCray.

But the mini-series was panned by reviewers. I was confused and disappointed by this. I thought the first night was pretty great. I thought the second night was pretty good. Then I hit night 3. And I realized that no matter what, Comanche Moon had two things working against it. First it's a prequel. Prequels are freaking hard. For example, you know that the villain, Blue Duck, is not going to die. The other main villain, Ahumado was not killed by the Rangers. It's hard to be invested in the main relationships (Call/Maggie, Gus/Clara), when you know exactly how it's going to end. And that is "Not well."

The second problem is that it's an adaptation. In the book, it makes perfect sense that Ahumado is killed by a scorpion and a parrot. Unfortunately, that's not very exciting for viewers. "So, like, it doesn't even matter if the Rangers show up? What the hell is the point of this?!" Things that work in a book don't necessarily work on the screen. That's just one of many things that just can't be conveyed properly.

Oddly enough, despite the futility of it, the mini-series really did emphasize the relationships between Call and Maggie and Gus and Clara. This movie (and Lonesome Dove) was, at its heart, a love story. Not a romance. And it's more than a little tragic.

Ultimately, I love this movie, and i do plan on buying the DVD when its released. But I think it needs to be watched with a bit of generosity and a bit of forgiveness. The characters are complicated, flawed, and satisfying. The story, unfortunately, just sets up Lonesome Dove.


Cathy said...

I did tape Comanche Moon, though I haven't watched it yet. My hubby is a big fan of the Lonesome Dove books, and got discouraged with the CM reviews. I will pass along that fans will still enjoy it.

Jamie said...

Cathy, if he's a fan already, he'll probably really like it. Especially if he enjoyed the Lonesome Dove mini-series. Steve and Karl did a good job of making the characters their own, but it's obvious they looked to Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall as inspiration.


Lady Vaako said...

I like your review because even though you're a big fan of Mr. McMurty's work, you were still able to give a fair account. Personally, I've never read any of the books but I watched Lonesome Dove last year knowing that Comanche Moon was being made. The point for me was to get a feel for the characters (especially Woodrow Call because I'm a huge fan of Karl Urban) and their universe. And even though I've never liked Westerns, I did enjoy Lonesome Dove.

I honestly don't understand why the critics bashed CM so much either. While it was far from being perfect, it didn't seem to me like it was cr*p compared to Lonesome Dove (which is what most reviewers seemed to say). But then again, I'm no film expert. :)

And I too thought that Karl and Steve's portrayals were really great.

Pepper Espinoza said...

lady vaako, I think if you enjoyed either of the mini-series, you would really like the books. McMurtry has a flowing yet sparse style, and his characters really jump from the page.

I've never seen Karl Urban before now, but I know he's going to play Dr. "Bones" McCoy in the new Star Trek movie. I love McCoy, so I'm really nervous about how he'll compare to DeForrest Kelley. What other movies has Karl Urban done that I should check out?